Straight Outta Oz

Todrick Hall is a rockstar, well, sadly he’s not yet, but he should be, and his latest work, “Straight Outta Oz” proves it.

Taking inspiration from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, Todrick has made a masterpiece of a concept album married beautifully with gorgeous visuals and shared with us all on YouTube.

Running at 57 minutes “Straight Outta Oz” is conceived, written, produced and directed by Todrick, this masterpiece is one not to be missed. It serves fans of Oz and musical theatre well.

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Day to Night by Stephen Wilkes

I sure we’ve all seen Stephen Wilkes’ amazing photos of day to night, now Stephen talks at TED about how they are made.

Take aways from his talk:

  • often over 30 hours of shooting to capture the time over the day
  • all that time spent at his camera (when and where does he pee?)
  • usually up in a cherry picker or scissor lift for the whole time
  • months and months of post work by him and his team
  • all the effort makes amazing images

It’s a pretty cool talk, well worth the 12:37 to be inspired by the man’s passion, watch Stephen Wilkes’ TED Talk.

Stephen has also done a 2-hour talk with B&H. You can watch Stephen Wilkes’ Evolution on YouTube.

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Be the change

“If you wrong would you admit it?
And take the heat up under the lights
Use your expert criticism
Then maybe you could get a life
Don’t like seeing people happy
Is it jealousy or personal?
Cause I don’t see why loving someone
Or what I do seem so radical to you

Still it might sound strange to you
But what you think it don’t mean nothing at all
Doesn’t change who I am
Doesn’t change who I love”

-Janet Jackson “The Great Forever”

I’m sure Janet believes in a higher power and given that her home is now in the Middle East I’m not sure which one. “The Great Forever” in the song is clearly a reference to the afterlife.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. It’s probably the one thing I’ll be pleasantly surprised to find I’m wrong about. I don’t believe I’ll ever be proven wrong about the existence of any gods though. The “gods” are a creation of man rather than the other way around.

Many believe that atheists don’t have any beliefs, but I really do. I believe our time spent here on Earth should be revered as its own miracle. Of the billions and billions of stars we can see we know of only one of the hundreds of billions of planets that has life.

I believe that we should spend our time in life in a state of love and wonder for what is around us. Living with hate or fear, it limits you.

If you’re spending a great amount of your time deriding others for their way of life you only hit the wedge in even harder, you are the reason for increasing tensions and things will never improve, they’ll only get worse.

If you live a life of love and being the best human you can be, and you still find yourself getting attacked, you’ll find those attacks most often have their root in jealousy. So you pick yourself up and dance joyously once more, you recover, and you don’t let hate change you.

We see it all the time, jealousy is behind the tall poppy syndrome, we hate on others who we perceive have it better than us, we try to bring them down, even if it’s just talking badly about them among friends. That time we spend in our jealousy could be better used improving our own lives.

It’s like when you’re on an aeroplane and they go through the safety briefing at the start. They tell you emphatically that in the event of a loss of cabin pressure a breathing device will fall from the ceiling of the plane. Your job is to first take care of yourself, make sure you can breathe clearly before you help anyone else… because if you don’t, if you spend too much time trying to fix someone else’s problem before you fix your own, you’ll find you can’t recover yourself. So take care of you first and the rest will fall into place, you’ll be in a better position to help others.

Ghandi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world” is about being a living example. Not judging others, just being you, and if you’re being the best you can be, others will want to be more like you. If you hate, no one wants to be like you. No one wants to take on energy that brings them down.

All Uber drivers are rapists: Fear marketing

Fear marketing at its best! This tactic should never be applauded. And it looks like in most states and territories where Uber operates something like this would not be able to operate anyway given we have rules about limited employment to a single gender and so do most of the US states.

Fear is the easiest form of control and the GUY who started this company is winning at it. All you have to do is put the idea of something terrible into people’s minds and bam, you have a market.

The article presents the reader with this tidbit:

“A search for the words “sexual assault” returned 6,160 tickets, and the search “rape” returned 5,827 individual tickets.”

A vitally important piece of data is missing, well two actually, wait, no three. Hell, I ended up with seven.

