Phantom 3 Professional - Drone Review

So I am a long time fan of UAV's or Drones ever since the first DJI Phantom came out. I have never personally owned one till now as I just could not justify the cost versus how much use I would get out of it. A couple of fellow photographers had them and I got to have a play with those and get some idea of what it was like to fly one of these crafts.

I finally made the decision to purchase the DJI Phantom 3 Professional, it was an easy choice really, it shoots 4K video and does not need an extra camera like a gopro 4 to be added. DJI claims it has a 1.5 mile range through a Lightbridge connection, this is DJI's own hardware setup and allows the drone to be controlled over great distances. It broadcasts a live feed to your phone and allows full control of the craft through a remote controller to which your smart phone or tablet will attach.

Learning curve: I flew the drone in an open field for about 2 weeks before venturing out into more congested areas. What I love is that DJI include a beginner mode as standard on the craft which not only slows it down but also limits the distance out and up that the UAV will fly. Once you feel confident enough, you can use the setup option in the app to change and configure your flying modes. I have mine set to below 400 feet elevation but maxed out on distance out the drone will fly. I do not however fly the drone out of my line of sight as per FAA regulations.

 Very easy to fly as mentioned before, take time to watch as many youtube videos as you can, read the manual and practice in an open field before going anywhere with trees, buildings or people. Learn to fly figure 8's, counter and clockwise circles and in reverse.

Picture and video quality: As a photographer and amateur videographer, picture quality is very important, eventually I want to be able to use footage and stills for professional use. The Phantom 3 does not disappoint, stills quality is excellent and video at 4k is rather breathtaking. I highly recommend a ND filter as well as a Polarizer for the camera, the polarizer reduces glare off buildings, roads, water, sand and snow and the ND filter will help with difficult exposures and 'jello' effect in video which seems to plague many a drone at this price point. Link in button below:

Overall: If you are in the market for your first drone, these are the ones for you. There are currently 3 models available and prices start at $799 for the standard model up to $1349 for the professional model reviewed here. I purchased my drone from Aerial Media Pros and I highly recommend them for all your drone needs.

Pre Flight Inspection   

Pre Flight Inspection

 

Waikiki from the Hilton Hawaiian Village

Waikiki from the Hilton Hawaiian Village

Coco Palms Hotel destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 - Made famous by Elvis Presley in movie Blue Hawaii, Kauai, 2015

Coco Palms Hotel destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 - Made famous by Elvis Presley in movie Blue Hawaii, Kauai, 2015

Wailua Falls, Kauai, 2015 

Wailua Falls, Kauai, 2015 




A Blog a Day - Lulumahu Falls hike and a product review

So I have decided to inundate you with my glorious exploits of day to day life, ok maybe not as somedays are just not that exciting. 

Yesterday I went on a hike, one of my favorites to be exact. King Kamehameha's summer palace and Lulumahu falls hike off the Pali highway in Oahu, Hawaii. The ruins are amazing, a plaque at the entrance tells the story of the summer palace and how it once was the site of a 10,000 strong Luau. When you get here you will see how spectacular that must have been, given the small space. This are is very sacred to local Hawaiian people and needs to be treated with respect, I cant explain it but the energy surrounding this area is both eerie and peaceful at the same time. I have come to enjoy it and embrace the solitude.

The Lulumahu Falls hike is an unofficial hike but quite well known. The entrance takes you through a tight singletrack trail that weaves through a bamboo forest, eventually spitting you out on a wide path that you follow, down a small decline, across a sluice gate, a forest and eventually a clearing. You are now on Dept of Water land so be careful and dont hurt yourself, this may lead to the trail being closed down. Take some steps up an embankment, there is a no entry sign but keep going and just follow this trail all the way up. You will cross a stream 5 or 6 times to the waterfall. As always dont go when its raining as flash floods are common place. Be safe and dont do anything stupid. Have fun and enjoy the Waterfalls.

For the most part of my hike I used my Iphone as my image capturing device, it simple and quick and produces image quality good enough for web and instagram use. We were also on a deadline as I was with a friend who needed to be back home by a certain time. Setting up my DSLR would have just taken too long.

For the waterfall however I wanted my DSLR as I had just received a brand new Neutral Density filter in the mail and wanted to shoot some long exposure moving water shots.

This filter is a 77mm 6 stop ND filter made by Breakthrough Photography, its only 3.5mm in thickness which makes it ideal for wide angle lenses and will not vignette. When I received it I was immediately impressed with the packaging and presentation. The filter is labeled as being color neutral which is important when shooting Landscapes, some high end filter will add a noticeable color cast and you dont want this.

