Ronin S (A good gimbal from a “Half-Baked” company, the new world order.)

DJI Focus Motor

Like many people who purchased the DJI Ronin S Gimbal aka camera stabilizer “when it was first released” I was really disappointed that DJI miss lead us Canon EOS 6D owners into thinking our cameras would be able to interact with the Ronin S. Not long after the release of the gimbal DJI kind of said “we’re not going to include the 6D on the list of compatible cameras.” I partially understand how this happened, but not really why it happened.

In order for any product to interact with another (especially in the electronic world) there is usually a little or sometimes a lot of sharing of technology and getting permissions to use another company’s technology. This can many times be a big hurdle in development of a new products and again I state “especially in the electronic marketplace.” Camera gimbals are a relatively new piece of technology and so they are still in the up and coming stages.

Now with all that said; DJI is increasingly (in my opinion) becoming well-known for their “half-baked” product releases. At some point I think they’ll step in a pile of shit that they can’t scrape off their shoe and get hammered by the FTC for some sort of fraudulent advertising or something along those lines. When this happens, they’ll most likely take a few high-profile YouTube vloggers/influencers down as collateral damage. Kind of like a NASCAR crash when an innocent driver gets collected into a wreck “just for being there.”

So, yeah, the Ronin S camera stabilizer was one of their “half-baked” schemes and a lot of people got duped. I will say that DJI did hold true to their promise that there would be improvements via firmware updates and they did make the gimbal compatible with many cameras on the so-called “list.” The “list” being the PDF that was released giving a list of compatible or soon to be compatible cameras.

For me: I am a Canon EOS 6D owner although the camera is old at this point (3/6/19) and I was already planning to move on to another camera to use exclusively for the Ronin S. However, I thought it was great that the 6D was on the initial list of compatible cameras because this would allow me to make an early purchase of the Ronin S and start working with it ASAP. I (like most) am new to gimbals because gimbals are new to us. I knew beforehand that it would take practice to get good with handling of the gimbal if I wanted to incorporate it into the workflow of my photography business. After all I am not going to go out using a product/tool for my business and be “half-baked” with it. Half-baked anything will eventually lead to trouble.

Any new piece of gear I have ever purchased is always run through the paces before it gets used on a paid job. Every photographer has had to work through problems that arise unexpectedly when using gear, we are already familiar with. In fact, it is a given that things will go wrong on any given day and part of what make a good photographer, cinematographer, director, 1st AC, 2nd AC ect… is being able to work through problems with gear. But what sane person wants to compound those problems by taking a piece of gear into the field without know how to use it. You cannot possibly expect to problem solve a piece of gear if you first don’t know how to use it “inside & out.”

So, that was my expectation when I would first receive the Ronin S, I would throw the old 6D on there and spend hours honing a skill… And well, that did quite happen as planned. However, I did put the 6D on the Ronin S and get to work practicing and trying to learn the ins & outs of the gimbal. But DJI’s “half-baked” hair brain bullshit keeps cropping up. Things like the app changes. I use the app to make changes to the gimbal setting and one day I wake up and the app changes and then the app changes again, and so on. Of course, anyone who owns a DJI drone like the Mavic Pro or now the Mavic Pro 2 knows full well what I’m talking about when it comes to app changes. Something that was there yesterday is not there today. Of course, it is not all a bad thing, some changes are for the better, but how is a person supposed to incorporate a piece of gear into workflow when it is constantly changing and you never really know when the changes will happen. I have cameras that I have owned for 10 years, I know them inside and out. I know the settings like I know the back of my hand. I can pick up a camera body I haven’t touched in three years and it works just as I left it three years earlier. Sadly, DJI and other companies don’t understand this concept.

My prediction is in the not to distant future a company will emerge as a true front-runner in “camera-gimbal” technology and understand exactly what I am talking about. Simply put they will move away from the “half-baked” mentality that plagues the marketplace today. What would be nice is to see one of the big camera manufactures get into the ring with camera and gimbals that are designed as one unit and can then be separated. Sort of a modular design, although I hate to use the word “modular” because it sounds dated or old. Let’s call it a camera and gimbal system. If I wanted to, we could start talking about how AI will totally revolutionize the camera industry in the near future. But that would best be left for another longer post.

