What’s It Like to Own a DJI Drone? (from the digital era to the half baked era, the new world order)

What’s it like to own a DJI drone? A bit of a strange question if I do say so myself! I own 2 DJI drones and few other pieces of DJI equipment such as camera stabilization gimbals. So with that said; Let me rip on DJI a little bit here.

The drone market exploded around the world in the past few years and DJI has been a front runner in the several areas of the drone market, both consumer and commercial. Dà-Jiāng Innovations Science and Technology Co. Ltd. Was founded by Frank Wang and their headquarters is located in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. So let’s start off by talking about the “new world order” when it comes to designing, marketing and customer service and this does not just apply to DJI or other drone companies. This new world order applies to many manufacturing companies and it crosses over into the service sector too, many banks fall into this new world order as well.

So the new world order I am speaking of can be wrapped in a nut shell and labeled as “Do whatever it takes to suck the money from the customer and worry about lawsuits & backlash later.” This new rule or theory moves away from the old days of companies “wanting” to create quality products and wanting to give customers good service. The new theory is, or business footprint is closer to “strategic battle planning” in a war game. We have an objective and we must conquer it. The objective is to “get your money” and the battle plan is to make you think that what you’re getting is worth it, BUT we (the manufacture) are not really sure we have a complete product. So therefore, we will create diversions in hopes you won’t notice the pitfalls of the product. We will also make it very hard to return the product (short return window) and it some cases we will just rip you off, period.

Of course, the idea of creating a product and selling it is what business is all about. However, creating something that falls short of what you claim it to be is wrong and more so a lot of companies have accepted this as the norm. As we move into this era of “tech-rich” products and creating products that do more & more, I feel it is harder & harder for design teams to cover all the bases of what the end result should be. For example; if we look back several years (actually a lot), when I was a boy the radio-controlled airplane was a big deal when they hit the market. I did not own one but I had several friends who did. The radio-controlled cars, boats & helicopters were also amazing. All of these afore mentioned products only had to do a very short list of things. They had to communicate between the controller and the vehicle and make the vehicle move and stop.

The drones of today are so much more intense in design. There is the camera system, the GPS system and of course electrical circuitry and more. The drone is communicating to satellites, it is communicating to a controller that is communicating to your phone or tablet that is using an app. I forgot to mention the obstacle avoidance camera systems that is separate from the main camera. Add it all up and when you think about it, “a little drone is actually a pretty intense little piece of equipment.” This complexity certainly creates a challenge to produce a quality product and release it to the public and not have any issues. Many times, electronics products (drones included) are released knowing they have certain issues and the company decided to keep these issues hush hush and they go with the mindset “we’ll fix it in a firmware update.” DJI is infamous for this tactic and that was one of the reasons I waited so long to purchase my first DJI drone. When I purchased the second drone I just went with the mindset “the drone will have some sort of issue” and it did. Although minor, none the less it had issues and I was prepared for it. Stepping away from drones for a minute and shifting over to talking about DJI gimbals; gimbals are another electronic product that has exploded around the world. The prices have come down, there are many on the market to choose from and they’re very easy to use. DJY released the Ronin S and in my opinion, this was a total “monkey fuck” to the people who purchased them. Or I should say to most of the people who purchased them. A PDF was released showing camera models that the gimbal would be able to communicate with and when the gimbal was released, however we found that it would only work with a few cameras. DJI promised to correct this with… you guessed it “firmware updates.” As of this writing the gimbal has been on the market for several month, there have been firmware updates, however not all the cameras on the list communicate with the Ronin S gimbal as promised. Yes, I am one of the affected customers. You have to know the gimbal is a very fine piece of equipment and my camera balances on the gimbal just fine and I can shoot video. But I was under the belief the gimbal would communicate with my camera and allow starting & stopping of video as well as being able to use a focus wheel.

I know I got off the topic of drones, but the purpose was to point out DJI is a company that will actually just break the laws of advertisement and make flat out false claims about their products.

So yeah owning a DJI or any DJI product comes with drama bombs attached, for sure.

