Photographing an Incredible coastal waterfall with my drone

It wasn't long ago that I had to decide whether I wanted to leave the house with my bag full of my camera equipment or with my large Phantom 4 drone. The drone was large enough that I needed a separate carrying case. If I wanted to bring my camera bag and my drone on a photography expedition, I usually regretted it shortly after starting my hike. These days my DJI Mavic Pro 2 is small enough to fit in my camera bag, making it easy to take with me everywhere I go.

On this morning, I had initially set out to do some photography. After my shoot, I was driving home here on the Big Island of Hawaii, and I started to wonder what kind of scenes lay below the high rocky coastlines, which are impossible to see from up top. I decided to stop the car and launch the drone to have a look. I knew that the Hamakua Coastline had many coastal waterfalls, but the problem is you cannot see them unless you are in a boat or flying along the coastline.

I found a stream that I could see was close to the cliffside where I decided to launch my drone. I was instantly blown away by what I saw— the most incredible coastal waterfall, which dropped off a few hundred feet into a shallow pond. The sun was rising behind me, casting bright sunlight on to the cliffside. As the wind picked up, it blew the waterfall upwards, creating an array of rainbows in the mist. I could have flown around this waterfall for hours, but I only had one battery charged, so I had to work fast.

Shooting the Video

I spent the first 5 minutes capturing some video. I shot the waterfall with the Mavic using two different 4K settings. I mostly used the 4K HQ video size, which allowed me to get more zoomed-in images without having to get too close to the waterfall. The wind was randomly picking up and spraying the water in different directions, so I did not want to fly too close. Because it was so windy, the drone was getting pushed around pretty good, although the gimbal stabilized the footage nicely.

Drone settings I used for video

I had an ND8/PL Cinema series filter made by Polar Pro on the lens. This filter is a polarizer filter and a neutral density filter combined, allowing me to saturate the colors in the footage and slow down my shutter speed in the bright light. I was filming at 1/60th of a second shutter speed at 30 FPS. I also used the flat D-Log color profile, allowing me to have more color grading flexibility. White balance was set to auto, and I recorded a sample clip filming a neutral grey card, allowing me to set the white balance in post-processing. I know that shooting auto white balance in video is usually not the best idea. However, I really haven't noticed this drone shifting white balance randomly or making poor decisions with the white balance.

Capturing the photo

Hamakua Rainbow Waterfall
Hamakua Rainbow Waterfall available in fine art metal and acrylic prints

These drones have come a long way in their capabilities to capture quality photos. Their sensors are larger, and they have an increased resolution. They also shoot in Raw format, which allows more flexibility when processing the image. For these reasons, I have officially added my DJI Mavic Pro 2 to my camera bags as a professional camera for creating fine art prints. I took many photos at different angles of the waterfall. I loved many of them, although one was very compelling to me. At a moment when the wind picked up and lifted the waterfall high into the air, it also lifted the rainbow up into the air. It almost looked like the rainbow was being resurrected from the waterfall (lol). For this reason, I decided to pick this photo to add to my collection.

Hamakua Rainbow Waterfall Fine Art Prints

Hawaii Photography Prints will fill the void of being away from the Hawaiian Islands until you can return again. Hamakua Rainbow Waterfall is a unique and colorful image that will bring life to the room. These Fine Art Prints come ready to hang in a number of sizes and mediums. Please visit the galleries page for all the print options available. Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have about purchasing Hawaii Fine Art Photography for your home or business!

Fine art metal and acrylic prints come ready to hang and allow you to bring a part of the Hawaiian Islands in to your home.

Drone Settings I Used for Photos

Because I was filming the video with an ND8 filter, I had to fly the drone back to me and switch it out for a regular Polar Pro circular polarizer. I needed faster shutter speeds to get sharp images, and the ND8/PL was blocking too much light to achieve fast shutter speeds. This also allowed me to shoot at F/8 to get more of the scene in focus and still have shutter speeds around 1/100th second. This shutter speed luckily was fast enough to get sharp images, although I was worried. Checking your focus with these drones on the back of a cellphone in the bright sun is not easy, and there really isn't enough time. I had about 10 mins of shooting before the Mavic low battery reminder started blaring out at me to land the drone. This was a really fun flight and totally took me by surprise!

Summary of My Experience

Sometimes it’s hard to find new places to photograph with Mirrorless or DSLR cameras. Having a drone opens up a new world of photography opportunities! I encourage you to head out to your favorite shooting locations and launch the drone. I find that scouting the area is much easier by flying a drone than walking a mile only to find nothing of interest. You will also capture photographs that you would have never been able to shoot because you would have never been able to go to the location physically. For that reason alone, I find a tremendous value in investing in a drone. Just be careful, though, as this is the third drone I’ve owned. I have lost two of them, and my wife is threatening that this will be my last one (lol). The key to not losing drones is to fly slow and in places where you can see your drone from where you are standing. Also, try to avoid trees. I hope you enjoyed my captures from this random part of the Hamakua Coastline here on the Big Island of Hawaii!