To remedy the problem of focusing my 6D while mounted on the Ronin S I purchased the “Focus Motor” and I have to say it works pretty good, so far. My unit did arrive with a loose screw that let the gear wheel on the focus motor waver and wobble a little. I tightened the screw with w T-7 Torx driver and it resolved the problem. Only drawback to the focus motor is the fact it adds weight to an already heavy gimbal. It also adds another thing to go wrong when out in the field working. Engineering 101… the more moving parts to a design the more problematic the design, end of story. For users who have a camera that is compatible with the Ronin S they have less weight and less moving parts to break. Less setup time, less breakdown time.

But for now, having the focus motor allows me to use the Ronin S in a practice capacity until I decide what camera I want to purchase.

Hey thanks for stopping by and have a great day.


Winter Video Project (So there is collateral fun to this project ) Part 1


So my latest ongoing project is video editing. This project is a little different from my photography projects in the sense that it is not planned out in detail. However the purpose of the project is to create a small amount of video content each weekend that I can then use to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. The end purpose is to better my editing skill and become more familiar with Premiere Pro. Each weekend my wife and I take the dogs (Pixie & Jake) and head out on day trips. We try to go on both Saturday & Sunday however weather is the main dictator as to whether or not we can get out on both days. Either way I bring along my Canon EOS M3 as my main video camera and I will fill in with my mobile phone if needed.

This now leads me to answer the question that most people have been asking me; Why does you video look strange or different? And the answer is because I have been trying different things that I am very unfamiliar with. See in the past most of my video content was edited in Adobe Photoshop. Yes, you can edit video quite well in Photoshop, however it is a very different way to edit and with very different options as opposed to Premiere Pro. So as I push forward with vlogging I feel the need to expand my video editing abilities, not to mention the fact that if a customer requires a specific kind of video with specific kind of feel I would be able to achieve the task. At this time photography, Photoshop and Lightroom are my strong points, but I would like to add Premiere Pro to that list as well.

So there is collateral fun to this project and that is getting out and having fun with my wife and the dogs. Getting out of the house for an extended time in the winter is not always easy, but this project has given purpose and my wife loves it too.

Ringing Rocks Park (…others were the “bearded hipsters” with their “girly-man” shoes… )

1/8 sec at f/16 ISO 100 18mm EOS M3

1/8 sec at f/16 ISO 100 18mm EOS M3


Part: 2

So I have to talk a little bit about the Ringing Rocks Park trip because I was asked many questions about it. Let me start for those who do not know Ringing Rocks Park is a county park in Bucks County PA. I first visited the park while on a class trip in school many years ago. The park is not all that big and other than a very small parking lot and a disgusting porta-john there is just two main things to see. First is the boulder field and second the waterfalls.

The boulder field is interesting because if you bring a small hammer, steel rod or pipe with you, you can strike the boulders and they will produce a ringing sound. Some produce a better sound than others and only the boulders that lay out in the open boulder field have this quality. If you notice in my video the boulders in the open area have a reddish cast to them. This color is not always seen, it depends on the light or lack of. So after about 10 minutes of whacking a pipe on a stone it’s like “ok___ now what?” So then most people will head to the waterfalls. And this is the area where many have met with problems. To access the falls or I should say the bottom of the falls one must navigate another boulder area that leads to the bottom or I should say “to the creek.” These boulders are a little more challenging because they lay at a very steep angle. Also if there is a lot of water flowing in the creek bed there is no “shore line” to walk along.

