From real estate shoots, to television commercials, filming local events and capturing scenic images, Tim Hitchins is kept extremely busy … But this is just the beginning of Tim’s drone knowledge, flying and photography skills. Are you considering purchasing a drone for Christmas? Tim can help. He can also teach you how to operate one safely … Oh, and as if that’s not enough to keep Tim constantly on the go, he also volunteers with the Rural Fire Service!
Hi Tim. What’s your background … Where did you grow up and go to school?
I lived just up the road in South West Rocks for many years, before moving to Port permanently when I was 10. I completed my high schooling and HSC in 2014 at St Columba Anglican School.
I’ve wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember – something about big planes has always amazed me. I learnt to fly when I was fifteen with the Hastings District Flying Club. I completed my first solo flight – flying a plane by myself – long before I could legally drive a car alone and gained my Recreational Pilot certificate some months later.
I began training with the Australian International Aviation College in Port Macquarie when I finished school and completed my Private Pilot Licence in July of 2015. I then began working towards my commercial pilot licence.
In late 2015 I had the opportunity to play an active part in developing a drone photography business, which was originally known as Quantum UAVs. That business has evolved into my business today, Overall Photography Mid North Coast.
How was your interest in photography initially sparked?
I have owned more than my fair share of remote controlled helicopters and planes over the years, and initially my passion was more with flying the gadgets, and the photographic aspect was simply part of the package. I have always enjoyed creating movies and short videos, and this experience, combined with my flying qualifications, equipped me to start on this pathway.
I bought my first real “drone” at the start of 2015 and from there – my newfound passion really “took off” (sorry)!
It had to be said, ha ha! How did you learn more about drones and their capabilities?
After buying that first drone in 2015, my interest really increased. Since then I have owned pretty much every drone that DJI has released.
Drone technology is changing so quickly; it was clear from the start that I would have to keep up with the latest equipment. I feel that my clients notice and appreciate this, as they recognise that Overall Photography always strives to deliver the best possible product.
You have a double pronged business. Firstly, tell us a bit about your aerial photography services. What can you offer clients?
A lot of people think that we just “take photos with drones”, but we offer so much more. My passion now is producing seamless, professional film productions and flying our aerial camera platforms with cinematic precision.
We also offer full start-to-finish filming and production for events, promotional and corporate films, as well as for premium real estate listings, with the ability to film not only from the air, but also the ground with our stabilised camera equipment.
We also regularly film TV commercials, several of which are currently airing across the North Coast.
The difference you get when you hire Overall Photography is the knowledge and experience of our pilots. We have years of experience operating these machines and know exactly how to get you “the money shot” for your project. We aren’t trying things for the first time; we have proven experience in a wide range of projects.
Due to our standing within the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) industry, we have also been granted rare and specific permissions from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), including authority to operate: over populous areas, within 30 m of people (as close as 5 m); and at night – all of which are strictly prohibited for unlicensed operators, and most licensed ones as well. This gives our company a leading edge as one of few companies in Australia able to offer these services.
Overall Photography Mid North Coast is my own part of the broader Overall Photography group, which has been rapidly expanding throughout Australia – now having pilots available in most states and territories.
We receive repeat work from large clients, who use our services exclusively because of the continued quality and reliability across all of their projects.
You also sell drones – which I must say are a pretty cool Christmas gift idea – under the other arm of your business, North Coast Drones. What types of drones do you sell, and what are some of their tech specs (for the geeky amongst our readers)?
That’s right, Jo. We also have a retail arm called North Coast Drones, which solely deals in the supply of drones to customers all over Australia. We sell the full range of DJI products, as well as accessories to complement these products. DJI is the market leader in international drone manufacture and supply and have some mind-blowing pieces of technology.
What most people would identify as a “typical drone” is more than likely a DJI Phantom, one of the most popular drones in the world, which now features a 20 megapixel camera and can record 4 K video at 60 frames per second – amazing for its size!
The Phantom is our biggest seller, but in recent times DJI has once again blown us away with the miniaturisation of drones – namely the DJI Mavic Pro and the DJI Spark, each offering 12 MP photos, with 4 K recording on the Mavic and Full HD on the Spark.
Drones are more affordable than ever, and the Spark sets a new precedent for affordability, portability and intelligence of a flying camera, as well as being small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The Spark starts at just $789, which is the cheapest drone DJI has ever sold!
The other thing that sets us apart from your average retailer is after-sale support. If you have a problem, it’s just a matter of picking up the phone to get an answer. We also offer complementary assistance to set up your new drone and give you the basics of how to fly it, to avoid a bad ending!
Given you’re a licensed drone pilot … what can you offer the beginning drone operator? Do you hold courses/lessons – and what are some of the pitfalls for new drone operators?
Overall Photography is accredited by CASA to deliver the RePL (Remote Pilot Licence), which is a five day intensive course where new operators learn the theory accompanying a Private Pilot Licence, along with drone specific components, including practical flying with assessments and an in-depth understanding of the drone laws in Australia.
I have delivered several courses, including to major Government departments such as Forestry Corp. NSW, TAFE NSW and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) – which is essentially Australia’s air crash investigation authority.
New operators need to be very aware of the CASA regulations, which can be found on their website, including: not flying within 30 m of people, over people, at night, not above 120 m, not near any emergency service operation (including within 5.5 km of a bushfire), and staying well clear of airports and places where aircraft land, including helipads and the seaplane area in the Port Macquarie CBD.
You’ve been involved with some amazing shoots/productions. What are some of the TV programs/online videos you’ve shot footage for?
I’ve been privileged to work on some really interesting projects, including a documentary series with the ABC, Sunday Night, ongoing work with Channel 9’s commercial production arm and production for Thredbo ski resort, which included their memorial flare run and fireworks display.
I’ve also filmed lots of local events, with one of my favourites being the 2016 New Year’s Eve fireworks on the Port Macquarie foreshore.
I’m not sure how you also find time to volunteer with the Rural Fire Service, considering how busy you are. What does your role with this organisation involve?
I’ve been a volunteer firefighter with the RFS for five or six years and have recently completed my Crew Leader qualification and become a Deputy Captain with North Shore Brigade. I volunteer with both North Shore and Lake Innes Rural Fire Brigades, meaning that yes – I am quite busy with it!
We are on call 24/7 every day of the year and contrary to popular beliefs, don’t just deal with bushfires. Motor vehicle accidents, house fires, oil spills and car fires are all things that have caused me to be woken in the middle of the night, thanks to the pager that I carry 24/7.
I’ve never cancelled or left a job for a fire call, but lots of my clients have seen me packing my car with unbelievable speed when a well-timed pager call has come at the end of a shoot!
Given your work with the RFS – and your commercial ventures – what future do you see for drones?
As drones are evolving and advancing more and more each day; I can see they have a huge potential in many industries in the future. Fire spotting and reconnaissance has already been proven to be an extremely useful application for drones, and there are agencies already using them. Forestry Corp. NSW, for example, have a fleet of drones that are being utilised state-wide for fire spotting and intelligence-gathering this fire season, following our training with them.
Overall Photography was also under contract last fire season for fire spotting throughout NSW. I am hopeful that in the future, agencies including the RFS will adopt drones on a much larger scale, as they do have amazing results when used correctly.
Where can we find out more about what you do, or get started with a drone of our own?