Setup was easy, I simply screwed the ND filter onto my Canon 17-40 f4 mounted onto a Canon 5D Mark II, tripod support by Calumet and a Manfrotto 496RC2 ball head, exposure was set for 20 seconds, 100 iso at f16. 

Lulumahu Falls, Oahu, Hawaii - Canon 5D MK II, 17-40L and 6 Stop ND

Lulumahu Falls, Oahu, Hawaii - Canon 5D MK II, 17-40L and 6 Stop ND

This area has become increasingly more popular and even though when I showed up I was alone, by the time I had setup my gear a crowd had arrived and proceeded to take over the area I was photographing. This resulted in a slightly peeved photographer and not many pictures being taken. I will return earlier in the day and capture some more photos very soon. 

On a final note, I love this new ND filter by Breakthrough Photography, the quality really shows on a well though out product and I highly recommend it to anyone doing landscapes or video work that needs a high quality Neutral Density filter.

King Kamehameha Summer Palace ruins, Pali HWY, Oahu, Hawaii

King Kamehameha Summer Palace ruins, Pali HWY, Oahu, Hawaii

Though Shall Not Pass - I love this tree, standing tall in the middle of the trail, Lulumahu Falls Trail Hike, Oahu, Hawaii

Though Shall Not Pass - I love this tree, standing tall in the middle of the trail, Lulumahu Falls Trail Hike, Oahu, Hawaii

BTS - Shot with my iphone - My view before the tourists took over

BTS - Shot with my iphone - My view before the tourists took over




Fun Post Wedding Pics at an Antique Store in Phoenix, Arizona

So Mr and Mrs Stapleton loved their wedding photos so much they invited me back for a post wedding shoot with a difference. We decided to shoot in an antique store in the Melrose District of Phoenix, Arizona. I have this fascination with antique stores and this one in particular has always caught my eye. 'Rust and Roses' is based on 7th ave between Indian School and Camelback and is an amazing collection of fine antiques at a great price. I approached the owners who were a little surprised but happy to let us take photos in their tightly packed store. 

We had a blast and here is a tiny selection from a very productive afternoon,

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Product Review: Dicapac Waterproof Housing

So I was asked to do an underwater Maternity shoot and was faced with the age old dilemma of how to keep my camera dry. I wasn't about to invest a few thousand dollars in  an underwater housing just yet so after a bit of online research I came up with my solution - The Dicapac Waterproof bag.

I ordered it from www.bhphotovideo.com and waited. Upon its arrival I was like a kid in a candy store and quickly tore open the packaging to find a very well packaged product. The manufacturer sure did a great job and it definitely gave me a bit more reassurance on it being a quality product. Inside the box, was the housing itself, a neck strap, some silica gel and a basic instruction manual. The bag/housing is waterproof to 16 feet which is perfect for the style of work I was doing in a pool and I am familiar with the closing system this bag uses, which is simply a zip lock seal, then the top folded several times over and Velcroed closed. Simple but it works. I will admit to being apprehensive about taking $5000 worth of gear into the pool but inevitably just committed to doing so.

As a side note, most camera floods are user error and when using any housing, check and check again making sure that you have a perfect seal, then when in shallow water check for any air bubbles or leaks before descending deeper. The clear back on the housing will quickly show you if there is any water inside the housing, allowing you to ascend to the surface and get your camera dry before any major damage is done.

I'm not going to lie, the housing is a cheaper solution but produces quality photos with some practice. The viewfinder on your camera becomes null and void and you have to rely on the live view mode on the back screen of your camera. I was using a 16-35mm Canon lens and had the focal length set before descent as you cannot manual focus or zoom easily once at depth. Settings are hard to change but the shutter release button was easy to manage. The housing itself actually has a finger hole allowing you to control the shutter pretty easily.

One thing I did notice was buoyancy, I fought with it the entire time and on my second shoot actually added a 2 pound soft weight to the housing and made sure to expel any trapped air before sealing it all up. This made it much easier to manage underwater and was one less thing to worry about.

Another thing to note is vignetting, make sure to pull the port flush with the lens to avoid this common occurrence especially with ultra wide lenses.

All in all I am very happy with the Dicapac Housing and will continue to use it until I buy an Ikelite Housing or similar. Its a simple solution for anyone wanting to take their SLR underwater for snorkeling trips or the like.

The Dicapac can be bought from BH Photo here: 

http://preview.tinyurl.com/a9tk7n5

Setup: Canon EOS 5D MK II, Canon 16-35mm 2.8 L, Dicapac Housing

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