So what happens here is many people want to see the waterfalls. You know… it’s that age-old thing of the natural beauty of nature mixed with a little bit of romanticism that draws people to waterfalls. Again… not much to do here but watch water fall over some rocks, however it is nicer than smacking a stone with a piece of metal. But the boulders have large gaps and holes between them. Many times what looks like solid footing is just dead leaves laying on top of twigs and when you step down you fall between the boulders. How hard is it to navigate? Not hard at all for the average outdoor hiker that is wearing good hiking shoes and has limber legs. But if you are the weekend warrior that likes to walk the flat easy-going trails you might want to proceed with caution. While I was there this time we were the only people at the falls, but as we were hiking back to the parking lot the crowd was pouring in, most were first time visitors and were asking “where’s the waterfalls?” Some had small children and others were the “bearded hipsters” with their “girly-man” shoes and I would just point them on to the direction of the waterfalls.

Still all in all a fun place to visit, just go early and leave early to avoid the hipster crowd.



Neutral Density Filter for Video (Sunshine Girl)

1/80 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 200mm

1/80 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 200mm

So here we see Sunshine Girl Alyssa shot in a backlit image using a Hoya Variable Neutral Density filter. I have worked with standard ND filter many times in the past, mostly for “long exposure” photography and for some video. I have some outdoor video projects coming up next month and the “Variable” ND filter will be a must have item in the gear bag. I only ever use two brands of filters and they are Tiffen an Hoya, I went with the Hoya on this purchase because of budget. The Hoya was about $23 cheaper than the Tiffen, reviews were comparably the same on both filters so I just went with the cheaper unit.

I need not say (but I will lol) the construction is top notch, the action of turning the outer ring is as smooth as smooth can be. The filter comes in a quality container that is easy to open & close. So what more could a photographer ask for.

So looking at the “Sunshine Girl” we see she is back-lit with bright sunlight. The normal camera setting would have called for something around a 1/500 sec shutter speed, but with the ND filter I could dial down and cut the light letting me use a 1/80 sec shutter speed. I have uses for this in my photography, but it really works well for getting a true cinematic feel when shooting video. I want to shoot video with a 1/60 shutter setting and most times the outdoors light is too harsh so enter in the “variable density filter”.

Step Inside My Head (…that box lacks all creativity. Simply put “that box sucks.)


A rather dark and creepy edit from the Scarecrow shoot.

Ok so I want to let you inside my mind to see where I draw some of my inspiration from. Scary place inside my head… As an artist or photographic artist or whatever you want to call me, I find inspiration in strange places and this, in and of its self is nothing new, many artists do the same. And I can’t tell you all of, and where I find the inspiration because most times I never know when it is going to happen. But the one thing I do know is I have to step out of that box I have been cast or damned to live in. The box that says “50 year old white guy must dwell in here.” I hate that box, that box will make me old before my time and that box lacks all creativity. Simply put “that box sucks.” Now with that said I try not to run around dressing like I’m in my twenties or dying the two hairs I have left pink. But I just don’t want to go back to that box and that is where my photography and Photoshop let me escape and let me feel freedom.

So last October I had done a photo shoot with one of my favorite models, the amazing Kendall Strampel. We dressed Kendall up as a scarecrow and the whole thing was a lot of fun and we had a lot of laughs. While doing the edits I had really went to a strange place with a few of the edits and when letting another well respected artist view them I was looked at like “I had just killed a puppy” or something. My friend just looked and said why? Why would you do this to this beautiful face? But I had just seen a video a few weeks earlier and it kept playing through my mind and I guess a little piece of that video flew out and landed in my edits. So here is the video that inspired the craziness. I’ll bet that like me you will be mesmerized and want to stop it… but you won’t… you sicko lol.


Behind The Scenes With Singer/songwriter Laydee’Fly

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Laydee’Fly Promo from Richard Smith Jr on Vimeo.

Drone Photography & Video (So, much like the mobile phone and dynamite, drones are here to stay. )


My thoughts an opinion on drones used for photography. Just the word “drone” strikes up a rather high tech & eerie thought to some people. Speaking in general terms (photography aside) the word “drone” for most people brings to mind a robotic plane used most recently in the war on terrorism, flying low and silent across a desert seeking its human target. Or it brings to mind the dialogue of any number of Si-Fi movies. But today I am talking about a small robotic aircraft that carries a camera that shoots either video or stills and is controlled by a person with a hand held controller. Personally I think drones used in capturing photos & video is awesome… But… yes there is always a big “but” isn’t there?

