There’s a lot of planning that goes into a shoot before the drone is sent up into the sky and the shutter pressed.
First and foremost is to determine what is the purpose of the image and what story is being told. The purpose of the image will play a big role in hole photographed, the angle and altitude – e.g. if you want to show the ruggedness and isolation of the course, you’d avoid angles and elevations where surrounding houses will be displayed.
To highlight the undulating contours and slopes on a links course, which creates dimension and texture in the image, the sun needs to be at a low angle to the ground to create the necessary shadows – sunrise or sunset.
Typically links golf courses have tiny pot bunkers, but to see some light and detail in them, the sun must be at a suitable angle and direction. I use the website https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/australia/perth to see the time and direction at which the sun will rise or set and then plan on a golf course map which holes will be best presented on the specific day to highlight the unique characteristics of the hole.
The golf course superintendent and his staff have scheduled course maintenance tasks before the players tee off and the shoot needs to be synchronised with them and the club manager. They can assist to get a hole cut in the preferred position as one needs a one needs a pin and flag in the green to show it’s a golf course, preferably in a position where the sun will strike the flag and produce a colourful contrast against the greens and shadows of the course.
The day before the shoot, ensure all the memory cards are formatted, drone batteries and controllers charged, drone camera settings as required – always pack spares blades, batteries, memory cards.
On the day of the shoot, leave early enough so that traffic delays don’t make you miss the magical few minutes if it’s a sunrise shoot, which always seems shorter than during a sunset shoot. Meet up with the superintendent and his crew to finalise arrangements and then get to the planned shooting location as soon as possible – a golf cart can save you valuable minutes. Be aware of the time and get the drone up in the sky a few minutes before sunrise and try different angles and altitudes – plan for 20 minutes in the sky based on the drone’s maximum flight time before having to change batteries.
If the image will be displayed in a large format print (e.g. 36+ inches on long side) inside the clubhouse, the following picture will create a more dramatic effect as the eye is drawn to the sliver of sun on the green.
If the image will be used on social media, i.e. a small smartphone or laptop screen, the following image will present the hole more effectively.
Photographing a beautiful golf course is a magical experience – what can be better than being on a course at sunrise combining your love for golf and photography to create memorable images of a magnificent sporting arena for the club owner and members? – as Walter Hagen used to say “Don’t forget to smell the flowers”