Worth It

Somewhere deep into West Virginia.

Sometimes you drive an hour for a shoot. Totally worth it.

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?!?!?!

WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER?!?!?!?!?!

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.

Later

One of my workflow tricks as a photographer (now that I kinda know what I’m doing) is to not dive right into my edits right away.  I wait a while and edit later.  I let some time pass between when I shoot and when I edit.  I can’t really articulate why this is, but I just know that if I’m too eager to jump into the edit it’s not as creative as when I wait plus it’s a bonus when I go back through my images and find ones I forgot I shot.  Of course, with thos pesky deadlines looming this isn’t always practical.

Later

Order a print of this image. | North River in Bridgewater, VA shot about a month ago.

Tuscarora

I always wondered what BFE looked like – now I know.  What an awesome place.  A bit of a hike to get there, but so worth it in the end.  Look for more images like this hitting the marketing material of visitwinchesterva.com.

tuscarora

Sunset from Eagle Rock along the Tuscarora Trail right here in Frederick County, VA just west of Winchester. | See more like this here.

Due Diligence

Ok, now that I’ve done the “heavy lifting” to be allowed to fly a sUAS legally it should be as important for you (the consumer of photography and video) to complete your due diligence.  Make sure the person/company you’ve just hired to shoot your video is also legally allowed to perform the sUAS work for hire.  It concerns me that anybody can walk into Best Buy or Target or Wal-Mart or hop on Amazon or any number of other online retailers and purchase these flying machines.  And young kids these days are seeing the proliferation of drone videos and YouTubers flying with reckless abandon that it seems glamorous and risk-free.  It’s certainly not risk-free, but kids tend to simply plow forward without a second thought.  It worries me to no end that a very young middle-schooler recently proudly announced to me that he just got a DJI Phantom 4 – a fairly expensive flying camera.  Yeah, kids are amazing at video games and technology in general these days, but the decision-making skills are simply not there.  It’s comparable to a drivers license.  There are reasons that teens go through a process to earn a driver’s license which includes an age requirement.  Decision-making skills folks.  And I’m certainly not saying that you have to hire me – just make sure the person/company that you DO use is qualified and legally allowed.

Ok I’m done.  Enjoy this image of Fall colors knocking on our door.

almost-there

Fall colors are popping up quickly.  My goal is to get this shot with much more Fall color in the next couple weeks.

X5 FTW

I was cleared for takeoff this evening.  Yep, I filed my first (and second) flight plan.  It’s kinda surreal for me that I’ve made it this far.  When I got my first aerial camera, it was so new that there weren’t really any regulations for it (which explains all the images in my collection that I can’t really shoot these days).  It’s crazy how fast the governemnt moved on this set of regulations.  But I’m always about what’s next and that usually spells trouble for me being a gear-head and all.  I have to separate myself from the ever-growing community of “dronies” who are basically shooting with the same super-wide-angle-infinity-focus camera that everybody else has.  That’s not good enough for me anymore.  Not after tonight’s flight.

x5-ftw

Can you appreciate what’s slightly different about this aerial image? | Order a print of this image.

 

Use It…

Not quite official, yet.  I still have to be vetted by the TSA, but I’m over the hump to being an officially certificated Remote Pilot by the FAA.  At least for the next 24 months.  No rest for the weary though.  I have to remain up-to-date on everything.  Use it or lose it, right?

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What a relief!

Wedding Selfie

I don’t think I’ve shared this.  I remember posting an image of this incident, but never the full video.  If you pay close attention at about 45 seconds you can see the quad level out (it’s so very subtle) and that was my fatal mistake because it didn’t clear the hill and I still had legal room to climb.  Once the forest starts to appear in the shot it’s not long before it happens, but I end this video before that point.  It won’t take much imagination to figure out what happens next.  A shout-out to my brother and son for heading off after it.  After all that, I still got the shot!

Folgers

Waking up early is no big thing when you know it’s gonna look like this.  It doesn’t matter what brand of coffee you drink, I still think this is the best part of waking up.

Order a print of this image.

Order a print of this image.

NSV

That would be the Northern Shenandoah Valley.  I’d love to come up here and shoot aerial during the sunset, but there are too many people and I don’t want to disrupt their experience with the noise.  I don’t want to be “that guy.”

