• Category Archives Photography
  • Drones, multirotor, quadcopters

    Events have conspired to push us back into flying radio control aircraft. Specifically, drones, multirotor or quadcopters… They all the same thing, but people call them different names. Here is a quick recap of how this all came about.

    We shoot video case studies at work to highlight how companies use our gear to automate a process. It’s good for them and it’s good for us, it helps their future customers understand how that company can help them, and it helps our future customers hear and see how others have used our gear.
    So, a few weeks back, we had a case study video shoot to do in Northern California, cold storage of fruit.

    At first, the boss said that he would be flying the drone… It is after all, HIS drone. He has flown it a few times and he also doubles as the director for the film crew, so it makes sense for him to be there.
    Events built to the point where he was not going to be able to make it, so that left me to pick up the drone (I also do camera B and audio duties).
    Long story short, I had around 3 days to learn how to set it up and fly it.

    Phantom 3 Pro Drones

    dji phantom 3 pro drone
    dji phantom 3 pro drone

    The DJI Phantom 3 Professional is no longer their top of the line drone, but it is still a lot of drone. Costing something north of 1500 bucks, it is also out of my price range.
    The really interesting thing for me is that flying the thing is as much about the software as it is about flying.

    The system uses a tablet, in this case an iPad something (Sorry, I don’t know anything about Apple products – it just works with the drone is all I know), it gets the feed from the remote. Both video and data show up. Both are required to fly the drone.

    Quick practice

    I was not going to learn how to fly on the job, so we did a few quick flights the Sunday before we left.

    Rusty, but the drone has GPS, altitude lock and active stabilization electronics to help. The thing that really weirds me out is that you pretty much fly it from the video feed 99% of the time. Only during takeoff and landing do I look it (and even then I’m sure there are guys that do the whole thing from the video feed).
    This is very different to how I have flown fix wing stuff in the past!

    drone prop ballance

    We also had to brush up on old skills like propeller balancing.

    On location

    To say I was nervous is a MASSIVE understatement.
    If we get some time, I plan to rough edit some of the video shots we got and share them here.
    orchard shoot

    Here is a photo that our video guy got of me, I had no idea that he took this photo.

    calca cool room

    Here is one that I took of me from the drone.
    At this point, I am flying inside the massive cool room that they store grapes in.

    Nano practice drone

    The good news is two fold. Firstly, I did not crash. Secondly, I get to do more flying latter this week at another video case study.
    In the middle of the two weeks Freddy and Terry asked me what I wanted for a Father’s day present (apparently I am hard to buy presents for… and my name is not even Gary…).
    The answer was pretty simple…. I needed a small practice drone.

    practice nano drone

    So. There we are.
    I am flying for work and pleasure.
    Right now the FAA are between rules, so we are looking at whats required to keep this up moving forward.
    At the moment it is still the bosses drone. Not sure whats going to happen there as he has been using it less and less (that was happening long before this shoot – just to be clear). It’s the sort of thing that if you don’t keep it up, you get rusty…. As I can attest to.

    You might read or hear more about drones moving forward. Radio control aircraft seem to be making a comeback into my life. Amazing how stuff like this works out.

  • Solo in the Grand Canyon

    Super busy at work.
    Busy at home getting our water filter/softener sorted.
    How busy? I forget the last time I had a nice cool refreshing glass of Vodka.
    Yeah, I know, woe is me.

    But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel…. In a few days I take off 4 days for hiking in the Grand Canyon!
    Super excited.
    Back on Jan 1st, I was up at midnight faxing my hiking application to the National Parks Service.
    Broken hearted when it was rejected…. No space they said… I had applied for 2 people in the usual (aka popular) campsites.
    Not to be deterred, I had 2 weeks to reapply, so I grabbed a map and planned out a solo trip….. Since I was on my own, I could go a little further, a little deeper and forgo a few comforts…. No staying on the beaten path, no staying at the usual camp ground….. So I did.
    Yah! I was accepted this time around.

    So. We have the usual training at Opto today, which I teach. Then tomorrow is a half day for me. Around lunch time I will head off and drive 7.5 hours to the small town Tusayan just outside of the Canyon. We have a motel room reserved.

    Up at o’dark thirty the next morning and hike in. In my (slightly) overweight backpack I have everything that we will need (hopefully) to keep myself alive for the next 4 days…. Oh, and some camera gear… of course….
    It will be very different going solo this year, my first time doing this. It means that I have to have everything in the one pack. Last year, we could split it all three ways.
    Oh, and I will have you all know that I have been watching the weather for the correct location like a hawk. Super excited (and VERY relieved) to say that the weather is looking almost perfect. Hot and clear (there might be some clouds some days – hope they clear as I want to take some astro photos).