  1. It doesn’t then go on to tell you how many rides are in the system, giving you an actual number you can work with to determine probability. This number may well represent the tiniest fraction of all Uber rides.
  2. Two, it doesn’t mention if the search for “Rape” is in addition to or if Sexual Assault and Rape are sometimes on the same ticket, which may well mean the total number is 6,160 rather than the perceived 11,987.
  3. Three, it doesn’t mention the resolution of the tickets. Is the driver now gone, was it unsubstantiated, etc
  4. Four, how many perpetrators were there? If the 6,160 complaints were about 5 drivers and all 5 drivers are gone… the problem as been mitigated.
  5. Five, what’s the time period for these reports?
  6. Six, what’s the scope of the problem, are most/all contained to a single provence or is it an endemic world-wide problem? The screenshot shows at least one report coming from the UK.
  7. Seven, who was the perpetrator, who was the complainant. It’s quite damning of society that we see a complain of sexual assault and immediately jump to the conclusion that the perpetrator was a man and the victim was a woman. It could easily have been the other way around or it may have been a woman assaulting a woman or a man assaulting a man!

I could probably go on forever, and yes one case is one case too many, but we don’t know ANY of the information beyond a screenshot and that a guy has created a market through fear for himself to make a tonne of money and he’s done it by maligning every man ever in existence.

The idea that only women should drive women = all men are bad, all women are good, which simply isn’t the case.

Feature image by Dryhead on Flickr used under Creative Commons License.

Better Off Dead

I implore you to listen to this ongoing podcast series “Better Off Dead” from Andrew Denton and the Wheeler Centre.

A sometimes uncomfortable topic, Assisted Death, is a subject we need to have a real and informed conversation about.

Andrew Denton and his team have done the research and eloquently present the facts with stories from real people who have been directly affected by this topic, including Andrew himself.

You may not think it given the subject matter, but there are times you’ll laugh, and quite likely times you’ll cry, but you’ll come out the other side better informed.

Don’t listen to the BS of the detractors. Assisted death is something we should have for those who are terminally ill and/or suffering in a way that can not be relieved. We need to give them the option to control their own lives and deaths.

Again, please listen to the podcast series and then we can talk about it and talk to our politicians about it and let them know we support an individual’s right to life on their terms.

Another Astro Post!

Yep, one more post and then I’ll maybe round it up to part of a weekly update. But my DJI Phantom 4 “Astro” has been busy today.

I had planned on testing out the Phantom 4’s ability to fly indoors, but I stupidly forgot the key to the office so I couldn’t get any before anyone else. I also knew I would have a wait for anyone else to arrive so I drove around to the Studley Park Boathouse to give Astro a run. You can see a photo and the video I made from this below. I’m not sure about the lopsided horizon in part of the video, but it doesn’t seem to stick around so I’m thinking it may have something to do with the wind that was present this morning.

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South Yarra Morning

When I finally got back to work and into the office, I put Astro’s battery on charge so he’d be ready for another go at lunch time, as there were people in the office I couldn’t very well be giving people haircuts that early in the morning.

At lunch time I drove down to Alexandra Parade, across from The Tan running track and sent Astro off for a trip. Not too many people paid him any attention as he flew along the river and up around the corner, but still just in sight. I think tomorrow, weather permitting, I’ll try the time-lapse option on the camera.

Below is one of the panoramas I made from the photos taken today. This one is five images, taken around a central point. I also still want to try a panorama made from side by side shots, I think I’ll end up with a better image.

Lunch in the sky

So I can’t guarantee that this will be the last post, if the weather is nice again I will be out once more with the Phantom 4 taking to the skies of Melbourne.

Two days with Astro the Phantom 4 from DJI

Yes I name my technology. When you pay more for it than you would a puppy and it brings you, almost, as much joy, it deserves a name. So Astro he is. Astro is my upgrade of Elroy, my Phantom 2 with GoPro drone.

I have a few things to say about the Phantom 4 from DJI and I hope I don’t sound too much like I’m gushing, but Astro is awesome!

I’ve had only really one full day with the drone and it has exceeded my expectations completely. It’s ease of use from the push and swipe to take off and “Tap to fly” functionality, to it’s amazing “Return to home” feature that keeps an eye on battery life and automatically brings the Phantom 4 back to its starting point, landing it safely, the Phantom 4 is perfect for someone like me who has never quite been comfortable flying my drone too far away through fear it will run away. Of course, this fear is not unfounded. I’m always scared my $2000+ piece of equipment is going to go plummeting into the sea. I need to have more faith in the tech. So today I tested a few of Astro’s features out.