Just some much-needed alone time at Bears Den in Bluemont, VA.  Awesome place.

Just some much-needed alone time at Bears Den in Bluemont, VA. Awesome place.

I’m Back…

It felt like a surgical scene as I was reassembling the drone last night, but I’m back.  It’s back.  My nerves are going to really keep me in check for a while after that incident.  Perhaps that was a good thing.

I think I'll need to go through all the settings again.  The rebuild must have sent everything back to factory default.  I typically shoot at 100 ISO, but this one was shot @ 1600!

I think I’ll need to go through all the settings again. The rebuild must have sent everything back to factory default. I typically shoot at 100 ISO, but this one was shot @ 1600!

Prep

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.

First Question

“How far can you go with that thing?”

It’s inevitable – people want to know how far this thing goes.  And I was bitten by that bug when I first started using these aerial cameras last year.  My answer has shifted now and is more in line with being creative and practicing common sense and a lot of safety.  It’s no longer about how far it goes, but more about what kind of imagery can I get from it?  Where can I put it to shoot totally different perspectives?  How can I differentiate myself from every other photographer out there?

By the way, it goes pretty far!

I'm standing on the front steps of Handley.  Line of sight becomes an issue this far out so I didn't go any farther (but I wanted to).

I’m standing on the front steps of Handley. Line of sight becomes an issue this far out so I didn’t go any farther (but I wanted to).

Free

I don’t know if it’s writer’s block or what, but sometimes I struggle with my posts.  Or even figuring out what to write.  I’m sitting here staring at this image and am coming up short.  Maybe I have nothing to say or maybe there’s too much to say.  All I know is that I truly enjoy finding new images to make.  There is an endless number of possibilities and I’m constantly drawn to this place.

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I love how art is so subjective. I see what I see. You see what you see. It’s all up to the viewer. | Order a print of this image.

Kite Fest

It was quite a day to fly a kite today.  Thought I’d check out the FCPRD Kite Festival today in Sherando Park.  A little nerve-wracking to fly it around all those kit strings!

The aerial camera is definitely a people magnet.

The aerial camera is definitely a people magnet.

Heights

No, I’m not afraid of heights.  I’m terrified of the imminent probably of my death and/or dismemberment from the fall.

I want to say thank you to all the firefighters this weekend for making me feel welcomed to their training burn in Clarke County especially Chief Jason Burns who let me shoot all over the place.  I was so concerned about being in the way and, at every turn, there was somebody allowing me to be right in close to all the action.  They even fed me lunch!

I came away with some awesome images and footage for their recruiting video.  I produced a recruiting video 5 years ago and this one will be a complete refresh of that one (in the same style).

A big shout out to Zayna Elhady for allowing me to buzz her with the aerial camera and also letting me post the image here.

A big shout out to Zayna Elhady for allowing me to buzz her with the aerial camera and also for letting me post the image here.

Compression

Before anybody gets too upset, the camera was really nowhere near the cupola.  Photographers use compression all the time – it’s what makes objects in z-space look so much closer than they really are.  A longer lens will make the objects’ relative size so drastically different and they appear closer to each other.  I was using a 400mm lens (which, on my crop frame camera is essentially a 640mm lens).  I was probably 40-50 meters away from it.

I always err on the side of caution.  I quickly grabbed this shot and then got the heck out of there.

I always err on the side of caution. I quickly grabbed this shot and then got the heck out of there.

Waking Up

Every morning I sit at my desk and watch the sun rise from inside.  It looks awesome, but today I wanted to do it properly.  I also have to do some night shooting with the Inspire 1 to test its low-light capabilities.  I’m thinking it’s going to impress.

Order a print of this image.

Order a print of this image.

 

Pi Day

Did you have your pie today, we did.  Blueberry – YUM!

The image has nothing to do with Pi Day - just thought the sky was awesome tonight.  This is directly opposite the actual sunset!

The image has nothing to do with Pi Day – just thought the sky was awesome tonight. This is directly opposite the actual sunset!  Order a print of this image.

I’m High

I know my pilot friends are gonna hate me, but I just wanted to test the limits.  The whole flight took less than a couple of minutes.  The Inspire 1 has incredible propulsion and it descends almost as fast.  I was nervous the entire time (for what it’s worth).

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