Tag Archives: Flying with Camera

11. Into the Bloom – Part II

Previously: Catching a blooming cacti – part I

I knew that skipping a couple of weeks will pose a problem for finding blooming cacti but it was better than nothing. So ,two weeks later, with a fixed gimbal and much more motivation I went on to continue my hunt for last-chance of a blooming cacti.

Riding all the way east on Via Linda I found a trail that I heard of before, The Sunrise Trail but being the lazy fat dude I am, I’ve never got here for the same reasons as some of my healthier friends did. My friends are usually sending slefies from the top of this trail at 5am in the morning, which is about 2 hours after I went to sleep…

But now that I have my flying proxy to do the hard work for me, all I have to do is climb the trail just enough to be able to see where my quad is, so I can get a good idea of how to fly it…

Starting the usual pre-flight checks:

  • Power? On
  • GPS? On
  • Status lights? Blinking Green
  • Camera? Rolling
  • Remote switches? Check
  • Visual examination? … FAIL!

It seems that one of the landing gear legs has a serious dent, nothing too crazy but enough to make a mental note to self: need to order a new landing gear.

We are ready to go…

Starting the engines, pushing the throttle stick up… and off we go…

The heat is even higher this late afternoon, than two weeks ago, and my ability to control the drone is diminished dramatically…

Nevertheless I manage to fly it towards the top of the mountain so that I can also take a selfie of my own…


And off we go to find what I came here for… some blooming cacti….

I spot a couple of them, trying to fly towards them and have some interesting shots, hoping to not lose my drone down the creek that hosts the only two blooming cacti I was able to spot.

I manage to maneuver towards one of them, while hopefully capturing some nice ascending and descending flight shots over the creek.

Despite the hot weather that, as I already mentioned, makes it hard to control the quad, I decide to do something crazy and fly it in between the two “hands” of the cactus. I approach it “smoothly” trying to stay focused on the blooming flowers while flying through the cactus’ structure, and… BOOM, BOOM, BANG!

I hit the cactus. Now, I’m at the grace of the stabilizing software to take me out of this situation without going down the creek to search for my quad. Best acquired instinct at this point is to “let go” of the controls and see if it can adjust itself…

Few more bounces into the cactus and, it flies out of the risky area and is free again.

I resume control over the drone, take some additional shots and bringing it back for landing just before it runs out of juice.

Second round  of juice is loaded and I’m trying to take off again…

And then this happens

I have no idea why but a quick look at it shows that the only damage is that same broken landing leg which got a bit loser, but still  attached “enough” to the quad, so I give it a thumbs-up to keep flying.

Set it for a second take off and this time we are good.

I empty the battery and drive up to the other side of the road to take my final set of shots down in the bigger creek on the southern side of the access road.

While I was prepping the drone for take off, I was proud of myself for the amount of walking I did to get to the bottom of the creek. With a huge smile on my face and even huger sweat spot on my shirt, I’m starting the motors and bring the quad to mid-air.

I capture some nice shots flying up the side walls of the creek, and then I decide to try something a bit different and fly inside the creek’s path in higher speed than usual.

I start accelerating and the creek is turning left, but not surprising, I can’t keep up with my drone, by means of running, so I just trust my instincts and send it left while I’m chasing it to be able to see where it is.

Before I know it, it runs into a crowded pile of dead trees and dry bushes and makes a grand flip and crashes into the floor.

My first real crash since I started flying this toy.

I find my way through the dry shrubs hoping to not make this my first official meeting with one of the local residents of the desert, the rattle snake…

I’m making sure my phone is within reach, just in case I need to make an emergency call… and I’m digging in to grab my quad, which is laying on its back with the gimbal helplessly attempting to stabilize the camera, which makes it look like as if the quad is gasping for air and the camera is its pounding heart…

I pick it up,  while cursing a bit, quick inspection, the battery door is open and the dented leg looks even worse than before… no doubt I’ll need a new landing gear. I walk it back to a safer place, put it back on its 3.5 legs and try to fly it for the last time, before I’m out of juice.

I get some last shots of a couple of other cacti that had some final touches of blooming flowers, and we are out of juice…

By the time I got home the landing gear was barely attached to the drone.

2014-10-19 10.17.37

Ok, Amazon, here I come: A new Landing Skid is on its way…

So here is the last take of blooming cacti I could get before it was too late…




4. Vivi-what?

Previously:  My First Take Off

I realized if I plan on keep running this toy in small areas, I must have a proper propellers guard or I will break many props and many things around me.

Thanks to Amazon, I got my guards after a couple of days and installed them waiting for the weekend to be able to test it again.

To my surprise, I also got the camera I won that week as well! I was so excited to get my Sony Action cam… wait…  but this doesn’t look like the Sony Action cam, coming to think of it, it doesn’t look like any Sony product. I look at the case and realized my memory was playing tricks on me… Did I say I won a Sony Action Cam… I guess that was wishful thinking. What I won was an action cam, no doubt, but it was a Vivitar Action cam. That’s fine, tell me when you are done Googling for Vivitar… I’ll wait…

Welcome back…, and don’t feel bad, I didn’t know it exists either…

Bottom line, Vivitar is a <$50 worth knockoff  of the GoPro. Same size, same packaging, just none of the quality features.

I looked online and people show they could hook the Vivitar Action cam to their dji Phantom, and I was able to mount it perfectly because they even copied the mounting arm. So I mount the Vivitar on my dji Phantom and waited for next day to test it. Planning ahead I also ensured I have a couple of spare batteries so I don’t run out of juice too early.

Speaking of juice, a short comic relief: I saw this recently on Facebook: – Why doesn’t Apple call their power supplies “Apple Juice”?

Back to my drone story. I got all my batteries charged, the Vivitar camera is charged, mounted and loaded with a micro SD card. I went to sleep setting up my clock to wake up early so I can finally have a flight documented by a mounted camera.

I was thinking of the first spot I want to try it in, and came up with a nice place called the “Lost Dog Trail” in my area.

I packed my drone, the extra batteries, some spare propellers, just in case, and went on my merry way…

It seems that many people like to hike, probably too many because I could barely find a parking spot.

To cut a long story short, here I am ready to kick the air-tiers off I found a nice spot and turned on the camera, made sure it is running and off we go…

The results were, well I’ll just say it: disappointing!

The camera was shaking like crazy causing the moving-shutter effect, also known as the Jello effect, the picture quality was really bad, and the shooting was not smooth at all because the camera is mounted directly to the body of the drone.

By the way, the video above was treated for anti-moving shutter, and with color correction to make it somewhat “watchable”.

It was clear to me, for what I’m trying to do I have to upgrade to a GoPro with a proper Gimbal so that I can get the cinematic effects I need.


The good news, with a total of 4 take-offs and landings,  I had zero (0, none, nada) crashes!!!!

I think I’m starting to get the idea…

Other lessons learned:

  • What you see from the ground is not what your drone sees from the sky
  • Getting a smooth ride is not easy at all
  • Direct sun at your camera in combination with the propellers will cause some black rolling stripes artifact on your video
  • Picking the correct camera angle is almost impossible
  • When you think you are high enough, you are not. Go higher to get the effect you want