Early Atacama Dunes

Sand Dune Early Blues

I was one of the early birds within the team on this morning as it was quite cold…around -7 from memory.

Whilst the rest of the team were snuggled back in the cars I was after the early morning steely blues that I thought might come out and was also keen on capturing the ‘flying saucer’ over the distant dune.

I am pleased i did head out early as I came away with what I was hoping to…which doesn’t always happen.

A little after I shot this image, I flew the drone and the DJI app was screaming at me the whole time that the battery was too cold….so it was crisp for sure!

Point Walter Sunset and Phantom 4 review

Point Walter SS

I took the drone for a fly last night mainly to get both familiar and comfortable with the smart settings like visual tracking and touch fly and also straight line flight.

A couple were walking out on the spit which gave me the perfect opportunity to use them as a tagging point and the feature worked very well.

As I left the machine to its own devices, it simply stayed at the same distance away as when I touched the go button and then when I decided togo higher and swing around more to the side, the camera stayed perfectly positioned on the subject as the promotional material you read and view suggests it will.

I then tagged myself as a fly to point to come back to on the screen and sure enough it flew in a very straight line back to me. I see this feature being very handy if you want to do a run down a road or something that is straight without risking a manual flight that sometimes tend to be not perfectly straight.

There is another feature in the intelligent sweet that also allows to select straight flight, which also seemed to work pretty well.

All in all, pretty impressed with the intelligent features of the Phantom 4 and also the fact that all these features are in GPS mode, whereas in the 3 you had to click out of GPS mode to do a point of interest fly.

One little hint I can offer. Whilst away, I tried to use the tag fly function without watching the beginner tutorial that comes up and thought that to tag was to touch and could not make it work. The trick is to touch next to the subject and drag a square around the subject, then it will lock on and give you a green button to trigger on screen.

A trap for young players you could say!

I hope you like the brief review above and I will share more thoughts as time permits to explore the features of the Phantom 4.


The Carriage The Car Window

Train Station V Room

There are quite a few displays of abandonment in Atacama, from trains, to train stations to old cars and houses.

Interestingly, it appears that there is no land ownership as such and the dwellings are made from hand built mud bricks fashioned out of straw and mud in molds. The dried bricks are then brought together in simple square rooms. A roof is fashioned out of local wood and that then becomes home.

Rather than refurbish, it appears that moving on to a new location and building a new mud brick home is easier. Therefore there ends up being a lot of abandonment in the desert.

Native’s in Bloom

Spider Reds Golden Spider 2 Red start

One of the Melville Rider’s team (Luke) told me yesterday that Kings Park had some natives out in full bloom. He is a botanist for the park and spends a lot of time in the bush gathering seeds for planting in Kings Park.

On that advice I enticed a few of the lads to join me and we set out yesterday arvo to see what was on offer.

Above are a few of my favourites.

The top 2 were shot with my fish eye!

Phantom 4 Drone review

TNM in the desert

As many of you know I have just returned from an adventure in the Atacama desert in Argentina.

I put the pressure on Saul Frank from Camera Electronics to get me a new Phantom 4 in time for this trip and he performed with a few days to spare, so I did not really have much time to get up to speed with the machine.

As you will see by the video link below, I did a reasonable amount of flying whilst away in the desert and in fact flew at most locations.

My initial impressions are certainly very positive and there are some obvious improvements in the Phantom 4 over the 3, namely:

