Pilot Spotlight: Interview with Hanna Thomas
Location: London, UK
Tell us about yourself.
Two years ago I quit my job as a nurse to travel full time. I had started my Instagram about a year before and traveled at any opportunity I had. I would finish a 13-hour night shift and head straight to the airport and come back just before my next shift. I knew I wanted to travel full time and that no amount of holidays would satisfy my need to travel! I initially took a career break, but shortly after leaving to travel, I got my first few online jobs. At that point, I told the hospital I wasn't coming back! I took a risk and it was the best decision I ever made. I traveled full time with my partner Boyan (@boyanoo). Now I work online doing social media management, I do photography jobs, work with tourism boards on content creation, and run my travel blog, as well as videography with my partner. I am busier than ever and so happy!
What inspired you to begin flying drones, and what made you want to enter the industry as a drone pilot?
I was interested in drones for a while actually and this is how I met my partner via Instagram as I was obsessed with his photos! He was the one that got me into drones and I haven't stopped ever since. I take my drone with me everywhere, as you never know what you will find! I have never regretted taking my drone somewhere, but I have regretted not taking it!
I just love the unique perspective a drone gives. I also thought that there are a lot of female travel bloggers now, but very few that actually pilot a drone themselves. I love having the freedom to take photos of myself without having to use a tripod too, my drone is like my own tripod in the sky! Some places you also really need a drone, such as Old Harry Rocks in England. From the sky, you can see how incredible this place is, a very different feeling to when you are walking along the rocks. For the blog, it is a great way to show exactly what a place is like, and can be good to show the scale of some places!
What were you doing before you started flying drones, and what made you make the transition? I was using my DSLR to take photos, but it is sometimes hard to show the scale of a place with a camera. Also, it is a bit cheeky, but you can sit and fly a drone and get so many more photos than having to walk everywhere and take photos with a camera!
This was very useful in the Faroe Islands (above) where it was slippery and in some places it was hard to walk, so having the drone was very helpful. I saw how creative people were being with drones and the amazing landscapes being captured and I knew I wanted this too! Then I had one of my first travel jobs in the Maldives and knew I couldn't go without a drone.
What drone(s) are you currently flying, and what drone accessories do you love? I have a DJI Mavic 1 at the moment and I always have my ND filters ready. I recently swapped from a hard case to a drone bag, and have found this very useful as it fits much better in my bag.
What is your favorite feature on your drone and why?
I love the portrait mode! As I take most of my photos for Instagram and for my blog, portrait mode means the photo is a perfect size and I won't have to crop much out.
What drone images are you most proud of and why? I have always loved basketball court shots, and I recently found a totally undiscovered court in London, so I am very proud of that shot! Also as I was patient and waited for the sun to come out so I loved the shadow my bike created on the court too. In the Faroe Islands, I was proud of my shots as it was so windy. I am glad I managed to get a few shots given the conditions and being above the sea a lot!
Have you learned any valuable lessons from being in the drone industry that you can share with our female drone community? My number one tip is to definitely go with a well-trusted brand. My first ever drone I took to this Maldives was on the cheaper side and drifted into a palm tree on day 3... I thought I was a terrible pilot and yet now I have had my DJI Mavic 1 for 2 years and (touch wood) no issues! I have heard so many people having problems with drones drifting, so I would say it is definitely worth it to invest in a good drone from the get-go!
Whether it's from a creative, commercial, or humanitarian perspective, tell us about the most memorable drone flight you have piloted thus far. Some of my most memorable drone flights were in the Philippines! I usually always had my boyfriend there for support but here I was finally alone with my drone with no one to fall back on for the first time. Every day I was doing boat trips and exploring, so I had a lot of practice taking off and landing on a boat. Now I feel so much more confident after that, and the shots came out great! I also only had a few batteries to last me all day so I had to make sure I was efficient with the flight so that I could get at least two flights out of each battery throughout the day.
What would you say to women and girls about the drone industry to spark their interest in getting involved?
It's not only men that can drone! Take it into your own hands, it is the best way to get photos without having to rely on anyone else. If I can do it, and I have never gamed or used a controller like this before, then you can too! You can get so creative with props, shadows, it really adds a whole new dimension to your photography.
What excites you most about more women joining the drone industry? To see all the creativity out there! I see so many women who are amazing photographers but are too scared to fly a drone, you will be a great drone photographer too I'm sure so just go for it! It's great to expand the community and to share tips!
Do you have any drone tips & tricks you can share with our audience?
I didn't know this for far too long, but my main tip is to make sure your polarizing filter is on the right way up! I always hold it to my eye and look at the water I will be flying over. At some angles, the reflections will still be there, and once they disappear and you can see clearly with no glare, place the filter on your lens in the exact same position.
If you can, make sure you contrast with your background in your drone shots! If you are in a green field, wear white or red so you pop out of the image. This will give it more of a subject and will show how large the landscape is around you. I have a whole blog on drone photography tips so I won't go on for too long here!
What's the best way for our readers to get in touch with you? Feel free to send me a DM @solarpoweredblonde or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?
Always feel free to ask me anything! I'm so happy to help, anything photography, blogging, drones, full-time travel related! I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for asking questions so ask away!
Hanna is a full-time traveler and content creator. She runs a travel blog called SolarPoweredBlonde and won't leave the house without her camera and drone because you never know what you might find!