Astro in flight

Tap and slide to take off (and land)

A seemingly simple feature, but boy do I love it. Hit the button on the iPad screen, swipe to confirm you want to launch and watch the Phantom 4 spring to life and practically jump to an altitude of 1.2 metres, ready for your further instruction. It might sound silly, but I always get a bit anxious about taking off with my Phantom 2, a few times it has toppled to the side with propellors at full speed and taken chunks out of them forcing me to replace the props before attempting to take off again. With this feature the Phantom 4 takes care of it for you seemingly much easier, unless you happen to not put one of your props on correctly… those things can really fly all by themselves!

Return to home

Sure, when I tried return to home yesterday it didn’t work as I expected it to. But today I was armed with all the knowledge that reading the actual manual can provide. I used the return home feature a few times today and it worked perfectly. I’ll be honest and say it scares the buggery out of me every time I see the Phantom 4 come barrelling along at 30 metres above the ground and seems like it is going to overshoot the home point, but it doesn’t at all. The Phantom 4 stops in midair and begins a graceful descent to the earth from whence it came. Resting and stopping the motors. I reckon if it could smile at you it would do so every time it has safely returned.

I also ran the battery to its limit today. I got about 31 minutes of flight time from a full charge. The drone has this cool feature in the LightBridge software that shows you the point of return. It tracks how far away the Phantom 4 is from the home point and how far it can go on its current battery power before it needs the rest of the reserves to return home. Once it reaches that point the tech lets you know your drone is coming home and home it comes, landing right on the point from which it launched. I love this feature.

Sense and avoid

Who doesn’t send their Phantom 4 barrelling towards a bush making out like one of its features is a whipper-snipper mode? That’s what I did today in an abandoned lot with a lot of overgrowth. On approach the LightBridge software on your iOS device beeps at you letting you know there’s a risk of collision, then the drone stops dead in its tracks before it can hit the object. Even continuing to push the control stick forward, releasing it and pushing it forward again couldn’t make the Phantom 4 move closer towards the bush than it was willing to go. It’s a great feature, but as they warn, it’s not foolproof. The object needs to be within the scope of the front or below sensors. There’s nothing protecting you on rising, left and right panning or going in reverse. It’s kind of like the deflector shield on the starship enterprise. It’s looking forward and making sure you don’t fun into anything.

When in tap to fly mode the drone will apparently fly over these obstacles to reach its destination, but I haven’t tested that yet.

Active Tracking

Now this one worked and didn’t. Probably not helped by the subject I chose, or maybe I just needed to be a little higher to ensure my fast-moving subject remained in the frame. I tried tracking my dog, Bill, as he chased a ball, but here’s the thing… Bill is obsessive when it comes to his ball and he moves really fast when one is thrown away from him. The software locked onto him fine when I dragged the little box around him and when he stayed in the general vicinity the drone dodged and wove, sometimes coming close to decapitating humans, to keep him in his sights. But when Bill ran for the ball he was just too fast for the camera to keep up. As I said, I think next time I’ll go a little higher so we can have more frame for Bill to move in and to remove the risk of losing an ear… or I’ll track a slower-moving target. Painfully I also didn’t video this, I would loved to have seen how the video turned out given the erratic movements of the drone trying to keep Bill in its field of vision.

I was tempted to lock onto one of the cars that was heading out of the park, but in the end decided they might not like a buzzing device following them along… maybe next time I’ll do so from way on high.

Tap to Fly

Aside from the Tap and slide to take off, Tap to Fly has got to be the easiest feature to use. You get the drone high enough so you can see in the view finder where you want it to go and you tap the screen and then tap “GO” and it goes… you can control the speed it moves from a slider on the righthand side of the display from 1 metre per second to, I think, 8 metres per second. But if you’re flying with the wind you might just see that speed exceeded on your display. I sent Astro over to a quarry near my home to have a look around. Using the drones is a great way to see parts of your town you may never see otherwise. He flew over there and stopped when he reached the point I apparently tapped. I say “apparently” because it’s pretty imprecise in the view finder view. I didn’t try and see if you can use the map view for this function. There’s always next trip out.

Phantom 4 Flight Details

A mine in Maddingley

Round up

There’s a bunch more things to talk about and try, but right now I’m loving Astro the Phantom 4 for its ease of use. It also comes in a funky little lightweight styrofoam case that makes it an easy to get around. The Phantom 2 just came in a cardboard box with more cardboard inside, it wasn’t at all conducive to being an option for transportation, there were accessory cases you could by for that. It’s nice that it’s now part of the package. The camera is a delight to use. The new press and lock propellers make it much easier to remove them for storage in the case. The auto tightening props of the Phantom 2 sometimes had me reaching for the removal tool more often than one would like. Today I think I took Astro in and out of the case maybe six-seven times and I didn’t even mind.

