Personal camera for Airborne Photographer (AP)

Started by edwardd20, May 04, 2012, 08:15:15 pm

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Eclipse

May 08, 2012, 05:59:25 pm #40 Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 06:14:38 pm by Eclipse
Quote from: bflynn on May 08, 2012, 05:47:19 pm
In this case, more expensive really does mean a better camera.


Yes it does, just not necessary to the mission.

NHQ issues HT radios that cost in excess of $1800 each, I have one.  It's heavy, eats batteries, and has a number of features I am unable to use and
will likely never be implemented.  It came with a single slot charger, no accessories, and the batteries tend to go bad if you look at them cross-eyed.

I own a personal Moto Visar.  It weighs about 1/2 the EFJ, came with 4 batteries, a 2-position charger, and a surveillance earpiece.  It costs me $75.

Both meet the mission mandate.



bflynn

I suppose it depends on what end result you want to achieve.  My goal is to wow my customer with the quality and clarity of the images we provide them so they want to use our services again and not hire the $4000 helicopter with the gimbaled photo pod.

Eclipse

Quote from: bflynn on May 08, 2012, 06:11:51 pm
I suppose it depends on what end result you want to achieve.  My goal is to wow my customer with the quality and clarity of the images we provide them so they want to use our services again and not hire the $4000 helicopter with the gimbaled photo pod.


Thank you for making my point.

Your mission is to ascertain the condition of the infrastructure you are photographing, not create works of art.  Once it is determined that the bridge is passable, the building not underwater, or where the edge of the flooding starts, those photos will not likely ever be looked at again.



bflynn

Quote from: Eclipse on May 08, 2012, 06:17:19 pm
Quote from: bflynn on May 08, 2012, 06:11:51 pm
I suppose it depends on what end result you want to achieve.  My goal is to wow my customer with the quality and clarity of the images we provide them so they want to use our services again and not hire the $4000 helicopter with the gimbaled photo pod.


Thank you for making my point.

Your mission is to ascertain the condition of the infrastructure you are photographing, not create works of art.  Once it is determined that the bridge is passable, the building not underwater, or where the edge of the flooding starts, those photos will not likely ever be looked at again.


You're stretching here.  Nobody is trying to create works of art, we're trying to create the most useful product for CAP's customer.

I see part of our mission is to wow our customers so they want to use us again.  Here in NC, EM made a choice last year to hire a commercial helicopter at $4000/hour because we could only deliver so-so photographs - because we don't have a lot of great photographers with good cameras.

This is the reality - if we deliver fuzzy pictures that show a house in a field, our customers will go elsewhere for aerial photography. 

NHQ says photography recon will be a primary mission for CAP in the future.  We cannot afford to do anything less than a superior job at it.  If we lose our customers to better pictures, we lose a primary mission.

Spaceman3750

Ed,

Yes, we only have one camera in the wing. If you or your unit need additional practice with it, you should be able to schedule it and bring it in (check with the DO/DOS I would assume). If you use a funded mission number (they're pretty straightforward to get), you can pick it up in an aircraft and don't even have to pay out-of-pocket to relocate it (I think we're going to do a photo recon sortie at our next aircrew training down here in group 9, among other things, and do exactly that). If we have a really big mission that requires more than one at a time, I suspect we would borrow from a neighboring wing. Again leveraging that handy fleet of Cessnas.

A good DSLR camera is just something I wouldn't shell out for, even if I was an AP.

Ryan

Eclipse

Quote from: bflynn on May 08, 2012, 06:27:29 pmThis is the reality - if we deliver fuzzy pictures that show a house in a field, our customers will go elsewhere for aerial photography. 

No one said anything about "fuzzy pictures".  If you are incapable of taking clear photos of building-sized objects from 1000ft, you don't belong
taking photos for CAP, regardless of the equipment.

How many actual sorties have you flown?  This again sounds like more theoretical assumption vs. real-world experience.  I've flown more than a few,
going back some 8-9 years, and my wing does more than their share of AP work, and I'm not aware of any time that a customer was unhappy with
correctly staged and capture photos simply because they were not "high enough quality".   As I said, in most cases our end-product is used during the emergency and then never referred to again.

