Tag Archives: Photography

Geeks Can Fly!

Like many geeks, I have a fascination with flight.

I got my first “real” quad, copterquadcopter, for Christmas this past December. I have been interested in remote controlled (RC) aircraft for a long time. I have flown RC planes going back to the old line-controlled planes that only went in circles and made you dizzy. Helicopters are a lot different and much more difficult to learn to fly both in the real world and in the RC world. The newer gyro-stabilized helicopters sold in stores are much easier to master.

While multi-rotor aircraft have been around since early in the last century, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Quadcopters have not been around all that long. These vehicles use sophisticated microcomputers and sensors to stabilize the aircraft. For more history and explanations, see Wikipedia.

Their size and maneuverability make them perfect for one of my other passions, photography, especially video. Even some of the inexpensive and smaller toy quadcopters come with cameras. Here is a link to the Syma X5C 4 Channel 2.4GHz RC Explorers Quad Copter w/ Camera (WHITE, 1)

My choice was the 3DR Iris + for several reasons. I liked the size and support options. I already had a GoPro Hero 3 camera I could mount on it for video. I really like the ability to create autonomous flights using my Android Nexus 7 tablet or Samsung smartphone using the free planning software available. I can also use my new Pebble Smartwatch to control it!

People fly RC aircraft for different reasons. Some like to perform aerobatic flying. Some folks like the scale modeling aspect of the planes. You will see vintage aircraft, military aircraft, even jets and commercial airlines, and just about anything that can fly at the events held around the the world. I like that stuff, too. But my main reason for wanting the quadcopter was as a platform for my video camera. I like taking movies of the cool places we visit and the people we see. I consider my drone a really tall tripod or selfie stick. I love being able to take video like this of our motorhome on the road.


I am not interested in spying on anyone. I don’t fly over private homes to photograph celebrities or anything like that. I do like to capture video of events we attend to promote and entertain. I also really enjoy editing the video to create stories with music and titles. We teach Microsoft Live Movie Maker so that is what I use to edit. Here’s another example, a video of the Escapee’s Happy Hour held in the desert of Quartzsite, AZ.

Most people who see me flying think it is a cool and geeky thing. I get lots of questions from curious spectators.

  • Does it have a camera? Yes.
  • How much does it cost? You can get a good drone for under $100 or you can spend thousands! My Iris+ was $750 for the basic ready-to-fly unit with battery and radio controller. I already had the GoPro camera for underwater video. $200-$500, depending on model. My camera cost $300 a couple years ago. Total for my current setup is about $1500.
  • How high can it go? It CAN go over a half mile under control. The FAA says you should stay below 400’ and always have it in sight.
  • What happens if you lose radio signal? The computer inside the drone is SUPPOSED to fly back to the launch point and land using the built-in GPS. If the battery gets below a certain level, it is supposed to return to launch or land where it is.
  • How long can you fly on a battery? Somewhere around fifteen minutes, depending on weather conditions and flight characteristics. The camera transmitter and gimbal use the main battery for power, too.

I really enjoy the technology and continue to learn to fly my quadcopter as a video platform. Just wait until I get the waterproof drone!

Signing off, from Malibu, CA

Newsletter April 2012: Rally Review, Facebook as Website, Photography, Android Navigation, Dropbox

Geeks on Tour

April was a busy month.  First we got all packed and left Fort Lauderdale.  Easter weekend we were at an old high school friend’s (Alex) for the weekend along with other high school alumni of Chris’, some of whom are excellent musicians.  We were treated to 3 days of music, party, and friends in the beautiful wooded area east of Gainesville, Florida.  Alex’s property included a perfect RV site complete with electric hookup!  For more details, including videos of the music, see our Blog Post.

Then came our very special Rally.  The rally was a joint effort between TechnoRV – aka Phil and Tracey May, and Geeks on Tour – aka Jim and Chris Guld.  What fun we had!  All 36 people who attended seemed to have only one word to say … WOW!  Here’s a video overview of the rally:

A Different Kind of RV Rally–Learn about cameras, computers, smartphones and more.

We covered so much information at the rally, we’ve decided to use this newsletter just to highlight some of the learning from last week.  See the rally’s daily schedule to see all that was covered.

New Tutorial Videos

You can always see the most recent Tutorial Videos on the Geeks on Tour membership site by going to www.geeksontour.com, clicking on the Learning Library menu and then choosing ‘Recent Videos.’  These videos are for members only unless specified as free.  For April, the new videos are:

  1. How to Copy and Paste with your Smartphone
  2. How to Copy Pictures and Video from your iPad to your PC
  3. Smartphone Basic Touchscreen Skills (free)
  4. Smartphones: Talk and Browse the Web at the Same Time

Facebook for Your Business or Club Website

fallrallyOur Techno-Geek Learning rally was a learning experience for us too!  We decided to use Facebook’s ‘Page’ feature rather than have a traditional website.  It was great to be able to have other people post their pictures and comments as they attended the event.  Over the course of the week, over 300 people ‘Liked’ the TechnoGeek Learning Rally page.  This meant that we were actually sharing our learning rally with all of them in addition to the people who were actually there.  That’s pretty cool! 

Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, you can view the page just like any other web page on the Internet.  For those that do use Facebook, they could click ‘Like’ and know that they wouldn’t miss anything because whatever we posted on our page would show up on their Facebook Home Page ‘Newsfeed.’

It is so easy to post pictures and stories that the page collected a lot of information in a short amount of time. Any general learning information we tried to post on the main page.  Any information specific to last week, we entered on the April 2012 Event page.  If you visit that page, be sure to scroll down to the bottom, then click ‘Older Posts’ – you’ll need to do that 3 times to get to the beginning of the rally.

The biggest problem we found with using the Facebook page is that you can’t control the layout of the page.  When it starts to get full, it can be very hard to find anything.  When people post pictures, instead of all pictures going into a photo album, each picture needed it’s own post.  And, only official posts by the organizers (us) show up in full in the main column of the page.  Other posts are collapsed and stuck in a box at the right.  You need to learn to click the tiny ‘See All’ link in order to see what other people are saying.

All in all, we consider the Facebook experiment a success.  The layout will continue to evolve.  Meanwhile everyone learned a lot.  One attendee said, “I never used Facebook much, but since I learned so much more about it this week, I’ve been able to see pictures of my grandkids that I haven’t seen before.”

  To learn more, continue reading  Can Facebook be your Rally’s Website?…

Using Digital Cameras and Picasa

cameraWhether you use a point-and-shoot camera, a digital SLR, or just your smartphone for taking pictures, there are a lot of settings and techniques for taking better pictures.  Phil May, from TechnoRV, presented the ‘Getting the Most from your Digital Camera’ seminar on the first day of the rally.  Then he took people out on ‘walkabout’ to try their skills with their cameras.  One of the prime directives in taking pictures was to ‘get closer’ … no really, I mean GET CLOSER!

Participants learned about the Macro modes on their cameras as well as fill-flash and scene settings.  Then, on the second day of the rally, Chris taught the hands-on class for editing your pictures using Picasa.  Even people with their Macintosh computers, who were accustomed to iPhoto, attended that class and commented on how many more editing tools were available in Picasa. 

At Geeks on Tour, we’ve been evangelists for Picasa over 7 years now.  It’s a free program that you download to your computer from Google.  We teach several seminars on it, produced over 60 tutorial videos, have a website dedicated to Picasa, and wrote a book on it!    But, we know it’s not the only game in town.  Many people with Macintosh computers are very happy with iPhoto which comes preinstalled on their Macs – even though Picasa does have a fully compatible Macintosh version.  On Windows computers, the gold standard photo editing program is Adobe Photoshop ($700!) or Photoshop Elements ($99.)  There are also several free programs, including Microsoft’s offering – Windows Live Photo Gallery, and a full featured, Photoshop workalike called GIMP.

Why we Still Like Picasa the Best …

  Read the Article to see why …

droidDroid Smartphones for Navigation

Everyone at the rally either had a smartphone, or was thinking about getting one.  Both Android and iPhones were represented, but Androids were in the majority.  For iPhone users, the most popular navigation app was Waze.  Androids come with Google Navigation and we love it! 

Read the article on why our Droids are our favorite GPS …  

Dropbox, Join.me, Evernote, Megafile and more!

Morning panel discussion at Techno-Geek Learning RallyAfter a delicious breakfast, every day of our rally started with a panel discussion.  If someone had a question about technology for travelers – any question at all – this is when we answered it.  Impromptu topics that got a lot of attention included Dropbox.  Both of us (Geeks on Tour and TechnoRV) use Dropbox all the time and we love it.  I wrote a previous article: Dropbox-Free Synchronizing Among Computers, and Phil recently wrote Dropbox – the Best little App You’ve Never Heard Of. 
One morning an attendee wanted to show something on her computer to the group, so we used www.Join.me to connect her screen to one of our computers at the front so it could be displayed thru the projector.  Join.me is the free app we use for computer support.  With just a few clicks we can see your screen on ours.
Evernote is another device-independent application.  Use it for taking notes on your iPhone or Android phone, and that same note is available on the web using your laptop or tablet.
Although photography related topics was the bulk of our rally, some people said that learning about the Streets and Trips POI Megafile was worth the price of admission.  The megafile was just updated in April.   For our members, here’s the video on using the POI Megafile.  I also notice there is a video you can watch on the Streets and Trips blog. At the rally, we were able to help people hands-on install the megafile on their computer and even set it as their default template for Streets and Trips.
There was a lot more … if you attended the rally and learned something that I didn’t mention here – please leave a comment ok?

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