Aside from the photos here, I’ve also taken video with the Phantom 4, but nothing too exciting, I’ll likely do a quick cut together of some of the 4K footage tomorrow just to give an example of it’s quality (which is quite sweet I might add). Sadly we don’t have the amazing views of Iceland or Sweden here in Victoria, Australia. We’re at the tail-end of the hottest summer on record and a LOT of the place looks brown and dead, but we will find something cool to video in the near future.

A photographer at heart, I’m looking forward to getting some shots that in the past had I seen would have me wishing for the power of levitation… now I will have it thanks to the Phantom 4 from DJI.

Astro in flight

Bacchus Marsh Farmer's District

Phantom 4 Flight Details

Astro’s First Flight

Today we welcomed Astro into our little family of technology.

We purchased Astro from the Highpoint Apple Store, apparently Apple have an exclusive agreement with DJI to stock them for a short time. In a press release about the partnership the head of DJI said that most people who buy DJI products are also Apple users so it makes sense to partner with the company that creates the devices that basically work as an extension of the drone. AND you pretty much can’t use most of the features of the drone without an iOS device. The tap to fly, auto takeoff and landing, the tap to follow commands are all controlled on your iPhone or iPad.

Well Astro has had an exciting first day, or I should say very late afternoon. After buying him he needed some time charging, then we had to go all the way back to Highpoint again to pick up David’s new iMac so it was almost sunset by the time I finally got all the firmware/software updates done for Astro (two on the RC and one on the drone).

His first flight was in the backyard. I had set him up so he was supposed to be in beginner mode, and with a return to home (RTH) minimum height of 30 metres to avoid obstacles… but I’m guessing one of the updates wiped those settings… so when I pressed the return to home button, Astro decided to land right where he was. Unfortunately, our house was in the way and he tried to land on the sloped roof.

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Good news, he’s quite sturdy, took a knock when he hit the ground, but he is fine, with a couple of minor scratches. At least that fear of the first scratch that causes one to be timid is out of the way nice and early.

But I wasn’t keen to go again in the yard, so I took Astro down the road to the horse track and its wide open spaces to gave him another go.

The big difference between Astro and Elroy is that Elroy isn’t height limited, Astro is fixed to 122 metres (400 feet). So my photos, while quite high still aren’t going to be from as far up as Elroy’s. But Astro has tap to fly, automatic takeoff and landing and when I set it right, return to home. He also has tap to follow allowing Astro to follow a subject. Oh and of course, Elroy is the Phantom 2 with a gimbal for the GoPro while Astro has a DJI camera built in.

Elroy is going to a new home soon as he will soon be living with my nephew Alek in Sydney. I’m sure he’ll be well taken care of.

The photo above is one of Astro’s first. I’ve only just realised he can also take photos in RAW, rather than dodgy JPG so I’ll be finding that setting real soon. One of the side effects of never reading the manual and just flying is you tend to learn on the go… probably not something you should do with a device that can fly away from you at 20 metres per second.

I’ve downloaded the manual and will now commence to read it before taking Astro out for another run tomorrow (if the weather allows it, it is supposed to be sunny… fingers crossed).

First impressions though… the DJI Phantom 4 is pretty. It’s shell is nice and shiny and is just gorgeous to look at. The box doubles as a well-padded, well-made carry bag for the drone. The design of the packaging is perfect for the device, it even has a slot perfect for the iPad Mini. Having the light bridge 2 built in and its connection to an iOS device is a godsend. I have trouble with the aftermarket transmitter I installed in Elroy. It works sometimes and the screen I got for it is kind of low resolution when compared to an iPad Mini or iPhone 6S Plus.

I’m looking forward to some nice adventures with Astro. Stay tuned for more soon, hopefully as early as tomorrow! Weather permitting.

Astro's first panorama

Bacchus Marsh from Astro

Click on the photos above to see them on Flickr.


So I read the manual… don’t push the home button when Astro is within 20 metres of the home position (set when he takes off) because he will immediately descend and (attempt to) land right where he is. Not sure why it doesn’t use the visual sensors when landing but there you go. Oh and the minimum safe height for return to home has to be set BEFORE EACH flight, weirdly this setting is in an advanced menu… seems like something that should be shown when you press the launch button to remind you to set it. I now know where all the settings are! So I can change it over to RAW files for photos and hopefully pull out much more lovely photos. And finally… I love him. :-P I’m excited to take him out again for another flight today. I’ve even charged up the GODOX battery so I can power him up while I’m out and about.