Pi Day Fly Day

It’s Pi Day, (because it’s the 14th March, or 14/3, or 3.14 in the American notation). This is clearly not the South African way of doing things. However, on this occasion, I’m willing to overlook this US-based nonsense in the name of education. The school has based an entire Maths Week around today – “It’s all about Maths and Fun” (so clearly not big on Venn diagrams, then) – and it’s been an excellent learning experience for all the kids.

I was asked to help out today with ‘togging one of the events: namely a Pi on the field, made up of all the classes in the keystage, and I was only too happy to help. Here’s one of the lower altitude photos I took:

Obviously, I used the drone: my tripod wouldn’t extend to the required height for even this relatively low level shot.

The students were very patient (although the process really didn’t take very long, thanks to some fantastic organisation), but this is one of those things that won’t mean anything to them until they see the photos, which is why I hurried through the editing as soon as I got home and got them back to the teachers in time for them to see what they were part of today.

Tomorrow: Maths Week Dress Up Day!

Also tomorrow for those wondering: March’s 6000 miles… crossword.

New drones

Bad news. I no longer have the coolest drone on the market.

That’s because last week, DJI released two new Mavic 2 Pro drones: the Zoom and the Pro. There’s been a huge number of comments on these new offerings across the droning community for a while now, but no-one has actually had any hands-on experience with them, because… well.. obviously they weren’t available.

Now they are, and obviously, one of the first to have one (or two) was Casey Neistat – a guy whose opinions on these sort of things I value tremendously. I started to watch his review with my Mavic 1 sitting next to me and an understanding that, inevitably, these new drones would render Florence pretty much defunct as the flagship, cutting edge consumer unit.

Before I continue, here’s his review:

tl;dw: unsurprisingly, two great drones. He prefers the one with the optical zoom (the… er… M2 Zoom), the other one (M2 Pro) is also good, but falls down a little on value for money.

So yeah, my Mavic 1 is now old news.

Or is it?

Because first off, there’s every reason for these models to be better than Florence. They have the benefit of being released 20 months later than her, and in a marketplace which features such cutting edge technology – technology that still regularly astounds people that see my drone – that’s a massive, massive advantage. Not least in that DJI can look at their consumers’ wishlists and react accordingly.

They’re more expensive too. Sure, you’re getting a few more features, but aside from the improved cameras (and you can look at the video for direct side-by-side comparisons), there’s not really that much else added.

The M2 Pro FlyMore package (the direct equivalent of how I bought Florence) comes in a cool R10,000 more than I paid for my Mavic back in January last year. And because of that, Casey suggests that for the quality of picture vs value for money, Florence can still hold her own against the M2 Pro. Boom.

There are two other points to take into consideration as well, and these ones are personal, so I fully accept that they might not be the same for everyone.

Firstly, if you are buying your Mavic 2 drone next month when they get to SA, then enjoy it. You’re going to have an amazing time. But you will have already missed out on the 20 months of fun that I have had. Sure, I could have waited for the Mavic 2, in much the same way that you could have waited for the Mavic 3. But I have had such a good time all over the world with my drone: I have no regrets whatsoever.

And secondly, because money doesn’t grow on trees, my choice of which bits of technology I want to upgrade has to be tempered somewhat. Sure, if I won the lottery tomorrow I’d be at the DJI Store on Wednesday.
But that’s (probably) not going to happen.
A far more sensible approach is to wait until your technology begins to limit what you can – and what you want to – do with it. I’ve done that on a couple of occasions with cameras (indeed, I’m just beginning to get there with my current entry-level Canon DSLR).

I’m nowhere near that point with my drone. I haven’t even scratched the surface. The problem is that it’s just such fun to fly. You head out with the best of intentions to shoot some amazing video or some such, you pop it up into the air and just “warm up” with a few runs in and out over the beach or wherever, and you’re having such a good time that you do a few more.

And then suddenly:

Maybe that video thing can wait til tomorrow.

