Why Do I Even Bother?

Drones.  Drones!  DRONES!!  Seems like they’re everywhere.  And, of course, anybody can just walk right in to most big box retailers and get one.  Everybody’s a “drone pilot” now then, right.  NO!!!  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  I try to follow the rules and regulations.  Why?  Because it’s the law.  I’m not trying to be a goody-goody.  I just don’t have the money to pay any potential fines that could come with breaking any of the current laws.  That’s why it just chaps my a** when others around me blatantly break the rules.  Or when others around me disseminate inaccurate information.

The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival is a big deal in my town.  When I first began shooting photography for the festival, I used a drone.  Drone (UAS) regulations didn’t exist back then.  People (certain specific people as part of a bigger group of people) got bent out of shape and actually posted disclaimers that they were not affiliated with me.  I actually got reported and the police shut me down.  I have a letter of investigation from the FAA!  I should frame it.  Just to be clear, this was before any drone regulations existed!  I wasn’t endangering anybody and was being as safe as I could be.  It was too new, people got freaked out.  Oh no, there’s this flying thingy.  It’s spying on me!  It’s invading my privacy!  IT WAS A PUBLIC VENUE DAMMIT!

Fast forward 4 years and now there ARE regulations in place, but it seems that most people just don’t care.  Should I give them the benefit of the doubt?  Perhaps.  But there are channels to check if folks are legit.  Most are not.  Or at least major parts of their operations are not.

I was told this year that I would be too close to an airport to fly a drone during the Apple Blossom Festival.  Nope.  Incredibly inaccurate.  I fly here all the time and have a working relationship with the airport.  It’s class E airspace.  We’re not too close to an airport to fly a drone.  It’s one thing if a local city/town declares an area a drone-free zone.  Localities do that and I would comply.  I have before.  Laguna Beach in CA has such a declaration so I wasn’t able to fly there.  I get it.  There is no declaration in Winchester at Apple Blossom.  But I was instructed not to fly.  Fine, I wasn’t going to fly anyway.

Then I see multiple images from drone flights over the festival.  At night!  Flights at night are NOT covered by the new Drone certification (license) – Part 107, which is technically CFR 14 Part 107 for folks who don’t know.  Flights over people aren’t covered either.  You have to get specific permission (a waiver) from the FAA to do those flights.  There’s an application process where you have to justify the operations and explain how you’d mitigate the risks involved.  The FAA has a website that lists all waivers granted.  Guess what, no such waivers exist in this area (at least for the folks who shot the images I saw).

The exception here is if you’re flying for recreation.  I never understood this and have never agreed with it.  It’s the same airspace – all drones should follow the same rules.  All cars follow the same traffic laws.  How is this different?!?!?!


Rant over, as you were.

Part 107

Just to be clear, this image was shot back in 2015 when NO regulations existed for drone flight. This is the image that started it all.

After Blossom

I wonder if I can get something going.  For all those people who host parties for Apple Blossom, what happens to all that extra food?  For all those people who complete massive projects just in time for Apple Blossom and then the weather doesn’t cooperate, bummer right?  There’s an enormous run-up to the festival and then, just like a summer storm, it’s all over in a heartbeat.  Where did all the people go?  Oh no, we forgot to do this or we forgot to do that!  You can finally get to those projects that had to wait until after the bloom.  Don’t blink or you’ll miss something.  Memorial Day is coming.  Will the food still be good enough to serve at a Memorial Day backyard party?  Will the weather finally cooperate?  It can feel like a massive release of pressure.  Oh yeah, and it’s my birthday.

Happy “After Blossom” – catchy?

After Blossom

Part of some backyard improvements at our house.  The rain hanging from the lamp shade compelled me to shoot it.

Part 107

So I just posted a response (quoted below) to a video that showed up in my Facebook feed, but then I removed it.  Something about the time and placement of the response didn’t feel right to me, but I still feel that it needs to be said.

As more and more people earn their sUAS remote pilot certificate, the skies are becoming more and more saturated with “legal” drone pilots.  And when I say “legal” I mean drone pilots who are allowed to be paid for their craft.  Those flying for recreational purposes do still have rules to follow as well.  And for the most part, those rules are essentially the same rules as the ones for licensed remote pilots (of course, licensed piltots have the added CFR 14 part 107).

I’ve gotten on my soapbox before and I’ll keep getting on it because I feel strongly about these rules and the safety of everybody involved.  I’d also like to continue with my craft and grow it into a more successful piece of my studio, but it becomes increasingly hard to do with such blatant disregard for the rules and regulations happening all around me.

