Drone zone: Bedford photographer puts his skills in the sky
It’s not a bird, nor a plane. It’s an unmanned aerial vehicle, zipping and dipping through the drone zone.
And if that unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, is hovering in the skies above the Limestone Capital of the World, there’s a good chance the craft is piloted by Kevin Hudson.
Hudson, an award-winning photographer by trade, had his interest in imagery fostered during his high school days at Bedford North Lawrence in the mid-1970s. He and a friend set up a darkroom in the basement at the old Bedford Junior High, he recalled. “I started working with my dad in 1986. He had just opened his studio in Bedford in 1983.
“I was actually running a new hobby shop in the front corner of our studio for the first several months. I saw how busy Dad was, so I started playing with lights and trying to figure out how to take portraits.”
“I liked it a lot right off the bat,” Hudson said. “Dad sent me to a professional school to study and learn how to do it. It was the Winona Professional School of Photography in Chicago at the time.
“I went for a week at a time, enrolling in classes that focused on the types of photography I wanted to learn. They were taught by the best in the business. That’s how it all began for me.”
Hudson also cultivated a passion for remote controlled airplanes. “I started flying when I was 11,” he recalled. “Dad has been into it most of his life.”
Time restrictions kept him from delving more deeply into the pastime in the 1990s, when he spent a lot of time taking high school seniors’ portraits. Then about three years ago, “I started seeing some cool drone videos on YouTube,” he said. “I was intrigued by the quality of the images.”
He simply had to fly one. “I decided to buy my first drone through Horizon Hobby. Dad is a dealer for them,” Hudson said. “I had that drone for about four months before ordering my second one, which was a DJI product.”
He’s now at the controls of his third DJI craft.
“They simply are the best when it comes to flying camera technology,” Hudson insisted. “I’m flying a DJI Phantom 4 Pro, which weighs less than 3 pounds, shoots 4K video at 60 frames per second and shoots 20 megapixel stills.
“It has both GPS and altitude lock, so when you let off the sticks it just stops dead right there and does not move. They are very safe these days.”
That was not the case a few years ago.
“Mine also has object avoidance cameras in front and back that automatically stop the bird before it hits any object in front of or behind it,” Hudson noted. “It has hardware redundancy, with two onboard computers and two compasses.
“It also has an automatic return to home if the drone gets out of range and loses the RC signal. The same thing happens when the battery gets low.”
Not only have drones altered Hudson’s life, they’ve affected an entire industry.
“They’ve changed the need for most helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to do aerial photography,” Hudson said. “It’s so much cheaper to get these videos and stills with drones now. Plus, you can place a drone in the absolute perfect angle to shoot whatever you need.”
Hudson said myths and misconceptions abound regarding drones.
“They usually get portrayed in a negative way in the media,” he said. “So many people think if they see a drone fly over their property it is spying on them. It isn’t true in almost all cases. Most drones are just seeking interesting scenery to shoot. If one comes in close to someone’s house and hovers around,” he said, “that’s a different story. It’s against the law.”