My original post ended with the previous sentence and I didn’t post right away because I thought I might have more to add. After about a week I was getting ready to post when I was watching a vlogger who was talking about “half baked” software. Meaning the software is released with known issues, but the maker of the software figures as people complain the company will fix the issues with updates. And then it hit me right between the eyes that all this “half baked” bull shit started with Microsoft Windows. Are you (the reader) old enough to remember the “Blue Box Errors” that plagued Windows software?

So truly anybody born after the late 90s would never know that before the digital era there were actually companies that cared enough to turn a nicely finished product for their customers. Today it seems ok to put out half baked software, however prior to the digital era everything was tangible and mechanical. Software is not tangible, gimbals & drones are tangible but the need firmware (software) to work, leaving us with this new world order.

So, there it is… we entered the digital era aka the “half baked era” and you thought hippies were the only thing that were half baked.

I haven’t flown my drones in over a month due to the holidays and bad weather. So yesterday I decided to charge batteries and get everything ready for some flying and well… after 2 hours of firmware updating to the drones, the controllers and the batteries, yes even the batteries needed firmware updates.

And that is what it is like to own a DJI drone. Happy flying… after the firmware updates of course.

Back To 1987 Canon EOS 650 Film Body (Grain is mood, it gives an image character, it creates a visual “feel” to the image. )

Jake just chillin' Canon 650 film body, 70-200mm lens. 1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm Kodak Tri-Max 100 B&W

Jake just chillin’
Canon 650 film body, 70-200mm lens. 1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm Kodak Tri-Max 100 B&W

It’s not about whether digital is better than film, but rather it is about the fun of shooting with film. The fun and the challenge, sure I think anyone who ever picked up an SLR and shot film, and then switched over to digital will agree “digital” is easier and more forgiving. So if you are struggling starting off with a DSLR you have no idea what it was like shooting film. Now don’t get me wrong I am not one of those bitter film guys who tells the tales from back in the day about how hard film was. How you had to “walk ten miles uphill both ways in the blinding snow to process your film.” Of course I am kidding and yes film was a challenge and I think that is what I miss a little bit about my personal photography. Now please know when I was shooting film I was strictly an armature and I was not that great of a photographer at all.

So I have found that revisiting film cameras is fun and challenging and nostalgic of course. It is kind of like getting into and old car and taking a ride down a back road. And just like old cars are not a 100% old, after all some will have a few newer things to make life a little easier, like modern tires for a smoother ride, same is true with the film cameras. We can scan our film and tweak with Photoshop or other software. But we soon come back to our digital world, take a deep breath and relax. However there could be something to be gained by stepping back into the days of darkrooms and film canisters.

So in this image of my Pug “Jake” I was using a Canon EOS 650 (film) body (1987). I have two of these bodies and I’ll usually put ISO 100 in one and ISO 400 or 800 in the other. I’ll switch between a 50mm f/1.4 and my 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. On this day I was using Kodak T-Max 100 B&W 36 exposure. This image has very minimal processing. It is a hi-res scan and in Lightroom I pushed the white balance temp 9+ to give a slightly warm (yellowish) tint. I love it, and one of the things that film photographers loved about their film was “grain.” Grain could be found a few different ways. There was ISO grain and there was grain found in the many different papers used for printing. Now if we wanted we could talk about “film grain” to the year’s end and still not cover all there is to talk about. But grain is what I miss. It is so funny that we (as digital photographers) are always searching for the holy grail of shooting high ISO and trying to eliminate “noise.” We want the cleanest possible images, when back in the day it was acceptable to have some noise or grain. Grain is mood, it gives an image character, it creates a visual “feel” to the image. It really is funny how if you look in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop there are controls to add grain. Sure I have added grain to my composite images many times. Why? You may ask. To give a feel, to create mood and character. So now I ask myself why am I not doing this more with regular images. Huh… good question. I wanted to revisit film for fun and a challenge and it looks like I learned something more about what could be lacking in my digital. I like most love the clean images that digital produces, but that clean could be taking something away. Kind of like cooking on a gas grill vs a charcoal or wood fired grill. They both cook the food, but the taste of the wood adds flavor while the gas just cooks… and is cleaner.

