My plan is to do more traveling now that the kids are starting to leave Emily and I with an empty nest. [sad face emoji]
We had already reached the point in our family life where the places I wanted to go in no way interested the kids. “These kids today!?!” I ultimately plan to become an “RV person” in some capacity. My grand plan is to visit all the National Parks in the US (and National Monuments). If I accomplish that before I kick the bucket, then I plan to do similar activities on other continents. There is a lot of this rock I have never set eyes on and I intend to change that!
We are starting off a bit closer to home and going to try to visit all the Tennessee State Parks. This is a practice run for longer/bigger trips. It is also to see if we like it before we commit a ton of money to larger and more expensive equipment. We also still have three kids in college (at the same time) right now and will continue to have two in college together for a couple more years. If you’d like to help with that…feel free to send money anytime. Ha! I’m too busy working like a dog to stand on a street corner and beg for money!
We have a plan! I’ve been working on my website to be able to log all our journeys along the way (to “collect experiences”). The only thing I was really missing was some equipment to capture photos and videos along the way. Back when the kids were little, I had ‘current’ equipment and used it to document their lives. In the kid’s teenage years, they have gone from loving to have their picture made and performing tricks for the video camera to death scowls whenever I bring one out. So, my equipment became dated and dust-covered.
It was a fun project researching this decade’s updated equipment to weigh my options. There are few things I love more in life than a ‘spreadsheet’ and having to do some ‘analysis’.
After reviewing my options, I wound up selecting equipment that is probably much, much, much, much more ‘adventurous’ than I will wind up being. But…GOALS!
iPhone X – When the kids were young, I had a camcorder and a Canon DSL camera. I basically looked like an amateur news crew chasing my kids around at all times. At some point, I stopped carrying all that around and just opted to use the camera in whatever iPhone I had at the time. The cameras in the newer phones are very decent. It was just not worth the extra hassle to carry it all around just so the kids could be more upset with me than usual when I wanted to ‘document’. I’ve currently been using the iPhone X since it came out and it does absolutely fine in most cases. It is pretty amazing that most people walk around with a miniature video production unit in their pockets all day these days.
GoPro Hero Black 7 – The iPhone shoots decent video (even in 4K at 60 FPS). The problem is it is a device, first and foremost, that has another purpose entirely. So, if you are tracking directions, or listening to music, or on a phone call, or [insert whatever here] it can be awkward to get the camera or video camera rolling at the same time. Not to mention it is not really designed for doing a lot that I want to do. As an old guy in my mid-40s (ahem…late 40s…), I don’t really fit the profile of a typical GoPro user. Let’s just say, I’m not going to be doing halfpipe at the X-Games…EVER! After much research, however, I think it is the perfect camera for my needs. It also has a ton of accessories that I get to research and buy that will make some of the videos I want to accomplish happen with ease. The camera will meet my needs for the most part while staying safe and sound because it is designed to take a beating. A DSL would obviously take better pictures but for its minuscule size, the GoPro does extremely well in the photo category. I’m completely happy with it. The main reason I pulled the trigger on this, however, is the video. The time-lapse functionality is absolutely phenomenal. I don’t even know how they do what they do to stabilize the video like they do. I mean I read about how they do it and it is understandable…but I’m convinced it is really just black magic! I’ve used it several times already and it is awesome! I’ve used all kinds of attachments and all kinds of settings. I look like a GoPro salesman/spokesperson with all my gear. I wear it in totally silly situations where normal people don’t. Hang out with me long enough and you will wind up being GoPro’d [verb]. The only thing that I’m not absolutely thrilled with is its battery life. It isn’t bad I just burn through them pretty quickly. It is nothing that having 3 fully charged batteries ready for a day of activity has not solved so far. The new version, Hero 8, is being released now. I will likely upgrade to it very soon.
DJI Mavic Air – While researching cameras something I never really had a desire to own started popping up in some of the research I was doing—drones! I was seeing some very interesting shots being done on these things. I felt like “I’m gonna be in cool places like that” and then I felt like “I need one of these things!” Emily’s first question [after she stared at me blankly with a ‘why are you so lame’ look for a few minutes] was “how much are you wanting to spend”? “What?!?! Basically nothing!” Again, portability was my main priority. I wanted to be able to carry whatever I had in my brand-new GoPro backpack! Yes, I am the king of the dorks! I wanted to be able to whip it out whenever and wherever (on hikes, bike rides, drives, walks, runs, etc.). A lot of little drones exist that are small/portable but they are not really great camera/video equipment. That changed recently with DJI’s new entry. DJI makes big, movie-quality drones and is seemingly the best there is on the market from high-end consumers up to professional quality drones. Their new Mavic Air drone has a ton of this high-end technology in an absolutely tiny form. It folds up and fits basically in the palm of my hand. It packs away nicely and I can get it out and up and running in a few minutes. This thing is not a toy! I didn’t really know what to expect but I had no clue how sophisticated these things are. They are basically little aircraft. There are tons of GPS sensors, tons of motion/obstacle sensors, etc. I’ve flown it several times and taken some pretty awesome videos. I have not even scratched the surface really on becoming proficient in my drone piloting abilities. My main concern is 1) get airborne, 2) get some kind of shot that is ‘kinda cool’ 3) don’t crash and destroy my drone, and 4) land safely. ‘Know your limits’ is what I could use as my droning motto. I have no issues or problems with the equipment (other than user error). The battery burns out pretty quickly but as high as my heart rate is while flying it that is probably a good limit to have in place. The biggest issue I have is all the no-fly zones. They are always right where I want to shoot!?! Okay, not always! But many of the places I want to shoot are (and will be) in National Parks (or even State Parks) but many of those don’t permit drone flight/photography. Oh well! This was a nice to have for sure l, but I’m hoping to capture video that will help me truly remember (and from a different perspective) some of my more memorable experiences from our upcoming travels.
I am very happy with the equipment I purchased. It is also a lot of fun using them out in the wild. Having the equipment is one thing but living a life that is actually worth using it is why I really bought it all. A good portion of many experiences sees me running around taking too many videos and pictures in order to have enough “B Roll” footage. I find I ‘see’ things better than if I was just wandering around looking at stuff. I look at things from a different perspective and that winds up making the footage better and ultimately my experiences better. It definitely makes my experience back home later watching/remembering where’ve I went much better. I’ll publish videos and things for different places and if anyone finds them interesting, I’m glad you liked them. But, like most things on my website I’m really doing it more for me than anyone else. I think going through the exercise of forcing myself to pull things together in this fashion will force me to do things I wouldn’t normally do otherwise. I’m very excited to get to use this equipment and to (hopefully) make some neat videos! Subscribe to my YouTube channel for future updates. For all you old people ‘subscriptions’ are free there!