Me & DJI: A New Beginning

I never thought I’d put “Me” & “DJI” in the same sentence, but there you go. I’m in a new relationship: it’s a new beginning. ūüėČ

Life In The Air Begins

Recently, I announced that I’d been chosen¬†be part of DJI Global‘s brand new elite group of Master Photographers. Cool fact: I’m the only woman in this particular program!¬†In case you don’t know what I’m talking about:¬†DJI¬†is the global leader in the development and manufacturing of consumer and commercial drones. I’m now a quadcopter pilot!

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My goal is to create beautiful images and art with my Phantom 4, Bob. (that’s what I’ve named my bird: Bob. A story unto itself!). I’ve long wished I could levitate myself to the vantage points that called my name… now I can fly Bob there!

Trust me when I say, it is another world entirely…

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Learning My Way, At My Pace

For this post, I thought I’d share my humble beginnings and first steps. I’m learning at my own pace and in my own way to get super proficient and expert at all this; I look with eager eyes towards¬†winter in the Sierras!

So I get this box with my new bird Bob in it. I call up my brother from another mother Barry Blanchard, who¬†works with DJI and teaches new drone pilots. It’s handy that he knows me so well… which means he got me off to a great start in Santa Cruz, CA. We went through the unboxing, got everything charged up and headed out to the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The first day, all I did was focus on flying, not photography – even though I did take a couple of pictures. At this stage, it was ALL about just getting a feel for this crazy thing!

It’s no secret that while these new drones are a cinch to fly; there’s a TON to learn when you pick up a flying machine that can chop off your fingers! Besides fast-tracking me through the do’s and don’t of the basic flying skills,¬†¬†Barry also educated me to the fact that we’re not allowed to fly over wildlife and protected areas, which is why I stayed over the land, not the ocean in this location.

I don’t claim this as a great photo… but it’s memorable to me as one of my very first!

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Back Up To The Mountains

Next,¬†I took Bob back home to practice. I knew from the get-go that in order to get good, you not only have to know the rules, laws and guidelines that govern flying drones… you also need some¬†fine motor control and muscle memory in order to call yourself truly in control. And THAT has become second nature, to the point where all the correct instincts take over, even (and most especially) under duress or an emergency. My biggest concern: keeping an eye out for my beloved hawks and ospreys.

I discovered it’s alot like athletics: it works best if you use a set of drills and exercises to train yourself, which I began in my own yard. At first,¬†I stayed within our fenceline, practicing takeoffs and landings, making squares and figures, turning and doing other simple maneuvers till I felt comfortable.¬†Can you see me in this picture?:

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I also discovered I get a bit of vertigo when Bob goes up high! That was funny to find out about myself. It’s getting better the more I fly, so once again, I just take my time and only fly where and how I feel comfortable. I feel no need to rush… and that makes me excited every time I go out to fly!

Documenting My Progress

The very first photo at the top of this¬†page is not far from where I live. After practicing in my yard for a few times, I ventured out early one morning to a place I love, where I knew there wouldn’t be any people to worry about. I made this¬†video just for fun, to document some of my early progress as I took my drills and new skills to a new location. It’s not fancy or anything… definitely not 100% smooth… but hey, baby steps!

I always take a progressive approach when learning something new. From years and years of being an athlete and teaching, I understand how to break things down so that the simplest skill drills build into major proficiency. I’m applying that here too; it’s no different than learning to ride, dance, skate or ski in that way.

Barry admonished me to concentrate on flying the quadcopter first, don’t worry about pictures. I get his point – and I do focus first and foremost upon flying. But hey, it’s not my fault that I live in an amazing place that simply throws beauty into my lens like a giant spitwad!

This particular day, I branched out to visit Lake Tahoe. I picked a morning with virtually no wind and very few people around (tourist season is over – yay!)… and explored from on high. It was amazing to finally see what I could only imagine from my many photographic visits here. ¬†The best part: taking it easy scored another successful mission!

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This was totally unexpected… Kayakers! It’s just the type of shot (or one of them, at least) that has captured my imagination. I’ve seen photos like these from around the world… and Lake Tahoe is a muse’s delight in this regard.

Yeah, I overexposed it… that was part of my learning curve too. But I’m now getting better enough at minor multitasking to get that right too. But hey, I’ll take this one!

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So there you have it for now. First steps with a quadcopter named Bob. Hehheh. SOOOO much more to come!

Grin.

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