Till next time.

Old Photos (because memories are like days we don’t always have good ones…)

Remember Polaroids?

Remember Polaroids?

Photographs & Memories… a cliché? Maybe! It is also the name of one of my favorite 70’s albums. Talk about clichés, some clichés make me just want to puke and smack my head into a wall. How many times have I visited a photographer’s website and I click on the “About” page only to read some (so-called) prolific statement about “capturing time” or “capturing life moments” or “preserving moments in time” and blah blah blah… While “yes” I am mocking these statements but many times that “About” page sounds so damn hokey, same as the camera aperture symbol being used (most often) in the letter O on the photographer’s business card and logos. They (who ever “they” are) claim you should strive to be different to get ahead and get noticed and sometimes being different could be as easy as not vomiting verbally on your “About” page and just sticking to a statement that is naturally “you” or have somebody else write the statement like I chose to do.

Ok on to more serious things…

I feel that while technically a photograph is a moment frozen in time, captured if you will. But there is more to it than just that. So let’s just dive a little deeper and take a trip down memory lane. My hopes are that by the end of you reading this post you will go look at some of your own old photos whether they are in tangible albums or saved on a drive or in a cloud, go get lost in a memory.

You see a photo today that you captured yesterday and maybe it was a great image and you are happy to see it again. As the weeks pass it may lose a little feeling and soon it will start to wane and you’ll not look at it so much anymore. Or maybe you will see it every day because it is your profile or cover photo on your favorite form of social media. You see it every time you logon but you don’t really “notice” it, it’s like your feet, you know they’re there (somewhere… you hope) you just don’t think about them too much.

We have all heard a song from days gone by that triggers a memory. But if you are like me the song will not just trigger one single memory, it will open a window for you to look back and peer into your life and see the entire ambience around that time in your life. You will look well beyond the “moment captured in time” and the moment was just a key to unlock so much more. This is what old photographs do for me, they open a window and there is so much more to see then just that “moment captured in time” that is on your monitor or printed to a piece of paper. “Lost in a memory” can be a very emotional thing because memories are like days we don’t always have good ones, but we do have the images to remind us… good or bad. A picture is worth a thousand words but that one picture could be worth just as many memories too.

Now I know this sounds a little stupid but pictures have to be new before they can become old. My point is; go make some new pictures. Keep them safe and let them age.

A Pleasant Phone Call ( “drive-thru” order used to be an intimate act between me and the person taking the order.)

Model Cynthia Ann

Model Cynthia Ann

As the hands of time move on and never stop in our ever-changing universe we see change. Some changes are subtle and some are drastic, some simple and others complexed. Some changes are welcome and others we wish never happened. I remember someone telling me once that “you must utilize the changes in technology to keep from getting old.” I don’t know if this old sage was quoting someone or just speaking off the cuff. However at the time my friend made this statement was when the fax machine was in its heyday and everybody loved the convenience of using the fax as a way to make life just a little easier. Now I must stop and note that most younger readers may not understand what a fax is or was. But at the time it made life just a little easier in the business world. And then… there were the people who couldn’t or wouldn’t use a fax machine. Mostly because they were afraid of learning something new, that’s all. We still see it today with computers and other technology, some people refuse to learn how to use the technology and then they instantly put themselves at the mercy of other. I never wanted to be one of those people. I was always open to technology and what it has to offer. For those avoiding it they will claim they have no need for it and their life was doing just fine without it. In fact some will become quite angry at the mention of it. I know an older gentleman who gets very upset when someone mentions mobile phones. He lives in a modern house and drives a modern car ect… but thinks a cell phone is a waste of time and more so money.

