A Guest Post on Toy Photographers Blog

Why I shoot Lego

“Why do you photograph Lego?”, “What’s with all the toy photos?”, “Your little men are funny… what got you into photographing them?” – Questions I’m asked all the time.

You can find out the answer to that question over at Toy Photographers where I answer “Why?”.

It was a great honour to be asked to submit an article to the site. The Toy Photographer community is a great one. All very supporting of each other and sharing their where, how and whys with each other and the world.

DJI Phantom 4 Battery DOA

DJI Phantom 4

Boy was I about to make an idiot of myself.

I contacted DJI the day I received my new batteries for my Phantom 4 from them and let them know I had received a DOA (Dead on Arrival). I was requesting info about where I could get support in Australia as I didn’t want to have to send the battery back to Hong Kong.

You may not know, but it’s a pain in the ass to send a lithium battery anywhere, especially when it’s not installed in a device. They are considered a dangerous good and can’t be sent via regular post… though they can magically be delivered by regular post.

The cost to send it back to Hong Kong for service would have been around $90 which would have pretty much negated my whole reason for buying it from there in the first place (cost saving).

On my first contact with DJI they said Nope, we can’t help you, you bought it out of your region so you can’t get support for the battery in Australia, nor directly from DJI, you need to go back to your dealer to get support. They don’t have global support for their products. 

On that advice I wrote them a semi-heated note the next morning saying how bad their service was and how I’d expect more from a global company, and how even had I bought it from DJI directly it would have come to me from Hong Kong because that’s where they are for our region.

And then I didn’t hear anything more. I was annoyed and saddened that I’d have to send this unit back to Hong Kong, at my expense because it had arrived DOA.

This morning I was ready to rail on them because of their lack of response. I was going to go full social media blast angry.

Then I clicked on a link in the original reply saying they couldn’t help, it lead to their support ticket site. I didn’t know my login, and requested a password reset.

Logged in and saw a bunch of replies from Alice, who was my rep at DJI… there was even one five minutes after her initial email saying “nope we’re not going to help” this new reply said… “We’d love to help you, checked it out, the dealer you bought from does have a presence in Australia and our Australian support team will come and collect the unit, test it and send you a replacement.”

I never received the notice via email… her other correspondence, which I also didn’t get, was basically her reiterating that reply and asking when they can come and get the faulty battery.

So while I do have to apologise to DJI for all the bad things I have been thinking bout them for the last few days… I would like to say, something in their system is broken.

Long story short, I bought from http://www.e-infin.com/au/ their prices were almost a third less the cost of a battery directly from DJI and DJI are supporting the replacement… YAY.

Of course some folks have said that DJI take around 6 weeks to get you your replacement item, they insist on testing the returned item first. So I’m still in for a bit of a wait for the battery to come back.

Beans, beans, the magical fruit…

For those who want to know… yes the move away from pure potatoes to incorporating other grains and beans has had an effect on the intestinal instrumentation. 

But I’m assured it is a temporary thing and eventually the gut and intestine work it out. It’s about the gut sorting out it’s biome to deal with the foods going in now.

On the plus side, my diet for the past week has been almost completely vegan and I’m down 4.9kg.

The recipes I’m using don’t even use oil, it was weird to me to use water to cook the onion, garlic and capsicum rather than the oil one might usually use, but it works fine.

Potatoes for Days

So my potato diet, or starch-based diet, is kicking itself up in the new year.

For those playing along at home, I tried just potatoes towards the end of last year, it was fantastic, I shouldn’t have stopped, but I did. I successfully at nothing but potatoes for three weeks straight. Didn’t crave anything else by the end of it. But caved in the end because it can become boring, plus Christmas was approaching and it was definitely going to be untenable over the the Christmas period.

For about two weeks before the Christmas break I flipped it up and went to the protein-based diet… amazing, bacon and eggs for breakfast… yes please. I continued to lose weight on this diet, but found myself a little more sluggish and muddleheaded than I did on the potatoes. It also give me a constant coating in my mouth and a “mouthfeel” that wasn’t awesome.

Then came Christmas… well that was just a free-for-all time. Chocolate, breads, ham, more chocolate (I’m craving chocolate just writing the word) and of course fizzy drink with an abundance of sugar. I stacked the weight on easily.

Now we’re into the new year, and I’m already kicking goals, just 1kg to go to get back to the weight I was when I derailed myself. But I’m not going to be as restrictive this time around.

Potatoes are good and all, but you can get tired of them, you can dread the next meal so I’m going to where it all started for me… this quest began after watching some videos featuring Dr John McDougall talking about his starch-based diet. So I’m checking out some of his recipes to get me going this time around.

Dr McDougall has a lot of recipes and information available for free at https://www.drmcdougall.com/…/educa…/free-mcdougall-program/ where he and his wife detail the foods to eat, not to eat and all the other information you’ll need to get you going.

I feel, in my uneducated opinion, like both diets (low carb OR starch-based) because they are both focusing on “mono-diet” type things, where you’re only really putting one type of food into your system at a time, be it protein OR carbohydrates. So folks even say they have similar results just eating one type of food per meal rather than cutting out one or the other.

I guess I like Dr McDougall’s plan because it is also vegetarian at it’s core and if I can go plant-based then yay for me.

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.

Two days with Astro the Phantom 4 from DJI

DJI Phantom 4

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