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The Big Ladder exclusive early access to DJI Mavic 3

Chris Gorman, The Big Ladder Photographer, is given early access to the DJI Mavic 3.

A month ago, I was asked by DJI if I would like to road test the much anticipated Mavic 3 Drone. Here are my findings…


As a photographer, the first thing to catch my eye is, of course, the completely redesigned Hassleblad camera. Essentially there are 2 cameras. One is a fixed 24mm lens with a sensor size of 4/3 20mp, the other is a zoom of up to 160mm with a 12mp sensor…

It should be noted that the zoom cannot be used in Raw mode only jpeg. Video-wise, the Cine version comes with the much-rumoured Apple Pro res format, as well as other video formats and frame rate options – more than the Mavic 2 Pro. These also include 4k at 60fps and 5K a 50fps.

I have been lucky enough to be supplied with the Mavic 3 cine version. This drone comes with the much awaited next generation smart controller. And a whole new operational layout

On first flight, the drone is noticeably quieter than Mavic 2 Pro. Though the real difference is in how agile and more responsive the drone feels. It also seems to handle breezy conditions better than the MP2. The drone literally sits anchored in one place.

As a photographer, my initial tests have centred on the performance of the stills camera. I was mostly keen to test the camera in low light, as with a larger image sensor it was likely to produce much improved results. I can confirm that this is the case. Far more detail in the blacks (when shot in raw mode). Video is also far more tolerant of higher ISO’s with some of my test footage shot at 3200iso with far less noise than the Mavic 2 pro.

The game-changing aspect of this drone for many photographers will, however, be the zoom. I found it simply astonishing, zooming to an equivalent of 160mm. This will be superb for those carrying out building inspections and also for media photographers in those situations where you are restricted on how close to the subject the drone can be. The zoom switches between both optical and digital during the zoom (I believe a firmware update is due to make this process smoother).

The most noticeable part of the drone design is that the new battery lasts some 46 minutes… or 40 minutes in strong winds. This again is a game-changer, no need for quite so many batteries and you will be able to keep the drone in the air for double the time. The battery compartment is also part of the change, the battery now inserts from the rear of the drone and not the top.

On the new smart controller, the menu system is far easier to navigate with a sliding system to scroll around menus, much like an iPad.

Obstacle avoidance has been given a huge redesign with “fisheye” sensors on all corners that will definitely help in those close situations.

As I continue to test I will post my results on my website and social media, but all in all a huge upgrade, especially for movie-makers.

Insta: @bigladderphotographer

Facebook @bigladder

Night images of London and Brighton are both Raw images taken at 800iso.

View from Above: Chris Gorman takes on the RHS gardens

DronePrep pilot in residence Chris Gorman (aka The Big Ladder Photographer) has been as busy as a bee in the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Since 2018, he has been capturing stunning aerial images of their sites across the UK. Read on for some words from Chris about his experience flying at all five sites, in all four seasons.

RHS Garden Bridgewater, summer. All images strictly Copyright: Chris Gorman/RHS

Working with the RHS

My relationship with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) began in 2018. I was asked by the London Evening Standard to find a drone image showing the beautiful colours of the autumn leaves in London. My first thought was to call the RHS and ask if I could come and photograph the stunning colours at Wisley Garden at sunset. They immediately agreed and the resulting image appeared in the paper the next day.

I was invited back to Wisley by the press team to photograph the garden in more detail, an opportunity I relished. A drone allows you to view the garden from a perspective that previously only the garden designer understood.

After several visits to Wisley, I was then asked whether I would like to photograph all RHS Gardens. That meant all four seasons, RHS gardens across the UK: Wisley in Surrey, Rosemoor in Devon, Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire, Hyde Hall in Essex and, more recently, the brand new RHS Bridgewater in Manchester.

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, winter All images strictly Copyright: Chris Gorman/RHS

Planning photoshoots 

The freedom of creativity that the RHS permits when carrying out this work is why the images work so well. I arrange all shoots based on the weather; sunlight is vital for a good shot. With some of the locations involving 400-mile round trips, I need to be confident that the weather is going to play ball when I get there. This summer has tested this to the extreme, with forecasts often changing drastically from one day to the next. I’ve had a few occasions when three different weather apps have been incorrect!