Now with all that said; some things about technology drive me absolutely crazy and I think one of the biggest is the way people have lost touch with how to communicate in a proper way. I grew up in an era before mobile phones and the internet and the hardwired phone was our main implement of person to person conversation unless of course the two people were sitting in the same room. The hardwired phone conversation was quite unique compared to today’s mobile phone conversation. In a hardwired phone conversation it would be very improper to make lots of background noise and if you were in a noisy area say for example using a pay phone at the bar or a phone booth along a highway most likely the conversation was minimal. Today I find it increasingly common for people to be on the other end of the line and there is all kinds of extremely distracting noise in the background and when I question the noisy distraction they act as if I just killed their mother. And not just the background, for some it is the lousy ass Bluetooth device they are using that makes listening to them talk sound as if the gears of technology are grinding backwards instead of forward. Let’s see… we now have a device that lets us communicate from just about anywhere we want to anywhere we want, so let me buy a piece of crap Bluetooth garbage that will make it impossible for anybody to hear me. And when my friends complain I will just ignore them because I can hear them fine.

Seriously though it is like we are headed backwards, I have great hearing and I get people calling me and I just say “call me back when you have a better phone” and they get offended. What about “you” making me listen to “you” talk and I hear every other word… that’s not annoying or offensive? Myself I am not a big phone talker, in person I love to talk and carry on conversation, but the phone is for that “important and I need to reach out to you” kind of conversation. And most of all of lately the business calls have been horrible. If I have business to conduct over the phone and I’m using a mobile phone I will make sure I’m in a quiet area with a good signal and I am giving the person on the other end my full undivided attention. Now it is so common to get a business call and I have to hear the person giving their order at a drive-thru window. Not that it really matters, but when you think about it a “drive-thru” order used to be an intimate act between me and the person taking the order.

How about when you’re hanging out with a friend and they get a call and they stay on the phone forever. Now you’re not “hanging out” your just… well now you’re just “hanging” lol.

How Will You Pass on Your Digital Photos? (we don’t know all of what went on back then, but we do know they had awesome weddings.)

 

This is a topic that really is important to each and every person. Or at least anyone who has digital photos… and who doesn’t? Please take the time to watch this video and just think about it for a few minutes. There is no real “big” revelation of an answer. I came across this video some time back and could never find it again until I seen it in my news feed today.

I started with my first digital camera several years back (about 1999), a Hewlett-Packard 2 MP and I experienced problems just a year into my digital photography. At the time the small three and half-inch floppy disk was a standard means of storage. Well it was standard for me until I bought the next computer and it didn’t have a floppy drive, it only had CD drive. I remember a few computer geek friends of mine who got a good ole belly laugh and said “why in the world would you store anything on a floppy.” It sure made me feel like a dummy. But I also started to think “what if CDs go out of date?” And again I was laughed at. Then as time marched on we seen compact flash cards (my first digital camera had one), than SD, Micro SD, Thumb Drives and cut to present day and it is all about external hard drives and cloud storage. It all keeps changing and now people are laughing at those who still store on a CD. But meanwhile we still have the option to print and frame our photos… or hey, what about putting them in a photo album? At 50 years old I certainly remember how novel it was to visit a friend a see photo albums sitting under the coffee table in the family room and they were there for whoever wanted to see them. And if anybody dare laugh at printing photos today, well I ask you to talk to any wedding photographer and ask how important that bridal album is to the client? For a wedding photographer; aside from the agony of capturing the day’s events, there is most times the greater agony of that “album” to deal with.

Now because we have social media there is no need for an album under the coffee table… or is there? Photobooks I think would be a better option today than that old style album with the plastic sheets. But… photo-books can be costly. Again as you can see there really is no cut & dry answer to this topic. But personally I still lean towards prints. I can tell you that the DNG file, which is also called a “digital negative”, is a lossless format that was created by Adobe. The DNG is recommended by the Library of Congress as the standard means of archiving digital images. So therefore I think it is safe to say that computers & software will be able to always read DNG file format. But… hold on there a minute; did you even know what a DNG was before you just read about it here? Most in-depth photographers would know, but the average person might not know. Then ask yourself this question; If DNG is the so-called standard, why does my camera or better yet, all cameras not shoot a DNG file? And yes not all cameras shoot a DNG and that includes the cameras in most average mobile phones. Kind of confusing and again leading us back to the big question of; If we really… and I mean “really” love our photos and want to save them as our parents & grandparents did, we need to come up with a way to do this and not just talk about it.

