Taking to the air with a DJI Mavic Pro Drone

I bought a drone.

After toying with the idea of getting a drone for the last couple of years, going back to the days of the DJI Phantom 2, I finally pulled the trigger a few weeks ago.

Say hello to my DJI Mavic Pro.

DJI Mavic Pro Drone

When I was first thinking about embarking on a drone journey, I got a lot of advice to get a couple low-end toy drones to practice flying. Better to destroy a $40 toy drone than wreck an at-the-time $1500 investment with a Phantom. I’m glad I followed that advice but to be honest, the state of drone/quadcopter technology is growing at an incredible pace. The Mavic all but flies itself.

The Mavic has a small controller that also includes a smart phone holder. While a smart phone isn’t required, it does open up advanced options for flying and photo/video settings.

As for specs, this little drone flies up the mandated 400 foot altitude ceiling and has a range of up to four miles although responsible flying means keeping your drone always in line of sight. DJI is also taking the stance of self policing the industry through their flight software. Geofencing to prevent flights in to unauthorized areas, the ability to automatically notify air traffic control towers when flying with the 5 mile radius, and requiring air craft registrations even while the US court system has [temporarily] halted the FAA registration process.

It is a blast to fly and gives a new perspective to photos and videos.

My next step, besides more flying obviously, is studying to pass the FAA Part 107 test for becoming a licensed unmanned aircraft pilot. Which opens up commercial applications from using footage in our advertising/design work, being paid to fly and more. But in the meantime, keep an eye out for some new footage in my photos & travels.

Chasing the sun #djimavic

A post shared by Shawn (@shartley) on

If you are interested in this hobby, here’s a couple of links (affiliate links). I’d definitely recommend spending the extra money and getting the combo which includes 2 additional batteries and a bunch of accessories.

DJI Mavic Pro – Buy at DJI | Buy at Amazon

DJi Mavic Pro Fly More Combo – Buy at DJI | Buy at Amazon

Did Disney Push Pixar Off Course?

Christopher Orr, writing for the Atlantic:

[Ed] Catmull once said that Pixar’s intent was to make one sequel for every two original features. The ratio since 2010 has been closer to the inverse. Especially lamentable was the announcement, in 2014, of plans for Toy Story 4. The narrative and emotional arc of the trilogy had clearly been completed with Andy’s departure for college. The third installment had even closed, lovingly, with a shot that neatly mirrored the opening shot of the first film: the fluffy-white-clouds-on-blue-sky wallpaper of young Andy’s bedroom in Toy Story giving way to real white clouds in the real blue sky. Yet instead of concluding on that touching note, Pixar has opted for what has been described as a “franchise reboot”—surely the most dispiriting phrase in contemporary cinema.

This was a very well written piece about the troubles at Pixar and how they have lost their magic. I will admit that I am looking forward to Cars 3, but mainly because of the nostalgia with my son and his growing up with Cars.

Finding Dory was amusing, but not a must-see. The Good Dinosaur was okay, but felt rushed and disjointed.

After Coco this fall, there isn’t an original Pixar movie in the lineup until 2020.  That’s a long time to wait, especially when Walt Disney Animation Studios is cranking out the original hits like Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia and Moana.

RSS Feeds, What Are They?

RSS IconI recently wrote a post for the Corporate 3 Design blog about Rich Site Summary (aka Really Simple Syndication) or simply RSS or RSS Feeds.

You’ve probably seen the icon and wondered what it was about. Or maybe clicked an RSS Feed icon and were confused at the unstructured text display that popped up in your browser.

In my recent blog post, I describe what an RSS feed is, common uses – including setting up a feed reader – and why they are still relevant in 2017.

Read the full article on the Corporate Three Design Blog.

Zion National Park – My Camping Trip Recap

I just got back from my latest camping trip, a three day trip to Zion National Park (official site) in the southwestern corner of Utah.

Zion National Park - The Watchman

This trip marks the return to my camping days for the first time in about 18 years. And, the first time I’ve been camping with my wife. We took this trip to celebrate our 15th anniversary and left the kids with the grandparents.

The weather in March can be kind of iffy, but everything aligned perfectly for our trip. Highs in the lower 80s with lows around 50 each day. We were very fortunate as the weather turned after we left and is currently seeing highs in the upper 50s to lower 60s.

Day One at Zion

We tent-camped in the South Campground and after setting up camp, immediately set out for our first hike – The Watchman Trail.

The Watchman Trail is about a 5.5 mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of about 500 feet. We completed the round trip in about 2.5 hours which included time at the top for a little picnic. The view from the top gives you a nice view of the valley below.

The Zion National Park valley from Watchman trail

Day Two at Zion

Day Two saw our attempt at Angels Landing, the most famous hike at the park. The Angels Landing hike is a 10 mile roundtrip with 1500 feet of elevation gain that take 4-5 hours to complete and is rated Strenuous. People have died on this hike, including someone earlier this month.

Unfortunately, I needed to turn back at about the halfway point due to some knee discomfort, but my wife kept going. She eventually reached Scouts Landing after Walter’s Wiggles. She turned back at that point due to the crowds waiting to get to the top.

