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ePHOTOzine Member Interview: Steve Banner (Stevetheroofer)

John Duder has been chatting with ePz member Steven Banner about his shooting style, drones and how he's even used his longest roofing ladder for the art of photography.

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1 Steve’s stunning dawn view of Stonehenge – a shot he couldn’t take now, because of changes in the regulations.

Steve’s stunning dawn view of Stonehenge – a shot he couldn’t take now, because of changes in the regulations.

 

Steve Banner (aka Stevetheroofer, because he runs a roofing company) has been a member of ePHOTOzine for 6 years and has gained quite a following for his aerial images, some of which he’s claimed to have shot from the top of his longest roofing ladder. His drones have proved useful for his work, but that’s not how he got into flying his cameras above the height of a big tripod… I first noticed his pictures taken with a drone a couple of years back, at least. They showed such good use of the high vantage point and sympathetic use of light. Steve and I met up at the Roaches tea room near Leek in Staffordshire to chat about drones and then go out with model Misuzu to do some photography.

 

Steve also uses a conventional camera – he’s recently switched from an EOS 5D to an EOS R5. © John Duder

 Steve also uses a conventional camera – he’s recently switched from an EOS 5D to an EOS R5. © John Duder

 

I began by asking Steve when he first started using a drone, and why?

I initially bought a drone because I missed my model helicopter and I thought it would be a new way of combining photography with my love of remote control vehicles. Initially, it was just a toy for me, and having had the camera on it was a bonus. I realised that anywhere I could take my camera I could take a drone, and it did so much more - get a different perspective on the world.

 

2 Misuzu posing high above the Leek-Buxton road: landscapers will recognise a favourite haunt.

Misuzu posing high above the Leek-Buxton road: landscapers will recognise a favourite haunt.

 

What is the biggest problem with drone photography?

Legalisation and the limitations on where you can fly, in general. but really the biggest problem for me is that you can’t fly when it’s raining because of the electronic issues and because it’s a camera moving through the air and if it’s raining or if the air is damp, the lens gets wet and your shots are ruined. In practice, that’s worse than the way that it’s been clamped down.

 

Please tell me about the legal constraints on using a drone to take pictures.

It’s an ever-changing, evolving rulebook so I’d rather not say what they are because they could change next month. For anyone joining the drone flying world, the best thing is to get the up to date rules yourself.

(For current regulations, please see the CAA website - drones under 250g weight are, at the time of writing, classified as toys, and do not need a licence.)

 

Do you need a licence to operate any drone?

No - certain drones don’t need a licence. But I’m registered with the civil aviation authority and pay my fee every year. Anyone starting needs to look at the rules, see if it suits their needs and then can stick within the rules to be a safe flyer.

 

Drone image of Misuzu in the heather on the Staffordshire Moorlands.

 Drone image of Misuzu in the heather on the Staffordshire Moorlands.  

 

Which drone picture or pictures are you most pleased with, and why?

My photographs of Stonehenge, for the simple reason, that the rules have changed and flying a drone over Stonehenge isn't allowed now. Having those which were taken before the rules were put in place means that I’ve got photographs that have been in magazines and been sold all across the world. It’s great knowing that I was there at the beginning when you could fly drones at Stonehenge and it was legal to take the photographs. It was taken quite soon after dawn, and the light was just coming over. The golden hour remains golden with a drone.

For me, I enter club competitions and it's nice putting in pictures I’ve taken with my drone where the judge can’t tell it’s a drone photograph. For example, when they marvel at a slightly unusual angle of a regular photoshoot place and I know it’s a drone shot but they don't pick up on that and so can't quite figure out why I've got a better vantage point than someone else...

 

3 Steve’s misty dawn view of Weston church in Staffordshire.Steve’s misty dawn view of Weston church in Staffordshire.

 

There’s also an image of the church at Weston: the sun was just coming up, and on the ground, it was really misty but the drone lifted above the mist and it was amazing. I just bobbed the camera above the mist and it opened up a beautiful world above the fog.

 

What advice would you give to a novice wanting to begin using a drone?

Find a friend who’s got a drone and have a go yourself first because drone photography isn’t for everyone. Some people can’t get on with them, for whatever reason, so it's important to try it first. It's the same as cameras – not every camera suits everybody, and with drones, you'll find it's the same. For me, I’m a photographer but a lot of people are into capturing videos with their drones, for example.

