Tips on Finding Places to Fly in NJ (& Any Other Place You Travel To)
Living in NJ for a majority of my life and growing up doing photography here, you’d think I would run out of places to shoot. I have to be honest, I feel like I have but at the same time I continue to look for more and more places every day. I’ve heard from a lot of people say that NJ is boring and that there’s nowhere to really shoot. I’ve heard that you have to travel to take good pictures and all these other wild things that aren’t true at all. My theory is that if you look hard enough, you can find a lot of very interesting things to shoot.
I wrote the article attached to this one to show how I go about taking some of the photos I do. It may not seem like the easiest process but it is super helpful to be able to do this before going out to some of the places I have. Over the years, I have become picker than ever with my work, so I like to make sure if I travel somewhere, I can make that trip worth it. If I like what I see there but I think the photo can be better, I usually plan to go back until I get everything just right.
Choosing A Drone
Owning two drones, you’d think my decision would be easy. Am I flying the Inspire 2, X5S and whatever lens I want, or am I flying my Mavic Pro? The easy answer is, probably my Mavic. I have found this drone to be so portable, convenient, and reliable since I have purchased it.
The drone obviously has its flaws here and there but wit’s its working, it’s working very well and I love it. The main reason I use this drone is because it has a really good range. Most of the time when I fly, I have to park further away from the location in a spot I can actually park. Having that little bit of extra range is beyond useful when it comes to shooting.
Make Sure Your Drone Can Be Seen!
Keep eyes on your drone at all times!
New Jersey is a bigger state than I had ever thought it was. I drive over the entire state for work, let alone my own personal aerial photos. Google Maps has also probably been my biggest help here in the sense that I can get an idea of what the land looks like from the satellite view before I set out to go fly there. Of course technology has its ups and downs, sometimes I find things on google that aren’t actually there anymore or things that have changed since they were last put up there. However, most of the time, Aloft Maps is very reliable and it has become an essential tool to me for aerial photography.
With all that being said, don’t get down on yourself because you can’t find places to shoot. Take the time to use the resources you have and find new places you think would be interesting. If you have to, go to them beforehand, scout them out and get an idea of what you really want to shoot there. When you have the time, the weather is how you want it and you can make it there at the right time of day; give yourself some time to get out there and enjoy some shooting because it’s a great thing to do. I always say that we are the ones to create excuses for ourselves and I think that is very true. There is so much to see in Jersey alone, but it’s just a matter of finding those spots and shooting them in a way that means something to you.
Pack Correctly with Extra Batteries!
If you’re ready to head out don’t forget to pack your drone up so it doesn’t get damaged. Also, it’s a good idea to have two batteries on hand if you want to extend your flight time. You may want to consider having a portable charger on hand.
We suggest finding a hard case or backpack to secure your drone while traveling. Below is one some of our community members have used that they like because it fits various drone sizes.
New Jersey is one of the most heavily-regulated states for drones. And as more and more people pick up drone photography, we at NJspots have seen a lot of photographers taking illegal photos!
We have even been guilty of sharing these photos ourselves on our page, just because we didn’t know!
Tips Before Your Take Flight
Luckily, we have a whole guide to drone photography laws (for recreational AND commercial users) on our site.
But here are some helpful tips to get you started for unmanned aircraft (aka drones):
- Must fly under 400 feet above ground level or, if flying at a higher altitude, stay within 400 feet of a structure
- Must be within the visual line of sight of the remote pilot in command or a ground observer
- Must fly during daylight or civil twilight hours (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting
- Must fly at or below 100 mph
- Must yield right of way to manned aircraft and avoid restricted airspace
- Must not fly over people
- Must not fly from a moving vehicle unless you are in a sparsely populated area
- Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
- Never fly over groups of people, stadiums, or sporting events
- Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
- Never fly under the influence
- Be aware of airspace requirements and laws restricting air traffic
For more, check out this website, or the extremely helpful Know Before You Fly website.
Where Not To Drone in New Jersey
Aside from all the other rules above (no airports, manned aircraft, buildings, etc.), there are several other strict laws you must abide by if you want to take up drone photography.
These are the spots you MUST keep away from:
- Any state park or state forest (check the map). Sorry — for hikers only!
- Palisades Park (on-foot guide)
- Any national park areas, recreation areas, or wildlife refuges. This includes Sandy Hook, the Delaware Water Gap, the Great Swamp, Paterson Great Falls…)
- The Statue of Liberty
- The Appalachian Trail
- Certain municipalities (you can see them all listed here)
Check out this airspace map, too, to see if there are any other restrictions in place around your planned destination.
For more specific laws in New Jersey, click here.
Where You Can Drone in New Jersey
There are some amazing spots in New Jersey you CAN fly your drone.
- The beach/the ocean! If you check out airspace maps, you can see that much of the shore is fair game.
- Local parks. They’re widely allowed, but make sure you abide by the other rules (not flying by buildings, above people, etc)
- Your house. We’ve seen some creative shots of people in their neighborhood or on private property (with permission of the property owner, of course!).
Check out this guide if you want help planning your shots and getting some inspiration.
Choosing Your Location
Location is super important for me when it comes to shooting with the drone. I always want to make sure a spot is worth it to fly so I constantly search Google Maps for different places. I remember where these places are because I simply pin them and them save them to a list on Google Maps and bam! I can see them on both my computer and phone. How convenient. All I have to do is get in the car, open maps, tap my spot and drive there. When planning your drone flights, we recommend checking out the Aloft Maps for the best places you can fly.
Weather for Drone Photography
Weather is absolutely essential to check. This could make or break the shoot and when you drive a solid distance away only to find out that you can’t fly there, you may be pretty disappointed. Remember, this is 100% your fault because all you had to do was check the weather. In fact, I made the same mistake the other day and I could not fly at any of the locations I went to. The winds were consistently blowing 20+mph and if I did take my drone up, it wasn’t safe to fly it more than 100ft away from me because it was so hard to get it back. Because of that, I didn’t want to risk losing my little drone and I decided to just put it away and surrender to the weather. I was definitely mad, but I learned my lesson and ended up scouting a few of the locations so I could go back and shoot them another time…continue reading.
Personal Connection – Be Creative
This is probably the hardest one to explain; every time I shoot something for my own personal work, it has to be something that means something to me. I either have an interest in the location, an idea, concept or something I just feel the need to create. Water, railroads, textures, seasons, and so many other things have caught my attention over the years. Being mainly a real estate photographer and videographer, the composition has become one of the main things I focus on. Whenever I go out to a location to shoot, I always make sure I nail the composition. Lighting, time of day, colors, look, and all that jazz comes second. Not to mention editing is a process after the shooting is done.