Zion National Park from Angels Landing Trail

Day Three at Zion

On Day Three, we broke camp early, parked the truck, and hit up a few additional trails. First stop was the Weeping Rock Trail to see the natural spring that drips from the cliff face. Water slowly filters through the sandstone wall until it hits an impermeable layer of shale which forces it out the side. The water, which has been dated to 1200 years old, feeds the hanging gardens of ferns and moss before continuing in to the Virgin River

Weeping Rock at Zion National Park

After Weeping Rock, we took a quick hike up the Riverside Walk Trial to the entrance of The Narrows. The Narrows is another famous hike in Zion in which you can venture in the narrow slot canyon from which the Virgin River appears. The hike is seasonal and usually doesn’t open until very late spring and through the summer. The entire Narrows hike is about 16 miles, but most people opt for round trip of a much shorter distance. In the summer time when temps soar to 100 or more, this is popular as most of the hike is wet in the cool mountain runoff and the shade of the soaring canyon walls.

The Narrows trailhead

We then did the extremely short hike to the Patriarch observation point before leaving the park. We had a hotel room reserved for the third night in order to clean up and prep for our 16 hour drive home. In a fit of irony, after checking in and showering, the entire area lost power for about 2.5 hours.

I was disappointed in my attempt at Angels Landing and vow to conquer it the next time we visit. We also saved some hikes for future trips: Emerald Pool trails, Hidden Canyon Trail and the Observation Point Trail.

I Am The Iron Fist

First full trailer from Netflix for Iron Fist.

The story follows Danny Rand – Iron Fist – who is the only surviver of a plane crash that claimed the lives of his parents; billionaire owners of the Rand Enterprises. After the plane crash Danny Rand trained with martial arts masters. He returns to New York to claim his family’s holdings and clean out the corruption.

Set in the same Marvel universe with Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Punisher and Jessica Jones, they will combine for a joint series later this year: The Defenders.

All episodes of Iron First will be available March 17, 2017. Yes, Please.

Looking Towards 2017

Cue the New Year’s Resolution clichés.

I’m not much for them. I tend to take a look at my life and focus on the things that seem to be out of whack. I tend to take the “Do more of this, do less of that” approach rather than a “My resolution is to…”

In 2016 I took a serious look at my health and made some significant changes. And throughout most of the year I stuck with things, until a severe ankle sprain in late October has had me hobbling around the last couple of months. I lost a bunch of weight and will continue to do so in 2017.

I also rediscovered my love of the outdoors. I dusted off the old mountain bike and put quite a few miles on it, including some awesome group rides with friends.  In 2017 I’m going to do more of that and include some more outdoor adventures like camping, hiking and maybe a bikepacking trip.

I’m a firm advocate of the Maker Culture. Looking forward to the next year I’m going to actually work on more projects and spend less time cataloging, reading and hitting forums about potential projects. The key word in Maker is Make, not Collect.

Keep on reading. I’m two books short of a book a week in 2016. In the past, I’ve used that as a benchmark, but I’ve also added a lot more long-form journalism to my reading, which I think weighs the scales in my favor. I do want to start archiving the books I read somewhere on the site though. Right now I keep notes in my homegrown journaling system on my laptop (maybe a blog post one day?).

Career comfort level. Things are pretty comfortable. The younger me would probably chide me about the way things are. The older, responsible me tends to rely on the level of predictability. In reality, I should probably work myself closer to a middle view between those extremes. Predictability comes with the dull and monotonous. It can also lead to a pretty strong case of burnout if left unchecked. I do have a couple side businesses that could also use more attention from me. Those who know me well, know the struggles as we often talk of them and I find those conversations much more productive than a random blog post here and there.

I keep saying I’m going to do more blogging, and to that end I’ll keep trying. I have built out some sites in the last year that I use for professional reasons. Keeping those going does take a lot of content generation, so it isn’t like I don’t flex my writing muscles that often. I’ve also toyed with changing my primary domain for blogging away from sh2.com as sometimes I feel that comes with a bit of stigma for a bunch of reasons.

I’ve been unsocial on social lately and that isn’t by accident. I still love Twitter, but when we are still talking to each other and not when we are dropping links to our content marketing efforts (of which I’m also guilty). Facebook will probably be a casualty as I rebalance myself.

I also have a few things I want to investigate in 2017 such as:

  • Alternate methods of daily journaling (Bullet, BestSelf, Volt)
  • Meditation
  • Programming for mobile devices.
  • Photography & Video
  • More 30 Day Challenges
  • Float Tank
  • Bitcoin & other cryptocurrency

2017, I’ll see you in a few hours.

Year in Places – 2016 Edition

As the year draws to a close, it is time to recap my travels. This is an annual tradition going back a few years and the rules are simple: Catalog every city in which I spent at least one night.

2016 saw a record low for me in the 16 years I’ve been keeping track. While I didn’t move around a whole lot, I did have some seriously awesome travel experiences. A few days in Kansas City with my parents, my siblings and their families. A week in Breck with my wife’s side of the family. Capping it off was another trip to Disney World in October.

High quality relaxation time during a turbulent work environment.

Without further ado, my 2016 Year in Places (multiple trips indicated by an *):

  • Omaha* (home base)
  • Carroll, IA*
  • Kansas City, MO*
  • Scottsbluff, NE
  • Breckenridge, CO
  • Orlando, FL

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”
– Wendell Berry

Previously: 2013 | 2014 | 2015