New Zealanders make list of top drone photos for 2016

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(From Stuff NZ 26 January 2017)

Two Kiwis have made an international list of the top 20 drone photographs for 2016.

Thousands of entries were submitted from all over the world to Dronestagram by professional photographers and amateur drone photo enthusiasts last year.

Colin Aitchison, a professional aerial imaging photographer in Queenstown, shot his winning photograph in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands.

“I was working in Fiji as a skydiving instructor for six months last winter. I took some time off to visit the Yasawa region and swim with the manta rays. It was easily one of the most amazing experiences of my life being in the water with those creatures,” Aitchison said.

The competition was judged by a panel of photography experts including National Geographic deputy director Patrick Witty and French National Geographic photo editor Emanuela Ascoli, from images uploaded to the Dronestagram website.

The photos were judged on creativity and photographic quality.

Aitchison said 2017 would see a focus on higher resolution images and 360 virtual reality images.

“I think 360 VR images are becoming an increasingly popular medium for social media, so I wouldn’t be surprised if drone manufacturers look to take advantage of that and offer 360 degree cameras as add ons.”

Brendon Dixon, a 41-year-old commercial cameraman from Auckland also made the top 20.

His birds-eye view selfie was taken over the Huia Dam with Dixon lying down in the middle of it, and is one of the most popular photos on the Dronestagram Instagram page.

“The shot was taken after doing some video work for water care. I was just about to leave and thought it could make a great selfie,” Dixon said.

“At the time I didn’t think was very good until I got back to the office and looked at the high res version. Then I knew I had captured something really special.

“It’s not often spilling over without rain. So I lucked out with the weather.”

Other images include a shot capturing the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy, and one of someone rock climbing in Utah, US.