Now, with that said, I, and my wing, have down a number of missions where we took photos that we knew were intended to be used in GIS systems,
large-format photographs, or for long-term reference, and in those cases we took steps to use higher-end equipment, but those situations are a small percentage of the mission work, which is usually "fly this route and get me 3-sided views of every overpass and bridge".

This business of commercial photography vs. CAP or "other" is a red herring - first, I don't buy it, and further to that, the number of agencies who would pay $4k an hour for a helicopter vs. using CAP for free approaches zero in the space we operate. 



denverpilot

Quote from: Eclipse on May 08, 2012, 07:13:10 pm
This business of commercial photography vs. CAP or "other" is a red herring - first, I don't buy it, and further to that, the number of agencies who would pay $4k an hour for a helicopter vs. using CAP for free approaches zero in the space we operate.


Two thoughts there:

- UAS's won't cost $4000/hr to operate. That stipulated...

- On some of our missions, depending on who's paying, there are anti-competition laws in place. If a private entity has the capability and CAP is engaged instead, the requesting agency can find themselves in political hot water later, if someone cares to make it an issue. CAP has to provide a resource that significantly differs from what the commercial company offers.

That second one isn't often brought up unless a political foe thinks they can make hay with an argument that a local "struggling" businessman was displaced by "government funded" flying (and they have to try real hard to avoid mentioning that it's a cost-savings or that we're volunteers or it can backfire politically I'm their faces), and gain votes -- typically a Sheriff's race.

As costs fall (rapidly) on UAS photo platform systems, I can see scenarios where fledgling UAS operators with "nothing to lose" will lodge protests with their favorite Congressional Representatives that their "new and amazing technology that's providing good jobs for Americans" is being threatened by a gaggle of volunteer photographers in USAF funded aircraft.

The overly-dramatic cries of, "We never had a chance!" will be heard somewhere around the time the UAS technology hits our price per flying hour breakpoint or just before.

We'd best be considering and communicating the differences only CAP can provide in an AP mission besides cost, because that gap will be closing in the next ten years.

Roughly 1/3 of the USAF aircraft inventory is UAS now. Once the FAA sets UAS rules for use in the NAS, AP is a huge target for downsizing of manned missions.

denverpilot

Aerial mapping UAS for $600.

http://www.suasnews.com/2012/05/15271/ready-to-fly-aerial-mapping-platform-599-99/

Not saying it'd replace 100% of what CAP AP can do, but they're only getting cheaper...

Captain Morgan

We use RoboGeo for processing and a Nikon D200.  Even though the camera can hook up to the camera, the only reason we would do that is for a backup.  If you use the data collected from an attached GPS, it does not record the direction field.  If you import the data from the GPS after the flight, the direction of travel is imported.  This allows RoboGeo to add 180 degrees to the direction to automatically report the direction of the picture.  The substantially decreases the workload of the Observer and automates the post-processing.
Having said that, you can use a wide variety of cameras and GPS's to accomplish the same task.  The issue at this point is the quality of the picture and the capability of the GPS to dump data that is compatable with RoboGeo.  Although ultimately members need to get their hands on the actual equipment, preliminary SDIS training and practice can be done with member owned cameras and GPS's, and even member owned computers if they spring for the reasonbly priced RoboGeo license.  You can also send SDIS crews out in vehicles for practice and training.
Many of our members own approriate cameras and hand-held GPS's.  In a pinch or an emergency situation, these can be used if everyone is trained up.
Don C. Morgan, Lt Col
AL3, AOBD, GTM3, IC3, IO, LO, MP, MSO
KY Wing Government Relations Officer
Blue Grass Senior Squadron ES Officer
Lexington, KY

edwardd20

Quote from: ShadowAP on May 08, 2012, 05:48:14 am
Solmeta Geotagger N3


I'd like to go back and ask a question. How does the N3 work inside the airplane? I found the GP1 didn't work because the wings blocked the GPS signal with the front seat (MO) being worse than the back seat (MS/AP).