I use DronePrep’s Daylight Tool when planning many of these shoots, it gives me specific information about where the sun is going to be at sunrise and sunset – it’s a feature I absolutely love.

Permission-wise, the shoots are quite easy as landowner permission is already in place with the RHS. The only garden that has airspace issues is Bridgewater in Manchester, due to its proximity to the airport. Manchester Airport has been very helpful so far with permission easily obtained.

RHS Garden Rosemoor, summer. All images strictly Copyright: Chris Gorman/RHS

The resulting images

Many of the images have appeared in the national press, From the Daily Telegraph and The Times to the Daily Mail and Daily Express. As a media photographer with nearly 30 years of experience, I know exactly what a picture editor likes to see. Crucially, an image needs to be pitched to a newspaper at the right time. Even a great picture needs a news hook to hang it on… hot weather, national gardening week, and so on.

The RHS has allowed me to indulge my passion for shadow images. There are some great shots of gardeners watering the flowers and raking leaves, or couples walking hand in hand through the roses.

I love how each garden looks completely different through the seasons, with something new to see from the air on each visit. After around 15 shoots at Wisley over the last three years, I still find something new to capture each time.

RHS Garden Wisley, winter. All images strictly Copyright: Chris Gorman/RHS

Chris’s images of RHS Hilltop can be seen in an exhibition at Wisley Garden in Surrey. The exhibition will run until mid-September.

Images copyright RHS and The Big Ladder Photographer – check out Chris’s work on Facebook and Instagram.

The DronePrep Map

Chris uses The DronePrep Map to help him plan flights and get landowner permission to take-off. Check out The DronePrep Map for everything you need to plan flights safely.

DronePrep Map

View from Above: Chris Gorman takes on Plymouth

DronePrep’s Pilot in Residence Chris Gorman, aka The Big Ladder Photographer, uses the DronePrep Map for planning aerial photoshoots. Chris just finished an assignment in Devon for the National Lottery Heritage Fund, resulting in this remarkable image of the sunset in Plymouth.

A new dawn for Plymouth. The brief from the Lottery Heritage Fund was simple:

“We’d like a beautiful sunrise or sunset image of Plymouth to send out to media to illustrate our announcement that the city is to be given a £10m grant to help create the UK’s first National Marine Park”.

A simple brief you may think. However, I had just one day to shoot, meaning weather forecasts and permissions needed to fall in line within 36 hours. Sunrises and sunsets aren’t a given, and considering how awful the summer weather has been so far this year, I knew I may struggle.

My first port of call (no pun intended) was the Port Authority and the local council for permission to fly in the Plymouth Sound area. This was the simple part if I’m honest, as the council were most helpful in granting permission straight away after providing all the relevant documentation.

The hard part was the weather.

I arrived in Plymouth to completely grey skies, despite all three of my weather apps forecasting sunshine. The final image you see here was the only time I saw the sun in 36 hours in the town. The shoot was supposed to take place the following day, but I had this sneaking feeling the sun might put in a brief appearance at sunset.

The time of sunset collided with the England-Denmark match, which partially helped as the Sound was near-deserted due to everyone watching the game. All through the very tense first half of the football, I dashed back and forth to the window to check out what the sun was doing. At halftime, I checked once more and, to my amazement, the sun was out in a blaze of glory for the first time that day. I gathered by gear and ran to my pre-arranged take off spot.

I know from experience that a good sunset can last just seconds, which is why DronePrep’s Daylight Tool is so useful when planning these shots. The last hurdle to jump came from the drone itself, which refused to calibrate the gimbal on first start up… This always involves a drone restart, which takes 40 seconds to complete each time. I could see the picture drifting away in front of me…
Suddenly, on the 3rd start up, the drone finally played ball. I launched and immediately took this shot (which is actually a 5-frame HDR blended in Photoshop). This image saved the entire assignment, as the sun didn’t show its face again. And I didn’t miss a single goal in the football!

The resulting image appeared on BBC News, The Daily Express, The Daily Star and various local media.

Check out more of Chris’s work at