    Anyway, sorry the blog has been bumping along the bottom for a while now. Got a head full of stuff that I just can’t figure out myself, so really can’t blog about any of it…. It is so full it is just crowding out everything else. Hopefully 4 days in the Canyon will bring some peace and quiet.

    [And yeah Matt W. I hear ya, I will do my best to blog about said adventure in less than a year this time around!].

  • Better low light camera in the works?

    On of my passion’s is starlight photography.
    One of the main bugbears about this passion is the lack of any camera manufacturer that feels the same way……
    They spend their life, rather than making nice quality cameras that can capture beautiful low light images, they rather pump the numbers and sell a camera with big sounding numbers in the hope that zillions of consumers will buy it because, well, after all, it has the biggest number of X.

    In English.
    Digital cameras are made up of sensors. The sensors are like little buckets.
    They capture light and fill up their buckets.
    If the bucket gets full before its emptied, things look pretty bad.
    If the bucket is not full before it gets emptied, things look pretty bad.
    In the first case, things are blown out, white, overexposed and flares and gunk.
    In the latter case there is not enough light in the bucket, so the camera software makes up what it thinks should be in the bucket and always gets it wrong, so we end up with computer noise.

    The latter is my issue. When photographing stars there is never enough light, and so I am always fighting with the camera and software trying to reduce the noise.

    The big numbers come from the number of buckets…..
    See the more buckets there are, the ‘better’ the camera, or so thinks Mr Camera maker. He can boast that he has more buckets than the other guy.
    The trouble with this is that to fit so many buckets into the camera, the mouth of each bucket has to be tiny. So they just can not collect that much light.

    Apple (of all people) are one of the very very very very very very very few ‘camera’ makers that understand this.
    They have pretty much frozen their phone cameras at 8 million buckets.
    When everyone else is pressing upwards of 20 million buckets on their phone cameras, they get that bigger buckets means better photos…. They also have enough of a rabid fan base that they can sell phones with a ‘small’ number of buckets.
    (The other important thing is the lens / glass quality and so each Apple phone has better quality glass and this really helps them as well).
    The latest Apple phone (the 6) has one of the best cell phone cameras ever.
    (Mind blowing Nexus 6 camera software aside).

    So, now, perhaps, you have some idea why I was so excited to read this;

    Sony Active Pixel Color Sampling is coming. The new technology solves low light performance issues with global shutter sensors, makes ultra high frame rates possible and scraps the traditional bayer RGB filter altogether.

    The 1.5″ sensor records 6K video (6144 x 2160 according to the leak at Chinese site CNBeta via Image Sensors World) and only requires 4.85MP, meaning the pixels themselves are massive – almost 10 µm in width compares to 8.4 µm for the Sony A7S, 5.2 µm for the 5D Mark III. However unlike the traditionally square photosites on bayer sensors, the Sony APCS pixels are rectangular, measuring 9.78 x 4.89 µm (micrometers).

    I could care less about the video and high speed video, but oohhh, the size of those buckets!!!!!
    At last we see a sensor that breaks the pattern of ‘if a little is good, then more must be better’.
    I am also rather excited about the fact that they are moving away from the usual square bucket to a rectangular one.
    Lastly, they have removed one of the filters between the starlight and the sensor. This is pleasing news to a baldgeeks eyes.

    Cant wait for this sensor to get in a camera and see some sample images from it.

  • Steampunk

    Have talked about them in the past (and yes, for those of you paying attention, when my Kickstarter health band arrives, it will not replace or replicate the functions of my smartwatch, so yes, I will be rocking two ‘watches’, one on each wrist – no, that does not make me a double dork).

    Its got to the point (in the (very) small circles I hang out in) where you can slap just about anything to your wrist and no one really bats an eyelid.

    Even something like this;


    (Note, in case you’re wondering, I still don’t like embedding the articles or photos I refer to in my blog as I don’t own them and are nervous about the owners getting upset about me ‘using’ their content, so prefer to link you to it, I know its another step for you, but thats a reminder of why I do it!).

    Soon as I saw this beautiful watch, my mind jumped to just one thing.


    Both Amy and I always wanted to do a Steampunk themed photo shoot. I think Amy would do a great job and it would be a lot of fun for both of us.
    The trouble is that I would want to make the whole outfit, and thats a lot of work for one photo shoot.
    Also to make the costume for just one body type / size just does not make good sense use of our time, so there was that…..
    I mean where else would you wear an outfit like that in Temecula?
    Always wanted to wear one to a rave, but pretty sure it would not go down well there (or it would be a major hit and I would spend the entire event getting asked to have my photo taken with people).
    In the major cities I think there are people who rent out their getups, but in Temecula, not so much.

    Anyway, Steampunk, its a thing, I love it and think this wearable would fit right in.
    Bookmarked that link shall I… you just never know…..