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. 😉

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.

Desert Heat & One Hot Sale

Valley of Fire

Deserts in general are mystical to me. Otherworldly. Paradoxical. And crazy photogenic! I don’t think I’d choose to live in a desert world… but holy wow, I am just completely awed into silence (riiiiight??) when I step into one so magestic and magical as Valley of Fire, just outside of Las Vegas.

I visited there most recently when I went to Photoshop World last month. I went with my brother-from-another-mother Barry Blanchard, his new wife Traci and friends. Barry is like the unofficial ambassador of VOF. He loves it really, really hard – and knows better than almost anyone. Seeing it first through his eyes when he introduced me to the place a few years ago taught mine to see things differently there. I LOVE when that happens!  It changed my perspective completely. And took my breath away.

Valley of Fire is unique. It’s alot like the other, more popular desert-y spots in Utah and Arizona… but MUCH less visited. You really have to make friends with the place. Love it. Quietly applaud it, so that – just like Tinkerbell – it comes to life before your eyes. Those same eyes that take a little patience and tuning to see it all properly. Mind you, I’m still working on mine. But I think I had a little breatkthrough this time:

Pure intent. Like a beacon in the night. Valley of Fire, Nevada at blue hour.

Oh yeah. Crazy love that place!
Applauds.
Valley of Fire blushes and turns a little redder.
Grin.

The 5DayDeal Starts TODAY!

NEWSFLASH: The photography bundle that is (in my humble opinion) the BEST deal out there starts TODAY at 12 noon PT!

It’s an interesting concept: A sale that lasts for 5 days only, offering an insane discount on photography tools and stuff.

So here’s my nutty thinking: y’know how there are these two photo contests coming up on Viewbug – where the grand prize is yet another couple of Fuji Cameras (I’m judging one, Ken Kaminesky is judging the other)? Well, maybe… just maybe… this is your chance to get some new chops, pick up some new ideas that’ll help you slam dunk your entry into new realms of beauty and creativity?

I love it when things ties together. 😀

In any case, if you use this link (or click on the image below)… you can check it all out for yourself after it goes live at 12pm PT today. And yes, I get the credit if you use the link here. Just being open about that. TOTALLY your choice how you do it though… I’ll love ya no matter what! Mostly, I want you to get the goods while they’re available.. from today through September 15.

Here’s a sneak peak:

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And with that, I’ll bid you adieu!

I’m off to the airport to pick up one awesome friend: Tanya Wallis, on her first-ever trip to the U.S.!! More on THAT story soon… hint: you might need a hanky!

The Art of Gear

Can We Talk?

I’m going to talk a little gear today. Those of you who know me know I usually avoid this topic. Gear conversations in other places online typically devolve into name calling with a giant gooey dollop of puffy false bravado and well… snore. We don’t do that here. Thank you for that!

I’ve been engaging is some gearspeak over the past couple of months, on account of my switch from DSLR to Fuji mirrorless. It’s been a really personal journey and your response to it has been awesome. 😀 Think of this as part of that mindstream.

As you may know, after Fuji-cizing in Paris, the next big question on my mind was whether these cameras would make my heart go pitter-patter in landscape. Well, maybe I’ve just got palpitations, but I gotta say… YES! My jaw is still dropping at these images! And can I just say… lightweight is goooooood. I haven’t been thrown down to the ground from the weight of my pack in weeks!! I almost miss it. KIDDING!!

Since being home, we’ve had the weather conditions that have had me out workin’ it… so my test results are pouring in. Here’s one… but believe me, more are coming!

Lake Tahoe, Nevada side. The lure of the becoming-night sky, the warm air, the intoxicating aroma of pine trees and dirt and outdoors... all beckon you not leave! Come back. Never stop loving this place. Continue reading “The Art of Gear”

Meanwhile, Just Outside of Las Vegas…

I’m off to Photoshop World in Las Vegas today. Gonna jump on the big silver bird and wing my way to the Bugsy’s big playground in the desert.

OK, I’m really going to connect with a bunch of photographers, put my finger on the pulse of the industry – and probably go out in the desert and take pitchers (as my friend Barry Blanchard refers to photographing. hehheh).

This was from last year, when a few photographer friends headed out to Valley of Fire for what turned out to be a gorrrrgeous sunset. I’m hoping for another sky like this one! There are also wild donkeys out in another area out there… am hoping for a wee visitation. They are so awesome… but I don’t want to disturb their natural flow. If they happen to flow my way… well, who am I to turn away? Grin.
Continue reading “Meanwhile, Just Outside of Las Vegas…”

Virtual Photo Walks: Google+ San Francisco with Trey Ratcliff & Thomas Hawk

On May 14, 2013… I joined up with Virtual Photo Walks  (click link to see the VPW event posting on G+) to broadcast the massive Google+ San Francisco Photo Walk with Trey Ratcliff and Thomas Hawk. (click the link to view Trey’s posted event on G+.) It was all part of kicking off Google I/O 2013, starting the very next day – and featuring he Google Glass Project. It was a freakin’ awesome experience!! I loved how we combined forces and made the live streaming broadcast (which was also recorded, as you see below) even bigger and more awesome! As some of you may remember, Virtual Photo Walks was featured on NBC Nightly News, which I talked about in an previous post.
This is the sweetly edited version of the G+ Photo Walk in San Francisco:

Continue reading “Virtual Photo Walks: Google+ San Francisco with Trey Ratcliff & Thomas Hawk”

LIL Galleries: Love

I love photography. I love music. I love them together, separately, it just doesn’t matter.
I love Love and know for sure that in the end, Love is All. So there you have it.
LIL Galleries is my passion project: photographs, music, voice and story (two more things I love), all rolled into one. I see it as a new form of arts gallery, really; presenting artists’ (photographer and musician alike) work in a way that tells a story. Soothes souls. Gives folks a break. Reminds us of our hearts. This particular show is a blend of old and new: it’s about a group of 20 photographers who all met and became friends on the modern day phenomenon that is Google+. Whose story of “Love” is set to a truly old fashioned tune by Bing Crosby, dated 1937. All about… yup. Love.

The “LIL” in LIL Galleries stands for “Life is Light.” Because life is, in every way possible, an expression of light. It also, of course, means “small.” Continue reading “LIL Galleries: Love”

Virtual Photo Walks: Steamers Lane

Steamers Lane in Santa Cruz, California is famous for it’s world class surfing. There’s even a museum there! So I decided to bring Virtual Photo Walks to the action by the sea to see what we could see. Hehhehheh. I was joined by friends Barry Blanchard, Natalia Stone and Roma Gee, who were all there shooting the action on a really fun, brisk September day!