 

4 Misuzu takes control of the drone: Steve smiles encouragingly! © John Duder

Misuzu takes control of the drone: Steve smiles encouragingly! © John Duder

 

What sort of location makes for a good start with drone photography?

Anywhere you take your normal camera you can take a done as it just gives you a different angle. Places like Trafalgar Square are exceptions because you should never use a drone where there are crowds of people. Any place that you are legally allowed to fly your drone is always a good place to take pictures.

 

Please give one top tip for spectacular drone images.

Take your time - you don’t need to rush, even with limited flying time. Drone photography is all about composition as, really, it’s just a camera on a bigger tripod.

One more thing - switch your mobile to aeroplane mode before you fly. The controller uses it as a screen, but not for communicating with the drone, so you don’t need connectivity. And you really don’t want to be trying to fly a drone and talk to a salesman at the same time.

 

5 A view from behind Misuzu, with the drone out of focus in the background. Although drones are fitted with wideangle cameras, the drone is so small that you have to look hard to see it!

A view from behind Misuzu, with the drone out of focus in the background. Although drones are fitted with wide-angle cameras, the drone is so small that you have to look hard to see it!

 

What other areas of photography interest you most?

Wildlife’s my passion, really. Which is not something you can do with a drone, especially. For me, I don’t mix the two; sitting down by the river with the kingfishers is my way of escape.

 

6 Steve’s passion for wildlife led him to this shot of a kingfisher.Steve’s passion for wildlife led him to this shot of a kingfisher.

 

What question that I haven't asked do you want to suggest I should?

Let me turn that around. As an interviewer, is it something that you’d want to do? I’m going to ask you again after you’ve had a go with the drone – because you are going to fly it.

Also, you didn’t ask me whether I’m a member of a club, and I am. I’m a keen member of Stafford Photographic Society, which is a very welcoming organisation, and open to new ideas, including drone and smartphone photography. If you live in the area, come along and join us some time!

 

7 I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t recognise this bird, and had to ask Steve. It’s a greater spotted woodpecker.I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t recognise this bird, and had to ask Steve. It’s a greater spotted woodpecker.

 

Steve didn’t ask me his question again later – we were too busy – but I did fly the drone, and it’s something I want to do! It was fun, and I want one. And I know exactly the pictures that I want to take with it first!

 

8 Cold, misty mornings work well at ground level as well… This haret may or may not be listening for tips on flying a drone…Cold, misty mornings work well at ground level as well… This hare may or may not be listening for tips on flying a drone…

 

About Author: John Duder 

John Duder has been an amateur photographer for fifty years, which surprises him, as he still reckons he’s 17. He’s welcomed the easing of restrictions and the chance it’s provided to go back to model photography, and he’s also been running occasional lighting workshops with Misuzu. He remains addicted to cameras, lenses, and film.

 

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Comments


dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1947 England
3 Nov 2021 8:21PM
The difficult thing about a drone, I think, is that you need to be careful not to do anything that either endangers others, or in any way offends them. The rules codify some of this - but the watchwords are look and think.

All images except the two of Steve, and the one with the drone behind Misuzu are (C) Steve Banner.
JuBarney Plus
11 36 6 United Kingdom
4 Nov 2021 5:39PM
Smashing interview and images
Well done Steve!
Great editorial and photos.
Love all your work especially that spotlight aerial view of Stonehenge - such powerful lighting.
Yes, as you know, the CAA changed all its rules back in January and like me you adhere to them, keeping detailed logs of all flights.

Keep up the great sub 120m altitude work (when safe to do so)!
This request obviously includes lying on the ground in heavy dew to catch the timid wildlife Smile
dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1947 England
7 Apr 2022 9:27PM
Update - see THIS video on YouTube for Steve's latest success...
dudler Plus
19 1.9k 1947 England
26 Apr 2022 7:19AM
And it's worth mentioning, for everyone thinking of trying a drone...

There are new rules in the UK, very unhelpfully worded, about the need to register to own ('operate' in the words of the legislation) and fly drones. The only exemption now is if your drone is a 'toy': and it's quite hard to argue that a DJI Mini - at over 400 - is a toy. There's a test, and a pair of registrations, and a cost, currently 10 a year for an operator licence.

The drone must have the operator licence number written on it: you must carry the flyer documentation when using a drone...

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