  1. The battery life is definitely much better than the 3 and probably capable of the 30 minutes flying time they speak of in their marketing blurb.
  2. The battery life in the Remote Control has also been improved dramatically;… so much so, I only had to charge the batter on the RC once in 10 days!
  3. The next noticeable improvement is that it seems to be a smoother machine than the 4 and that is hard to quantify, but over all, I feel that the take off and flight itself is generally smoother.
  4. The build quality is also more robust and aesthetically it looks great.
  5. The best improvement I think is that the fact that the props now ‘click’ into place rather than ‘spin’. This makes for a much faster set up time for sure!
  6. Also in the improvements is the Poly Styrene foam case that comes with the 4. It keeps everything nicely in tact and also allows for the battery charger and 2 spare batteries to be included in the carry case. My Ninja Turtle Poly Styrene Backpack worked well, but it would not fit the charger, so the charger was always lying around separately.
  7. For the over seas trip I simply dropped that new Poly Styrene case into a Pelican case and locked it up for the air travel and then had it travel in the back of the 4 wd for 2,000 km’s over gravel roads, so you would have to say that the case works and protects the machine!
  8. Next on the improvement list is the gimbal protector…much, much better than the 3 and is a solid plastic device that cups the camera and clips onto both legs. A very sturdy support for camera and gimbal and quick to click on and off.
  9. In regards the the new auto flight settings, I must say that I did not have much chance to try these out as I was on the run the whole time. I will do a separate review on that part of the 4 as time permits.
  10. As you will see in the video below, I did have a bit of an incident when trying a fly around in hilly terrain and was possibly relying too much on collision avoidance.
  11. On thinking back, I think (as happens in all incidences) there were a few things that contributed to the incident. Firstly, I was maxed out in altitude trying to get over the hill. Secondly I was flying sideways and it was difficult to see the situation that was coming up until too late.
  12. Thirdly I am not sure if the collision avoidance works in a sideways mode and on that front , I think there could be an improvement in the next evolution of these wonderful little machines!
  13. In regards the camera improvements, I think it is fair to say that I can see improvements in both video and stills quality from the 4 over the 3, especially in stills mode as there seems to be less noise at low light in the 4 and also better clarity on the edge of the images.
  14. In summary I think that DJI have a real winner with the Phantom 4 and it certainly has a raft of improvements over the 3. With the improved battery life of the 4, I was able to comfortably go out on a 10 days shooting adventure with only 2 batteries and be able to do everything I needed to.

Nice work DJI and Phantom fliers out there…be careful when flying sideways in hilly terrain! šŸ™‚



Atacama Desert Video

Leading Oranges St-B&W

I have now completed the video that show cases a little more about the Atacama adventure we just did.

If you follow the link below it will take you to the Vimeo link where the video is embedded.

But first a few big thank you’s!

As always, Saul Frank from Camera Electronics went out of his way to make sure I had the new Phantom 4 in time for this trip…thanks Saul!

Next on the thank you list is my travel buddy, Brent Pearson. He is an editing guru and trained in that discipline and he coached me through Adobe Premier over the time in Atacama…steep learning curve I can assure you!

Now to thank the people on the ground over there.

Firstly, Ian Plant from Epic Destinations did a wonderful job of guiding the group and planning the schedule and did all of the above with one of the worst flues I have seen anyone with for a while…so nice work Ian!

Secondly were our wonderful guides from Socompa. These guides were amazing and great drivers to boot and they all rose over and above the call of duty to rescue my drone when I had a bit of a problem with it as you will see in the video.

And last but not least a thank you to the other photog’s who made the trip as well. The itinerary was full on and up every morning at 0500 whilst covering around 2,000 kms on gravel roads….not of the feint hearted!

But, the rewards were there for sure as the landscape was beautifully enticing as well as it was rugged and changing all the time, which made for a very interesting drive.

You can see the video link below:



Primitive Atacama

Cross Roads St-900 The-Shanty-St

The one word that comes to mind after touring the Atacama desert over the last couple of weeks is primitive.

Most of the touring in the Andes highlands was done at altitudes around 14,000 ft and on gravel roads over 2,000 kilometres.

We saw a grand total of a hand full of cars over that time, but we did also see a number of guys on horse and mules herding Alpacas and the like.

Remote, rugged, pristine and beautiful are all words that come to mind.

Back home now after a gruelling 35 hours of travel and feeling somewhat shattered!