Could there actually come a time when people of the future look back in time and see all those old paper photos that pre-date digital and have a big gaping shadow where the digital age started because there is no way to retrieve a vast amount of digital files? Where are digital files actually stored when we send them to the so-called “cloud?” Or let’s just get real crazy and ask; what if there is ever a weapon developed that can erase or destroy large amounts of digital files at one time? Sounds kind of outrageous and futuristic right? About as outrageous and futuristic as the nuclear bomb was just five years before it was built and used to destroy two cities, by virtually erasing them from the earth. I know that all seems a little farfetched in a conversation about photography, but let’s just really give thought as to how you want to pass your special moments of your life on to your next generation. It actually would be kind of funny if nobody did anything and there was a big gap in retrieving digital files in the future. They could all look back and think; “we don’t know all of what went on back then, but we do know they had awesome weddings.” Hahahhahaa.

As always, thank you for reading and have a great day.

Summertime Memories (the joy & love of nature was with me as a child, although back then it was just everyday life.)

Tiger Lily

So today I would like to talk about two recent photos that are kind of special to me because of the “memory factor” as I like to call it. We all often times look at photos and they bring back memories. We see an old photo of ourselves or family members or maybe even friends and it triggers our mind and we think back to that day or time. It is easy to think back to it because we see the faces or places and it forces the memory. But then there are the other photos that trigger memories and that is what I’m talking about today.

Sometimes we just see an image of something simple and it represents something big in our mind. The two photos in this post represent similar things to me. They may not mean very much to you the reader other than they may look like nice photos. I captured these images on separate days at two totally different locations. Both photos were not planned but rather just a spur of the moment shot. And then during the edit each one triggered or I should say opened a flood gate of memories. Memories, which I never really thought about because they were kind of simple or uneventful.

While editing the photo of the berries I started to drift back in time to when I was a small boy of 8 to 12 years old and I thought about the many times my sisters and I would find the wild berries as we had our adventures playing on the farm. The berries were always plentiful as were the adventures on that farm. Then the memory shifted to a later time as I was in my teens working on tobacco farms in Virginia. Again wild berries were always abundant, whether I was walking down a backwoods dirt road in the beautiful countryside or at the edge of a “baccer patch” (as the locals called it) up on a mountainside. Then as the memory shifted once again to the bicycle path along the Delaware River, either walking or biking I would stop and have a snack. I could even see my girlfriend’s face as we would fight to see who could get the nicest berries. Who would think a simple photo could bring back so much. This really is one of the joys of photography for me on a personal level. Sure I like working with people and covering events, but getting out and taking a walk in nature and just looking for the finer things it has to offer is such a joy.

The Tiger Lily more or less is the same as the berries. It represents summer, hot weather and for me the Tiger Lily most represented “summer freedom” as in NO SCHOOL! Yeah no school! For it is always late June when we see the lilies appear here in New Jersey and that is when school is out for the summer. The lilies were always a backdrop to my meanderings either on bicycle or walking as I made my way up & down the country roads of Delaware Township. And as much as this world around me has changed with all the progression of building houses and making way for the new, the Tiger Lily or “Ditch Lily” as some old timers call them is still here. Not only on the roadside but everywhere, I love them. I think of hot summer days walking to visit my friend John. Yes those were the days and sure I don’t need a Tiger Lily to make me remember those wonderful times but it sure helps set the scene. I have come to realize the joy & love of nature was with me as a child, although back then it was just everyday life. I’m so blessed to have had that life.

Photography Info:

Both images were captured with a Canon 6D using a 70-200mm lens.

Both were edited in Lightroom using very basic adjustments such as contrast, clarity, vibrance and highlights.

The berries were shot at 1/50 of sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 at 200mm 7:04pm.

The Tiger Lily was shot using fill flash set to 1/32 power from an EX430II flash.

Capture was 1/60 of sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 at 102mm 12:21pm.