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Drone Every Mountain: An Interview with Petr Jan Juracka, Drone Photographer

Petr-Jan_Juracka
Petr Jan Juracka | All images used by permission

High Flyers

Aerial photography is a niche skillset that requires a combination of UAV piloting skills, a creative photographic eye and technical editing ability. All DroneBelow High Flyers are selected on the basis of their professionalism, talent and creativity. We invite these drone photographers to interview with us to find out more about what flies their kite.

Drone Every Mountain: An Interview with Petr Jan Juracka, Drone Photographer

Petr Jan Juracka’s likens his approach to photography, both micro and aerial, to his approach to his work, as a scientific interpreter of the natural world. We admit to also being a little bit in love with his wonderful ability to tell a story, such as in his “K2 with a Drone” video, which has to date been viewed over half a million times on Airvuz. Petr kindly now tells another story, sharing tips and anecdotes about his adventures on that record-breaking climb, along with photos and other recent flicks he has created.

Thanks for joining us Petr. We loved sharing your K2 video telling your story of flying at high altitude. What challenges did you face, and can you share some tips for our readers flying at such low pressure conditions?

Hey Sarah! Sure, this was an incredible moment of my life! You know, the big thing for the man, very small for the World… However, for me this was the first opportunity to get so high, over 6000 meters above the sea level! Despite strong headaches and being tired for the whole time, I really fully enjoyed flying so high. I had to be very careful, as even subtle breeze can flow the drone far away, due to the low atmospheric pressure. Rotors have to work three times more to simply hover, you have to keep that in the mind for the whole time.

Does this relate to what affected the drone that crashed?

Nobody knows, what happened. The drone I crashed was that one I won in the DJI competition more than a year before the expedition. I flew many hours with it in the air, during the rains, hot weather as well as freezing. Maybe it was too tired? Or… it happened about three kilometres from the Chinese borders. The drone started flying directly there and I after I had tried everything, I had just one option. To switch the motors off, so it crashed to the land. Maybe the drone felt its home and wanted to come back there? Just kidding!

How did you tackle keeping the drone and all of the equipment charged in such a hostile environment?

Well, the Goal Zero stuff is my answer. We had Yetti power-bank, which was able to get powered by the sun with the collectors, as well as from the generator in the base camp, very quickly. Despite its weight of about 13 kilos, this was one of the most important parts of my gear! I charged both my drone, computer as well as head lamps or cameras from it.

Were there any amusing moments from the K2 climb you can share?

There were many every day!  For me, the strongest feeling was probably peeing over the cliff at the first camp, 6334 m a.s.l. It was at the midnight, I left my crampons as well as harness in the tent, and just walked on the rocks. Without the headlamp, just under the Milky Way, with the view on the Broad Peak (8051  m a.s.l.) I was laughing as my imagination worked very hard. I was peeing on the glacier from about 800 meters above, so I was imagining the avalanche I can cause! I was feeling I was the strongest man of the world that moment.

Does aerial videography intersect at all with your professional work as a researcher at Charles University?

We are working on that! Despite we are at the beginning, I would like to join the project of my office-mate Klára, and help her with the big mammals in the South Africa. We will see!

You also work with stills and microphotography – what does drone photography offer beyond these?

Maybe it does not look, but microphotography has a lot of same with the aerial perspective. Both are very new for the human eye, and never can be boring! You cannot see the microworld by your own sight, nor you can see the landscape from the bird perspective!  I love it, and have loved it for years and I trust it never to be ordinary when magnifying the small, or taking off in the nature.

You’ve visited many countries – Uganda, Australia, South Africa, and the Austrian Alps – what have been your stand out moments?

One of the most incredible drone moments come from my home, the Czech Republic. Since last year it is prohibited to fly in the national parks, but already in 2015 I made a Lowepro advertisement there, with my friends. I still cannot understand how it is possible, that 17 guys, who never met before, can make an appointment at one spot, and make a great movie just during one night!

However, I really love to travel and I was very lucky to visit six continents within about a year in the period of 2016-2017. The short film “To the Mystery” that I edited from these journeys got to the top 5 in the Airvuz Drone competition. I still cannot believe this.

Any there any other countries on your bucket list you’d love to visit? Why?

Wow, there are many. Almost all of them! I love to explore, and try to wake up such interest also in my kids! These days I am preparing for a new drone trip to the Ireland, as I saw many jaw dropping shots from there. So we cross fingers for some beautiful sunsets. I would like to come back to some eight-thousanders (the 14 mountains that exceed 8,000m in height) as well, so we will see.

What do you fly, and what do you love about it?

I am definitely on the DJI platform since 2015, since I got my first Phantom. I got shocked how stable it is in the air, how smooth is the control and how nice the resulting sequences may be. Simply I love it! These days I fly about half of my work with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian, and the second half with DJI Mavic Pro, especially where I cannot bring Phantom easily with me.

How do you see the drone technology expanding or changing in the next 5 years?

Well, the technological evolution reached some plateau little bit, as the development goes little bit slower than three years ago. However, I am pretty sure we cannot compare the drone from this time with those from the future, as the same we cannot do with those 5 years back. It is hard to say, what will be the strongest difference. Probably the artificial intelligence will be better, crash avoidance systems, geo-location, as well as regulations and sensors, which might be even more sensitive and noise free.

Where can readers find out more about what you do?

Everybody is more than welcome to follow my Instagram, where I regularly post in English, or have a look at my website. My videos are at my Youtube channel.

About Petr Jan Juračka

Despite being born with very poor sight, Petr became professional photographer as well as the scientist at the Faculty of Science, Charles University Prague. He combines his nature scientist approach with mastering several visual techniques (timelapse, drones, sliders or microphotography) in his own TV science show at the most popular TV channel in the Czech Republic. He worked on the Who’s Who in Mycology movie, which was awarded at 44th Oscars Student Academy Awards. Petr is the Czech Nikon & DJI ambassador, as well as one of 12 Lowepro ambassadors. He is married and has two daughters, who already love to travel with him wherever possible.

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