Here’s a paradox for you: When I go out to photograph nature, landscape and this gorgeous world of ours – I luxuriate in the experience. Every blessed second of it. I feel like I’m standing in the heart of creation, where I can mostly clearly hear the voice of the Divine.
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!
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…
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!
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?:
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!
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!
So there you have it for now. First steps with a quadcopter named Bob. Hehheh. SOOOO much more to come!
I’ll say it right here and now: “Good riddance, summer! Hello, sweet fall… ”
Sometimes, It’s Just Tough
I’ll admit it, summer sucked. I’m frankly stoked to be moving on from those hellish weeks. Over these past summer months, I needed to focus on backend admin/business systems stuff that had to be done, but am SO not gifted at doing myself, nor do I enjoy it. UGH! There were big learning curves and they were slooowww. But I plugged away at it for weeks – and eventually got it done. Not much photography got done, not much else besides slogging away behind a computer. REALLY not my happy place.
Where it went sideways was in my head for some reason; I had this weird stumble in terms of confidence and feeling good about stuff. Like, everything. It went to a dark place. Somewhere along the way, I got all off and judgy about myself, to the point of considering quitting and doing something else entirely. Luckily that last one didn’t last TOO long, only for the length of… summer! Blech! 😝
Mind you, I have really great self-care tools, from years and years of personal development work. I used ALL of them. Then had to get creative and develop a few more. Those voices in your head… man, you gotta stay on your toes to not start listening to them! I have a friend who says “My mind is out to kill me”. Mostly I think she overstates. But a few times over the past couple of months I actually thought she had a point!
Life itself really hadn’t changed, but suddenly I felt intense pressure about everything – and like a failure in certain areas on top of it. Like I’d made too many mistakes to recover from – and like my life just was never going to be as wonderful as I dreamed. And on and on from there. #Misery.
The ICK Overlay
At the same time, in the very same breath, I counted every one my blessings, looked around and saw the amazing things I’ve accomplished. What an amazing home I have, fabulous husband, friends. Yet, I couldn’t tell ANY of them how tortured I felt – and how I had feelings like nothing I do matters and how I felt like my dreams were slipping away.
It was like having this nasty overlay of ICK pressing down on top of what I really know is true and real in my life (the good stuff)… and having two clashing soundtracks playing LOUDLY at the same time. Definitely one helluva rackety dirge of misery!
My Bettylou-ism Of the Day
It was weird, I’ll tell you that. But something my mother taught me stuck with me (I call these “Bettylou-isms”). Even on the worst days, this one was my shoehorn into eventually allowing a shift: “If it makes you feel bad, it’s a lie.” I kept thinking; “OK, so here I am… a talented, blessed person who has friggin’ LIES spewing in her head 24/7, keeping her awake at night, gnawing at her soul by day. Awesome!”
But knowing they were lies helped. I mean, I’ve had times like this in my youth, but not in a loooooonnnnng time. Back then I didn’t know those nasty critical voices weren’t really mine. This time I did, even if they had me by the short hairs for awhile.
So I did the one thing I know to do: focus on the light of all-that-is and hang in there. Just… Hang. In. There. EVERYTHING gets better, everything changes… and I’m not in control of how and when. I just know I have to choose the highest Light and focus on that.
One thing I finally had to step back from: social media. It is so NOT a confidence builder! I even stopped writing here on my blog for a bit – and spent as little time on my computer as possible. Every time I sat down in front of either or both, the voices got louder. My skin felt hot and prickly. It made me want to walk away and never look back.
On the bright and somewhat amusing side: all this crapiola was certainly not without humor ( if a little dark) and the appropriate theatrical expression. You’ll appreciate that I have THE movie moment (it played in my head ALOT) for this entire episode. You know how I movie moments.
It’s from “Inside Daisy Clover”, starring Natalie Wood – complete with French subtitles:
Yep, some nutbar moments there. I love how it all happens in a recording studio, which is kinda perfect in my world! Anyway, there it is: my summer in a nutshell.
Now: I’ve rolled over the hump and am motoring down the other side. WHEW! I’m sooo freaking glad! Right now, I’m not back on social as much as I was and I’ve had to simplify things in my life. I’m getting back to my roots of photography… both on the ground and in the air. I’m starting to feel energy and excitement over what I do again… and about sharing it with all with you. I care about my purpose in life again… and love the way that feels in my veins.
