Drone practice

Now that Spring has come I am trying to improve my drone skills. Apart from a couple of ‘estate agent’ sorties, I am concentrating on improving my navigation manoeuvres over my own land.

It is not easy: I have to squint (in the sunshine) at the complex menu on my small iPhone screen, which works together with the remote controller – and at the same time, glance up frequently to ensure that my drone is not heading for trees – or freedom further afield … …

In order to improve my skills I have been following some online drone forums, which provide a lot of useful information (more comprehensible than than the instructions provided by the Chinese manufacturer, DJI). At the same time I am switched off by some of the comments by the predominantly male macho community. Inevitable, I suppose, if I choose to wander into a toys-for-boys world… …

Lunar eclipse

I only learnt yesterday evening that there was going to be a lunar eclipse this morning. I did a trial photo in the evening, just after the moon had risen.

Then I was up again at 4am, feverishly reading up at the last moment how you take photos at night, before dressing up for the cold night.

It was a magnificent full ‘red’ moon, hanging out of the lightly clouded sky, above the dip in the hills called le Col de Mouzoules. It appeared to have its own brilliant white halo. The eclipse was to happen around six, but already by 4.30 the moon was taking on a strange aspect

I rushed to get my camera and tripod and went out into the sub-zero night.  What a pity it was so cold; the clouds had disappeared and the whole sky was a carpet of twinkling stars, though the moon had lost its halo.

Slowly, over the next hour, you could see the shadow caused by Earth gradually moving over the moon. Difficult to describe but the effect was magical. Even more difficult to photograph without experience and lacking an appropriate telephoto lens. I popped outside several times to have a try. I got some shots before the eclipse became total – but then I could no longer see where the moon was through my camera lens. (My efforts were not helped by having an extremely dirty lens, as I discovered later!)

Meanwhile my friend Dessa was doing the same thing, a few kilometres away – with an iPhone!  Here is her take on the full eclipse.

Oh well, I have another three years in which to master the art of lunar photography before the next total eclipse.

360 degrees

The weather seesaws between rain and sun. Today it was the sun’s turn, so I continued my efforts to improve my drone skills .

Pushing on the joystick and watching the drone soar up is exciting, bu nail biting.  It is so easy to panic, pull on the wrong joystick, or in the wrong direction and risk sending the drone plunging to the ground or, worse still, getting it caught up in a tree.

I’m beginning to teach myself not to panic when I send it rushing off in the wrong direction, but rather to pause, and let it hover, while I look at the controls on my phone and work out which way I am facing.

As I start to acquire better basic navigation skills, I can start thinking about how to take photos – after all, the point of this venture. I need to work on turning the drone to face where I want to take a picture and to swivel the drone’s little camera up or down.

Today I decided to use a command which would get the drone to turn round 360 degrees, taking photos as it turned. It too taking nine sets of three shots, looking up, ahead and down.  I then ‘stitched’ the 45 images created into a panorama:

 Then I used applications on my Mac to turn the panorama into a 3D globe, producing this quirky result:

I was using new techniques first on the drone and then  on my computer. I cannot imagine producing many panoramas and globes, but the exercise taught me a lot .

Here are some of the 45 individual photos which make up this globe.

Its been useful sending the drone up above my own house, but soon I must have enough courage to go further afield again. Maybe tomorrow. My friend, Dessa, has just rung to say her new neighbours would like to see what state their roof is in. So, provided there are not too many trees close by, I’m going to have a bash at filming their roof.

First week with drone

The reason for getting a drone was to take a different sort of photo.  After one week I have managed to get the drone up several times, crashed it once, taken some jerky videos, but so far no photos.

I recognise that being able to take decent photos is somewhere further along the learning curve, but still, here are some examples of snapshots taken from the videos.

Apart from the crash into trees beside a football pitch, I have confined myself to home ground, hoping that it would be easier to rescue a crashed drone.  As the week progressed I felt adventurous enough to take it to my friend, Dessa, who lives in a stunning old hamlet, la Rouvierette, a collection of old houses running along a ridge looking down and over the valley of the Hérault below.

I discovered immediately that this would be a tricky site: there were too many trees round her house and I am not experienced enough yet to avoid them.  It is unnerving when the drone disappears out of sight and I find squinting into my phone screen – the only way of tracking it –  a bit of a challenge in the glaring sunshine. Concentration was made even more difficult when we were joined almost immediately by the neighbours’ children and then their parents. Still, fun was had by all.