From beaches, jungles and rice terraces to cliffs and volcanoes, Bali is overflowing with jaw-dropping photo opportunities. And with the popularization of drones, photographers and video-makers are gaining a new, loftier perspective on the island’s charms. Professional photographer David Ed Ziegler has devoted the past seven years to documenting Bali’s landscapes, seascapes and culture from the air. “As a photographer, Bali gives me the colors, lights, shadows and contrasts that I need. The people, the ceremonies, the nature, the rice fields – Bali fills my lens with its heart and soul,” David says. “Seeing the earth from the sky opens up a new world because it gives you an opportunity to take pictures from impossible angles.”
Before drones stole his heart, David dabbled in the world of fashion photography and pursued a career as a photojournalist. While traveling to document situations in war torn countries such as Afghanistan gave David the adrenaline rush he craved, he says that change became inevitable once he hit a certain age. “I felt that with age I was becoming slower, less alert, and overly confident in the field. Too much confidence can be bad in this industry. I needed a new outlet. To have something that made me feel excited again. One day I was in an electronics shop, and saw this very aesthetically-pleasing machine with a camera attached to its body. I decided to give it a try, and have been in love with drones ever since. Today my house looks like a drone store.”
While most tourists still capture images of Bali with cameras, phones and go pros, drones are becoming increasingly more visible on the island’s skyline. And as the four-legged flying robots become more lightweight and sophisticated, they are also more portable and easier to fit into holiday luggage. Today, several drone brands are even offering pocket-size drones for taking selfies. For David, the allure of blending Bali’s landscapes and new technology has been irresistible. “The island’s rice fields change colors with the seasons, so your drone can capture incredible colors and patterns. Tegalalang, near Ubud, is particularly incredible for rice field photography from the air,” he says. “Some other impressive places include Uluwatu for its cliffs at sunset, Amed with its small fishing boats and, of course, the Mount Agung area.”
While flying a drone is a lot of fun, all pilots wishing to fly a drone on the island have to comply with the regulations set by Indonesia’s Ministry of Transport. If a drone is under two kilograms and it is used for recreational purposes, it can be flown without the permission of the Ministry of Transport. The one most noteworthy rule to take into account, however, is not to fly a drone above the height of 150 meters. It is also important to respect people’s space and beliefs, and not fly drones too close to individuals, temples, mosques or local ceremonies. With the popularity of drones on the rise, the island has also seen the rise of drone entrepreneurs, or locals stationing themselves in tourist areas such as Tanah Lot to ask pilots for drone flying fees. According to David, this practice has no basis in any regulation. “I think that asking money to fly a drone is wrong and is giving Bali a bad reputation among tourists. If the drone pilot respects the rules established by the Ministry of Transport, no one can by law ask them for money,” he says.
There is little doubt that bird’s eye view footage of Bali holds a special form of charm. Shots of the island’s lush scenery and drone selfies make the perfect post-vacation momentos. And as long as drone pilots do not forget to respect people’s privacy and culture, the island is bound to deliver many picture-perfect moments. It certainly has for David who is quick to point out some of his favorite drone shots of the island. “This one was taken on Pandawa beach. You can see the green sea, the white sand, and the red umbrella, as well as the gazebo on the stone pier. It was around five pm, and the light was incredible, highlighting each detail,” he says. “While this might be one of my favorite photos, each of my pictures represents a moment, a souvenirs, they are like my children.”
How to Get Involved
Drone communities in Bali are growing along with the increasing interest in the airborne machines. Facebook communities such as the Bali Drone Club (in English) and the Bali Drone Community (in Indonesian) not only connect drone lovers but are ideal platforms to share knowledge, as well as drone photography and videos.
Now, even pilots who visit Bali without their own drone can get a piece of the island’s high-flying action. Bali Drone Production offers drone rentals on daily and weekly basis. The same company also provides a variety of services such as aerial shots and live streaming of events, aerial videos and photos of land or real estate, and trips to different corners of the island with a drone pilot.