And guess what happens tomorrow?
I simply don’t have the discipline to overcome the amount of fun I have when I launch my drone.

So, while my Florence is now technologically aeons behind in this exciting, fast-paced field, I’m very happy to keep working playing with my Mavic 1.

It’s still amazing. It is.

Old drones

The recent explosion in consumer drones on the market is exactly that: recent.

If you wanted a decent quadcopter with a camera on it, say, a decade ago, you’d have been looking at spending tens, possibly even hundreds, of thousands of your given currency.

But just because consumer drones are a new thing doesn’t mean that there weren’t ways to take aerial photos back in the day. That day specifically being one of the 365 examples from 1907.

The helicopter wouldn’t make an appearance for another 30+ years, so this wasn’t rotary-engined – it was feathery.

Here’s the link (warning: may include pigeon).

Dr. Julius Neubronner, a German apothecary, submitted a patent application for a new invention: the pigeon camera. The device was precisely what it sounds like—a small camera fitted with straps and equipped with a timer so that pigeons could carry it and take photos in flight.

Yes, seriously:

And back then, this technology was every bit as revolutionary as the stuff the DJI is offering us now.

The images his pigeons captured…  are among the very early photos taken of Earth from above (the earliest were captured from balloons and kites) and are distinct for having the GoPro-like quality of channelling animal movement. That perspective that is so commonplace to us now, in which the rooftops stretch out before us as though they were made of a child’s blocks, and people crawl along like ants, was a rare sight when Neubronner took his pigeon pictures.

And they also had problems with propellor-shadow. Or the avian equivalent, at least:

It’s a good reminder that while we might like to think that we are pioneers in any given subject area, there’s actually every chance that it’s been done before.

Two panos

I’m not a huge fan of panorama photos.
Well, I like the idea, but all too often, the actual product never really matches up to what I was hoping for (or even expecting).

Unless you’re going to plan ahead and take your own individual photos and stitch them in lightroom, it’s not going to be a great result.
That said, if you’re willing to acknowledge that you are using a mobile phone and not a DSLR, then your pano app can be fun for sharing a scene on whatsapp (or… er… a blog).

I popped the Mavic up above the early morning mist at home this morning and got this. It’s 21 images stitched together by the DJI software, but then you only get a 0.6MB image.
Still, what a shot (though I say it myself)…

One of those occasions where you really wonder if anyone would notice if you sent it up another 80m.

I didn’t. Obviously.

And then this, from Camps Bay this lunchtime. We had a spare half hour and so we grabbed a quick ice cream and a walk on the beach.

Full size here (10928 x 3520 nogal).

We’d forgotten how amazing Camps Bay can be out of season.
It was nice to be reminded.

 

UPDATE: I went back the next day and took a real panorama. You… well, you can see the difference. 🙂

Persistence

“Never give up!”

So goes the oft-quoted, dangerously positive and hugely misplaced piece of advice. It’s nonsense, of course. Giving up is always an option – often a very sensible one. And yet we’re taught from an early age – and bombarded by  examples like Wiley Coyote and Tom the cat – that it’s tantamount to failure.

No. There are many times when giving up is a perfectly acceptable choice to make.

I wish Lily would understand that. They’ve been back in touch again (using yet another different email address to avoid my filters), this time offering me essentially free* shares in their company if I buy a Lily drone, under the tempting subject heading:

got Lily Drone yet?

No. No, I haven’t. And the “yet” is wholly redundant.

Looks cute, sure but it’s rather expensive and it’s not actually very good in comparison to the drone I do have.

You have been one of the original supporters of Lily. As part of your support, we believe you should own a piece of the company that is bringing the vision of Lily into the future. We have successfully launched the Lily Next-Gen™, and we’re planning many more exciting products. That’s why we are providing you with this unique offer.

I have been, yes. But then, over a year ago I realised my error and moved on. Just like you should now.

There’s no shame in giving up on this lost cause, Lily. I promise.

 

* terms and conditions apply, obvs