Sorry it has taken me some time to put down a few words about the Adobe Photoshop World Conference in Atlanta and the Top Gun Flight School for Aerial Photographers. 

The summary is: "Successful, Educational, Fun, Challenging!". 
Setting up for the TopGun Flight School
Let's start with the travel to Atlanta. Mark and I both decided to bring a few "toys" to the workshop to display on the "Cool Toy Table". Of course Mark and I always pack our stuff carefully. Well, let's say I pack our stuff carefully. Especially when it comes to batteries (for traveling tips on batteries, read our Tip and Tricks). For some reason I always tend to attract the TSA's attention, while Mark slips through security like he is droplet of grease! But after a careful swap down of the Vision, the radio and the props, I was cleared to continue on. Again, this would happen on our return trip in Atlanta... taking Mark all but a couple of minutes while I keep getting searched. But packing the batteries safely and making sure that there are no tools left in your Phantom case is essential for no additional issues. 

Set-up for Flight School

Once we arrived at the convention center we checked in with with Adobe's Russell Brown, nicknamed Doc. Part of the team had been working hard all day in getting the conference ball room ready. The hung this amazing and very large backdrop of flying WWII bombers to the ceiling. And in front of it, they were just about to place 1/6th scale models of WWII fighter planes. 

Once done this would become the indoor object to photograph with the DJI Phantom Vision. But first, the new recruits had to first learn how to actually fly Phantoms. 

After a couple of hours of work we all decided it was time for some dinner and to finish everything on Monday morning before the Flight School workshop started. 

Top Gun Flight School

The Top Gun Aerial Photography Flight School workshop started at noon and the people who signed up started trickling in. They were all extremely excited - especially when they saw the awesome backdrop in the air and all the DJI Phantoms (original) and Visions lined up. DJI made sure we had 10 original Phantoms (for learning how to fly) and 10 Phantom Visions (for learning how to take aerial images) available and ready to fly. 

Then it was time to introduce the instructors. My call sign Captain "Sunburn". 
Thanks Adam Pass for taking this great group picture of all the instructors!

Flight Training

My group consisted of 7 new recruits; five men and two women. While I hoped for more women to come and learn, I was happy that I had at least two. At Photoshop World in Las Vegas I had five women in my class. 

For about 30 minutes we talked about safety and safe flying, introducing them to the DJI Phantom, explaining and discussing the functions of the Phantom. Then it was time to let them get some stick time. 

Because of the weather we were all inside. Being inside means that you do not get a enough or any GPS satellite signals and therefore, flying the Phantom becomes a little more challenging. 

If your Phantom picks up enough GPS satellites, it will not only remember its home-location, but when you fly and let go of the sticks, it will just stop and hover in place. But if you don't have that GPS lock, it will continue on its motion and so you will have to be ready to counter-act by giving input in the opposite direction to make it stop. 

The first few exercises were to really just get a feel for this. I was very pleased with my group as they did very well. And at the same time other groups had some spectacular and fun crashes around us. 

Flying the DJI Phantom is a lot of fun - even when you crash. It's a very sturdy machine and usually only the propellers get some damage. And that's easy to fix - you just unscrew the propeller and replace it with a new one. 

We did a good 3 hours of flying various exercises and during a break in the rain, I actually took my group to the park and introduced them to the DJI Phantom Vision. They were all amazed by how much easier it was to fly outside with the GPS lock. And they all did fantastic and graduated to be some great aerial pilots. 

Aerial Photography

Then it was time to use these new piloting skills to take aerial pictures. For that we went indoors again and used the WWII set-up we had put together the day before. The key here was to get your Phantom Vision into a good position and click the shutter button on your smart phone to take an image. Doing that indoors was challenging and most of my students opted for me flying the Vision and them giving me directions and then pressing the shutter button. 

It took about 15 minutes for each group to take their aerial pictures and then it was time to learn how to use Adobe Bridge, Camera Raw, Photoshop and Lightroom to make these images look great and create panos. 

Captain Doc (Russell Brown) and Captain Hollywood (Aaron Grimes) presented on various techniques for still and video projects. This part is always very beneficial even to us more seasoned pilots. You always pick-up a new way of adjusting your images. 
Mark had a very special function. He was responsible for keeping the fleet of DJI Phantoms and Visions flying, making quick fixes, exchanging broken props and prop guards. And when he did not have any repair work, he was there to show a variety of cool flying gadgets, FPV (First Person View) set-ups and tips and tricks to enhance your DJI Phantom. Mark is fantastic at doing this as he has so much technical knowledge and tried some cool toys and tools. Every break he gathered a very good crowed and answered their questions, concerns and showed them some of the equipment that we actually fly. 