So, bring it, fall… and HELLO to all the awesome stuff that has just happened and that’s coming up. KelbyOne, DJI, my Artist’s Voice Retreat in France, my stepson’s wedding at the end of October… me ‘n Valerie Jardin‘s photography project in Mexico in December, guest appearing on her new podcast: “Hit the Streets”. All upcoming, all will be shared… and all happening because I managed to remember a few simple things:
If it makes you feel bad, it’s a lie.
Focusing on Light is key.
This too will pass. (another Bettyou-ism)
My humble thanks to God and the angels… and to those who love for as I am. Not perfect, but amusing to hang around. 😉
PS… Here a couple new recent pieces (one impressionistic, one more based in reality) I made after NOT creating anything new for WEEKS. It felt really good. Welcome back, creativity!
Both photographed with my favorite camera: the Fujifilm X-T2. Love that little beast like the old country! It gives me ideas and encourages me to try things… DEFINITELY my happy place!
I have an announcement to make and a story to tell, complete with an accounting of personal miracles. (I loves me some good miracles, no matter how big or small.)
First the announcement: “The Artist’s Voice” photography retreat I’ve had scheduled for this October at La Pitchoune is now happening in a new format and a brand NEW location. We’ve moved down to the beautiful town of Cannes, right on the Mediterranean. There are 3 spaces left!
Click the image to learn more… then come back for the rest of the story. Or just read on…
Postcards From France kicked off in beautiful Strasbourg. But first… I had to get there from Frankfurt by myself with an injured back. My hubby Joe had been with me for a week, which was beyond awesome! I’d been missing him so much – and we had a blast with our self-proclaimed Castle Tour through Germany. He also helped me with luggage and did all the heavy lifting that I wasn’t able do as I hobbled around in mega pain. Continue reading “Postcards From France: Strasbourg”→
Today’s “Postcard From Germany” is postmarked: Hohenschwangau Castle. One cool thing about visiting Neuschwanstein Castle is that it’s a 2-fer. One stop, two castles! Right next door to Neuschwanstein is Hohenschwangau. Just like people, parties and entrances – some castles are grander than others. This one isn’t huge, but has history. Continue reading “Postcards From Germany: Hohenschwangau Castle”→
Right before I left on this trip, I was lucky enough to snag a Fujifilm X Pro 2 and Fujinon XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR with 1.4x teleconverter. I’ve heard so much about this duo, I couldn’t wait to see what they produced. Continue reading “Postcards From Rome: The Forum”→
Anytime I visit New York City, I always make sure I get into Central Park for some nice airing out. This trip was no different.
What WAS different is that I recorded a couple of quick video segments, sharing some thoughts I had about “when to photograph”… and about keeping eyes ears and heart open for special moments that happen along your travels, wherever they may take you.
Today it begins! I’m in New York right now; later this week, Rome. After that, Germany, Switzerland and France. In all, close to 2 months, 4 countries and a world of experiences I can’t wait to embrace!
Here’s the thing. I didn’t want this to be one of those “Oh – Karen’s off doing her thing. How nice.” things. I wanted to be more inclusive than that. This experience is the result of a series of choices, decisions and life-changing events in my life that began years ago. I wanted this trip to account for all of them. But even more; count towards maybe giving ALL of us the juice we need to create a life more amazing than we ever dreamed possible. Maybe I’m a dreamer (Duh!)… but I know I’m not the only one. 😉
I just made this video this morning, introducing the whole idea. It’s super casual… I did it done on my iPhone, before heading out for the day.
"Love your blog. I stop by for the photography, I linger for the philosophy."
Kelley Morgan, Portland OR
"A beautiful mind will produce beautiful results. And to say the least, yours is a beautiful mind! Thank you for your wisdom and your inner "speak," as they both produce true art from the heart …"
Joe Hudspeth, Prineville OR
"Thank you Karen. A wonderful story but only the tip of the iceberg, the bigger part below the water is all the thousands of photographers you have inspired to chart their own journey, I know as I am one of them."
"Karen, thank you for the wonderful two day post. Your insights are truly thought provoking. I have never been a teacher, nor will I ever be, but to see someone see the light is a wonderful moment. Thanks again."
"As usual, another terrific story. I’m glad I found you but I have to be honest. I didn’t find you on Google + but did on Scott Kelby’s “The Grid”. Thanks for the inspiration in both images and by the pen/keyboard."
"Gads-what a girl! Thanks for the story, it is beautiful."
"Awesome story Karen — I loved reading about your life transformed. Of course I loved the photography theme and the geek in me is forever curious about the power of tech and the power of social platforms. But … for me it is the arc of lives transformed that inspires. Thank you so much for sharing. See you on G+ and in the Arcanum!"