Behind the Controls: Dirk Dallas

Dirk Dallas knows his way around a camera and lens whether it’s a DSLR or any type affixed to a drone. He spins magic from these cameras in the from of breathtaking imagery and impressive videos. Dirk lives in Southern California with his wife and three daughters. The busy father (somehow) finds time to capture exquisite drone images and videos when given the chance – and shares his work online and on his website (along with great tips and tricks to help you do the same).

Dirk doesn’t just like to take pretty pictures. As a designer, photographer and professor of digital media, he shares his wealth of photography knowledge with many around him (on and offline) – with a goal of helping them achieve their best when it comes to capturing the beauty around them.

Dirk operates the successful website and social accounts ‘From Where I Drone‘. He says the name started as a joke:

“One day last year I posted one of my drone photos with the first ever use of the hashtag #fromwhereidrone because I thought it would be a funny play off of the super popular #fromwhereistand hashtag. I then started using it on every drone photo I posted and each time people seemed to think it was funny.

Then one day several months later I decided to click on the tag and I saw over 500 drone photos using it as well and I was blown away! I thought that was super awesome so I then decided to start the From Where I Drone Instagram account so I could have a place to feature everyone’s amazing drone imagery and now the rest is history :)”

Dirk’s impressive talent and willingness to make others around him succeed were the reasons we’ve chosen him as this week’s talented drone pilot Behind the Controls. Enjoy!

(Image: Dirk Dallas)
(Image: Dirk Dallas)

Behind the Controls: Dirk Dallas

We see you’re big into photography and digital media – when did you happen across your first drone? Tell us about the experience and how you got hooked.

I got my start flying r/c helicopters and airplanes when I was 18. I loved the hobby but it was so hard to fly so I crashed a lot and ended up spending a lot of time and money repairing my helicopters and planes.

A few years later I started reading about drones that had GPS built into them which meant that flying would be a lot easier, so I had to get one. Then when I learned that I could attach a GoPro underneath and capture imagery from the air I was completely hooked.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

What does your current drone kit look like?

I have several drones. The Inspire 1 Pro X5, Phantom 4, Phantom 3 and the Typhoon H.

How often do you fly and take the great pictures on your social accounts?

I have a pretty busy schedule so unfortunately I don’t get to fly very much. These days it’s just a couple times a month. So when I go out somewhere I make sure to shoot a lot and take advantage of the time. That’s also why I keep a lot of batteries with me.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

What do you think about the current state of drone law – do you think the government doing a good job with regulations and licensing?

I think the recent developments with the Part 107 ruling is a great start. I just wish it happened sooner. Before the ruling things were pretty complicated and confusing. There are still some issues that need to be addressed but at least we are finally making progress. Also I like that there is now a path to start making money with a drone.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

Have you ever crashed a drone? What was your worst experience?

Absolutely! If someone says they have never crashed a drone then I wouldn’t believe them! 😉 My worst crash was when I was finally around an abandon building with my Phantom 2. I was having fun flying through the various levels but then eventually my drone lost signal with my transmitter because of all the thick concrete that was between me and my drone.

My drone then started to fly off out of the building and then eventually hit a nearby tree and got stuck in the branches which were about 30 feet up.

My friends and I tried throwing a football at it to try and knock it down and after about an hour we were finally able to. The drone came falling down and all the props broke off and the shell had some cracks but somehow I was still able to get it to fly and never had any problems with it! Those Phantoms are tough.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

Where do you see drones headed in 5 years? 10 years?

Some people might call me crazy but I can envision a future where drones are just a normal part of our everyday life just like how airplanes and helicopters are. I think in the future when we look up in the sky there will be something like drone highways that will be used to transport packages, food, and supplies.

I also think we’ll have drones that help us mow the lawn, hang Christmas lights and walk the dog. In terms of image making, I think drones will keep getting smarter allowing creatives to focus less on the technology and flying and more on the craft of creating interesting imagery.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

What’s your advice for drone pilots who are looking to get crystal clear, amazing images like the ones you post? Is there a secret?

I think it’s very important to study basic photography principles so you know what goes into creating great imagery. Most drone pilots don’t think a lot about that, they are just excited to get up in the air. Then from there lots and lots of practice! Seriously. People think there are shortcuts to this but there aren’t. It’s hard work!

After that I would say find some apps like Photoshop, Lightroom or the Priime app and start editing your imagery in a way that enhances the image and allows your creative vision to come forward. Then from there doing little things like shooting in RAW, removing the wide angle distortion and adding in some sharpening to bring out the details, can all help improve your imagery.

If people are interested in learning more tips like this then check out this post on my website: 8 Tips for Better Drone Photography. And if you want to create epic drone videos, click here for my list.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

What was your favorite shoot? We imagine Southern Cal is quite a place to shoot.

I absolutely love California but my favorite place to shoot was in Iceland. I just haven’t experienced anything quite like it. The landscape truly felt like another planet and the vast open space made flying there really nice.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

Many people look up to you as an authority in the drone space; who are some pilots you think others should check out?

Super honored to hear that, thank you! I would definitely encourage people to check out:

When you’re not on Behind the Controls, where would we find you?

I teach photography, video and graphic design at a university down here in southern California. I’ve been teaching for 7 years now and absolutely love it. I also love spending time my family at the beach and on hikes.

(Image: Dirk Dallas)

Any advice for pilots new to the space? What are some mistakes they can avoid?

  1. Always scout a location before you fly. Check out this post for more on that.
  2. Know the rules! Since it’s so easy to just buy a drone and start flying, people don’t realize that there are rules that we as drone pilots need to follow.
  3. Always check the weather conditions before taking the drone up.
  4. Learn basic photography principles.
  5. Find a community! There are so many drone groups on Facebook and forums online as well as the #fromwhereidrone community on Instagram. That way you can learn from others and get feedback on your work.

Follow Dirk Dallas on the web