Presenting at Adobe Photoshop World

The one and only "Doc" Russell Brown asked us to present at the Adobe booth and so we did two presentations there. This was a pretty big deal to me personally, because I love sharing my experiences with flying these incredible machines. 

Mark and I decided that our topic should be "Traveling the World with a Quadcopter". We wanted to put some focus on the possibilities of this technology and the fact that we believe DJI has changed the way we think of travel and vacation photography. 

We did not want to talk too much about Photoshop techniques because Aaron Grimes and Randy Jay Braun, two experts in video and image post-production, plus the Adobe pros Andrew Trice and the guru of all, Doc Russell Brown were also giving really informative instructions on how to create aerial panoramas and how to bring life into your images. 
To me there were a few highlights in Atlanta. Here are some and in no particular order: 

- Right before the Flight Training Workshop started one of the attendees came up and introduced himself telling me that he was very happy to finally meeting me and that he learned so much by following our adventures. This really made me feel good and started the session on a great note! 

- I had two female students in my class and they both, while nervous, did really great. The rest of the group also did extremely well, considering they had to learn indoors, which is much more difficult. At the end of the day, I was very pleased with their progress! 

- Some of my aerials (El Arco de Cabo San Lucas and Notre Dame de Paris) were printed out on an Epson on photo paper and canvas. They looked amazing and people actually asked for copies to frame and hang-up. 

Resources & Adobe Photoshop Presentations

Captain "Doc" Russell Brown's Adobe Photoshop tutorials are extremely helpful. If you want to learn about how to make a panorama, using tools to straighten the horizon and do color corrections, here are a variety of great tutorials. 

The one and only Mr. Randy Jay Braun shows us some of his great aerial work from Hawaii. Check out his reel here. Randy has also written a book about aerial photography, which is extremely helpful. Get his book "Aerial Drone Photography: Essential Methods with your Phantom Quadcopter" here.

Colin Smith with Photoshopcafe has additional excellent tutorials on how to make your images & movies looks great. Here are some techniques for PSW attendees. He also did a great Phantom Vision review with lots of helpful information

Andrew Trice's presentation is also very informative and has some great tips and techniques for post-production. Check it out here! 

As for me - I was excited, happy and honored to be presenting about Visual-Aerial's adventures "Traveling the World with a Quadcopter" and getting some of my images printed on canvas and large photo paper. What can I say, this stuff is just very cool and fun! 


04/16/2014 9:21am

Wish I was there - sounds like a lot of fun. What were the costs to signing up ? It sure would be a blast Captain Sunburn :) Where's your next one going to be at?

04/16/2014 8:38pm

Bari - it was a lot of fun. But honestly, for the instructors it's also a tag stressful. You are constantly ready to jump in and take over the radio. There were a handful of instances where I had to grab the radio and recover the machine. Of course I had given prior warning to my students that I might have to do that. I believe it was $45 for this workshop. Not sure if the next Photoshop World in Las Vegas will have another workshop like this. I sure hope so.

Patti Barrett
04/16/2014 11:07am

What a spectacular workshop. Attendees were so lucky to be instructed by the best in the business. So cool that they had so much hands on experiences. Along with that they learned some post production techniques. Looks like the perfect way to begin a wonderful new hobby. Well done.

04/16/2014 8:40pm

Thanks Patti - I think there are other amazing pilots who probably are way better than we are. But having done now two of these workshops, I myself have not only learned a few new things about flying (it always helps when you have to teach something, because you focus more on technique), but I certainly have come up with some good ways of teaching and explaining. It was fun and I honestly think I had the best group. :-)

04/16/2014 6:20pm

Excellent write-up, Romeo! I wish I could have been there. Looks like it was a lot of fun.

04/16/2014 8:43pm

It actually was a ton of fun. This was a great team and we worked really well together. While Vegas was a little "rusty" (it was the first time), Atlanta was really smooth. From getting fixes done, having batteries ready and charged and looking out for each other's Phantoms in the ball-room... several instructors grabbed another group's "stray-away" out of air before it hit a wall. Learning to fly indoors and then going outdoors after is the way to go. Their faces change completely once they realize how much easier it is to fly with GPS lock! That's so much fun to see.

04/17/2014 3:15pm

This was a lot of fun! Also great to see Romeo and Mark again, as well as all the crew

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