As I mention in the post, I’m not perfect and don’t claim to be perfect.  Granted, you can get some amazing imagery with drones these days, but that doesn’t mean “get the shot at all cost.”  I don’t have the additional cash on hand for potential fines from the FAA.  For me, I’ll continue to follow the rules as best I can.  And I’ll keep plugging away on my little soapbox when I see fit.

On the one hand I enjoy watching well-done video and this is certainly well-done.  On the other hand he, being an FAA sUAS remote pilot, should know better than to fly in some of the conditions depicted in this video.  Completely against part 107 regulations.  Granted, I’m not perfect, but it burns me up that FAA remote pilots are not really following the rules they agreed to when applying for the license.  Of course, my rant is negated if waivers were granted.


This is the photo that got the attention of the FAA back in the Spring of 2015.  They never saw the photo, but did receive a report from the local police about my flight .  This incident is why I’m so very careful these days and advocate for safe, law-abiding flying.


I think I’ve discovered a new, fun way for shooting fireworks.  I was just going through my Apple Blossom images and stumbled upon this one – at first I thought it was no good, but I like it.



This was my 21st year of Apple Blossom Festivals.  I realize that’s still fewer than a lot of people, but when you want to shoot unique images, it starts to get difficult.  Every year I think to myself “self, there’s nothing new to shoot.  You’ve seen it.  Yep, that’s another fire truck.”  But this year I got to see a different vantage point.  Yep, you guessed it – here’s a bird’s-eye view of that same parade.

A fun new perspective on an annual event in Winchester, VA.

A fun new perspective on an annual event in Winchester, VA.

Low Light

Just out testing the low light capabilities of this aerial rig.  So far – I like it a lot (spoken in the best Lloyd Christmas voice possible).  I also had my first (and most likely NOT my last) encounter with law enforcement.  It was a really quick response (guess it makes sense if you look closely in the bottom left of the frame).  I hadn’t even depleted one battery yet.  It was a positive experience and I’m hoping that goes a long way in my efforts to represent this new technology.

The results of my late-night low-light endeavor.  Well worth it all in my opinion.

The results of my late-night low-light endeavor. Well worth it all in my opinion.


I wanted to get some “before” images and the sunset was perfect today.  Can’t wait to really test out the low-light performance of this rig.  The video is gonna be off-the-chart awesome!

The beginning stages of set-up and prep for the carnival at this year's Apple Blossom Festival.

The beginning stages of set-up and prep for the carnival at this year’s Apple Blossom Festival.

“Antique” or “Old Timey”

Either way, it’s a cool car – the Excalibur.  I usually go to the Apple Blossom Weekend in the Park, but this weekend kicked my butt.  I’ll settle for snapping a few shots in my church’s parking lot of all the cars that the celebrities ride for the parade.  This one was just sitting there oozing style.  Those menacing clouds off in the distance never really produced anything the entire day (at least not on our parade).

Another successful Grand Feature Parade.

Another successful Grand Feature Parade.


Love me some tuba shots.  Yeah, it’s a weird obsession of mine.  It could make for a really cool band poster…


Tuba I

Tuba II

Tuba III


I’ve never liked the vendors concept at Apple Blossom – especially the street vendors who roam the parade route with the grocery cart full of goodies that just drive all parents bonkers.  My kids are grown and have almost OUTgrown the stage where they want stuff from those carts.  I’ve never liked the vendors…until now.  You see, the “in” items now all have lights.  Sure there are still plenty of noise makers, but the lighted toys seem to be more popular than ever.  And not just with the kids – I like them, too.  It’s kind of like a pre-fireworks show for me.

The light show for me started about 30 minutes before the first firework!

The light show for me started about 30 minutes before the first firework!

Disco Fever

I’ve been in Winchester now for 14 years and have “attended” Apple Blossom each year.  I say “attended” because I’ve really only gone to the parades and the carnival/midway when the kids were younger.  I’ve really never been one for the crowds and all that goes with them, but after tonight I can see why some people go overboard and nuts for all the events.  This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to start attending more, but I can appreciate why some people do.  I’ve got so many more photos to rummage through before it’s all said and done, but this one summed up my evening.

Miss Apple Blossom & Miss Virginia on stage with the "Right On Band."

Miss Apple Blossom & Miss Virginia on stage with the “Right On Band.”

Almost There…

Almost There...

It’s pretty awesome how quickly and timely (for the Apple Blossom Festival) all the flowers and trees just pop around here.