ShadowAP

Quote from: Captain Morgan on May 12, 2012, 04:04:32 pm
If you use the data collected from an attached GPS, it does not record the direction field.  If you import the data from the GPS after the flight, the direction of travel is imported.  This allows RoboGeo to add 180 degrees to the direction to automatically report the direction of the picture.  The substantially decreases the workload of the Observer and automates the post-processing.


While it is true that the Nikon GPS-1 unit does not record headings, the direction field (Picture Heading), is recorded to the image EXIF data if an attached GPS unit does support this feature.  That is why I use a Solmeta GPS unit with my Nikon DSLR's and not the GPS-1 for this purpose.  The custom Excel worksheet that I created for CAWG takes this heading information from the GPS unit, corrects for the specified magnetic deviation for the area you were imaging and then also asks which seat position you were shooting from, (front right - Observer; rear left or right side Scanner/AP), this allows the software to then export the correct true heading of the camera lens.  We don't use RoboGeo here because we have the same functionality using the free Nikon View Nx2 software, our Excel template, and the CAP imaging software for watermarking the images.  The reason why recording the lens heading while imaging is important is the above stated goal of substantially decreasing the workload of the Observer which it does handily and automating the post-processing greatly.

ShadowAP

Quote from: edwardd20 on May 13, 2012, 02:54:01 pm
Quote from: ShadowAP on May 08, 2012, 05:48:14 am
Solmeta Geotagger N3


I'd like to go back and ask a question. How does the N3 work inside the airplane? I found the GP1 didn't work because the wings blocked the GPS signal with the front seat (MO) being worse than the back seat (MS/AP).


Actually my GPS unit works great and the suggestion of the wing placement causing interference often mentioned is usually really caused by a camera setting I've rarely seen taught in training materials other than my own that I use for my CAP AP classes.

With a Nikon DSLR using a GPS unit the GPS unit draws it power from the camera.  It only draws the power for the GPS while the cameras meter is active; and to acquire and hold the GPS lock the GPS needs power. 

The camera if left alone with the default settings will shut down the meter power several seconds after the shutter button has been depressed halfway in order to conserve the cameras battery. This is usually not enough time for the GPS unit to make its initial acquisition of a solid GPS lock, indicated by a solid green indicator light.  The GPS unit will also lose its GPS lock between shots due to the meter power shutting down between exposures if they are spaced apart and not in a rapid sequence.

To avoid this problem of the GPS losing its power there is a menu setting on the camera that needs to be set.  This optional setting only appears on the cameras setup menu when the GPS is physically connected to the camera body.

With the GPS connected to the body look in the Camera's Settings menu for GPS>Autometer Off.  Set this menu item to Disabled.  By camera default it will set to Enabled.  By setting this to disabled you are telling the camera to keep the camera meter powered on at all times, which will also feed power to the GPS continuously.

Doing this will also drain the camera battery faster than normal, so make sure you always keep a couple of charged spare batteries with the camera at all times.  To help reduce the effects of battery drain simply turn the camera completely off during periods of long inactivity, and turn it back on when you are in the target area.  When you are ready to use it again be sure to check for solid green GPS lock indicator on the GPS and solid non blinking GPS indicator on camera body.

The second alternative mentioned, (which probably won't help you in the current circumstances) is to not use the Nikon GP-1 for the GPS unit but rather acquire one of the third party units like the Solmeta Geotagger 3.  It has more features, newer tech with better signal acquisition and retention, and better battery management.  It also retails for less.  I only mention this for the sake of persons who do not have a GPS unit yet, but are looking for one.  Read the reviews.

Using my Solmeta GPS with my Nikon DSLR to prove the point I've shot GPS tagged images with it for classes inside of buildings numerous times with solid roofs over my head.  Most recently I took an image of CAP members indoors in the middle of a Red Robin Restaurant to demo the principle.   The most extreme example of this was shooting from the interior 2nd floor apartment of a 4 floor apartment building.  Granted it did take a few minutes to get the initial solid GPS lock in the apartment, but it did succeed and the GPS lock held once acquired.


edwardd20

Quote from: ShadowAP on May 14, 2012, 12:01:38 am
is usually really caused by a camera setting I've rarely seen taught in training materials other than my own that I use for my CAP AP classes.


This is great information. Thank you!