Ok so the reason for this post is; whether or not you are a photographer or care anything about photography drones are going to be in the news a lot in the near future and more than likely will impact your life in some way, form or fashion. We hear about testing drones for delivery of packages and a brilliant student working on a system to have drones deliver medical supplies in emergency situations, such as the delivery of a defibrillator guided with pinpoint accuracy to the downed person. This sounds all good & well in a perfect world. But much like Alfred Nobel and his invention of dynamite that was intended for good purposes, so will be the way of the drone aircraft in the photography & video world.

But… oh yes “but number 2. Enter in the US government and now we have a real “love-hate” saga that will surely have some people up in arms. Now me personally I think the government does need to regulate to some degree, however we know how good ole Uncle Sam works and we know how greedy he is. So let’s go over a few different scenarios.

  1. Someone using an entry level drone to spy on you while you are on your own property. Let’s say you live like I do. I live on a rural farm and for the most part it is a private place. Myself I like the feeling of privacy and a peace of mind that comes with it. Now this is me and my feelings, it is a free country and I am on private land. If someone were to come on this land and let’s say “hide in a bush” and photograph me without my knowledge would be wrong and they would be trespassing. However what are the local laws about a drone flying overhead and stealing away my privacy, or your privacy for that matter. What are your thoughts and feelings on that situation? As you can see I’m being very broad and generic about the description of the situation, so let’s make it a little narrower and say it was a private wedding or funeral and only certain people are allowed to attend. However drones have free reign of the airspace over your head. Not so private any more, is it?
  2. You take that once in a lifetime trip to the Grand Canyon. People come to the Grand Canyon from all over the world to pay witness to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. You can bring your camera and take as many photos as your heart desires. But you can not take those photos using a drone in most national parks. More and more public places are not so much outlawing the use of drones as they are “suspending” the use. Some drone users don’t understand why and others get it, but still want to complain about it. So let’s look a little closer and see what the problem is. I ask you; have you ever been bothered by a rude person talking on a mobile phone. The rudeness can come in many different ways, such loudly yucking it up with her friends about a recent party while sitting in a doctors waiting room. Or the guy fighting with his stockbroker while walking down a peaceful nature trail at the local park. These are both real life incidents that I have experienced. And while “no” they did not damage me for life, I did feel that both people were obviously annoying and their behavior was disruptive. We all have come to know there will always be rude and ignorant people in public, it is a given. And so now give that ignorant & rude person a drone aircraft and he/she will ruin that peaceful moment you were enjoying while viewing a beautiful sunset or gazing at a heard of wild deer in a meadow. The drone will come buzzing along and there goes your special moment.
  3. With all this talk about drones and where they can and can not be used, coupled with the ever changing technology, that by the way is changing as you read this post… let’s enter in Uncle Sam and his greedy fingers. Other than some suspensions of the use of drones there have been know real big laws put in place regulating the drones other than of course the use of drones around airports and limited altitude levels. But… oh yeah “but” number 3. But it is coming down the road; it is just over the rise in the road so you don’t see it yet. There will be lots of laws, regulations, licensing and permits. Some will be needed and welcome I’m sure, however I feel most will be unnecessary and just a way for the government to bilk money out of the public. This is when the so called “suspensions” will be lifted and you’ll be able to fly when & where you want for a fee or let’s just call it what it really is; a tax. Want to fly in a National Park? Sure come on down and show us green pictures of dead presidents (& Ben Franklin) and you can fly the drone anywhere you want. Oh but wait a minute… maybe your one of those people against drones; hey not to worry we have drone free zones or drone free days… and yes they will cost extra too. So this way everybody is at some point bent over grabbing their ankles while having fun with their good ole Uncle Sam. I feel the reason the government has not thrown the hatchet yet is because they’re waiting for the technology to level out a bit and see how & where drones settle in our society. It will be then that the government will be able to capitalize with the biggest impact with all the licensing and permitting laws.

So, much like the mobile phone and dynamite, drones are here to stay. The only real question that remains is; at what cost?