My first drone - DJI Spark

If you haven't noticed a lot more aerial footage on social media these days then you must be living under a rock! 

I recently joined the drone craze myself, after talking about it for months! I was constantly grilling a workmate about his DJI Mavic Pro, and one day he mentioned that DJI were going to release a new, smaller drone. I researched the Spark and found that it had everything I was after - a small, portable drone with good specs for its size - perfect for a beginner like myself. 

 My first aerial photo, unedited -  Snells Beach

My first aerial photo, unedited - Snells Beach

The main reason I went with the Spark over the Mavic Pro, in the end, was the price tag. In New Zealand, the Spark alone sells for around $900 and the Mavic Pro for about $1800, and then you can get combos for a few hundred more each. I paid $1299 for the Spark Fly More bundle, which includes the drone, remote, spare battery, propellors and guards, and a charging hub.  

 Me and my DJI Spark

Me and my DJI Spark

I don't really know a lot about technical specs, but I know the Spark offers pretty much all I need to take cool photos and decent quality videos. The camera lens is 12 megapixels with a 1/2.3 inch sensor and the video is 1920x1080, which is fine because I'm only using it for a hobby. The camera is on a 2 axis gimbal so the footage remains stable when flying. It does take a little bit longer to stabilize when in Sports mode, however.

It has some cool features that I'm just getting the hang of. There's Active Tracking, which is great for following a moving object which remaining smooth and steady. A big selling point, which I haven't really mastered yet, is the Hand Gesture setting. I have managed to get it to follow my hand side to side once, but I haven't mastered the "dronie" - you gesture for it to take a selfie. I should probably read the instructions a bit more, so that's probably just as much my own fault. 

My favourite thing about it is that I can launch it from my palm! Yes, it would be just as easy to place it on the ground to launch, but it comes in handy if the ground is uneven or wet. I like to think of myself as the Mother of Drones. Anyway...

 Landing my DJI Spark in the palm of my hand -  Kitekite Falls

Landing my DJI Spark in the palm of my hand - Kitekite Falls

The short fly time is definitely one of the negatives I've found so far - the maximum it'll do is 16 mins, which is enough to do a fair bit of filming somewhere, but if I want to shoot a second location in one outing I'll need to make sure my spare battery is charged.

 Aerial shot of Okura Reserve, unedited

Aerial shot of Okura Reserve, unedited

Also, often the video signal drops out and once I had the whole aircraft disconnect when it was out at the beach, around the rocks and out of sight. When that happened, I wasn't sure if I had any control over it or not, or whether it still had its Obstacle Avoidance on so I just pushed the joystick to fly it upwards, and prayed to God it would appear over the top of everything rather than fly into it when it "returned to home". Luckily it did, and once it was in sight I let the GPS guide it back to me. 

 Te Arai point, unedited

Te Arai point, unedited

Overall, the DJI Spark is a neat little toy, and it does everything a part-time blogger like myself needs. If you are looking at getting a drone for professional use you might want to look at something with better specs from DJI but if not, then the DJI Spark is a great option. 

Have you got a drone? Any advice?

How to start a blog

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to start a blog, I'd have about $3. But if I had a dollar for every time someone asked Google how to start a blog, I'd be a millionaire. Literally!

So, after those three people asked me how to start a blog, I got to thinking; surely this would make a good blog post! I'm so passionate about blogging, why not share the love with others who are looking at getting into it too?! 

I have years of blogging experience, from starting and running a blog to working for a blogging agency and several companies who have worked with bloggers. I have also done countless hours of my research on it for my own purpose, and I want to share what I have learnt with others who are keen.

If you're looking for tips on how to start a blog, right from scratch, then this is a good place to start. If you already have a blog, stay tuned for further advice :)

Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started:

1. Pick a name

For me this was one of the hardest steps, and probably why it took me weeks to start my blog in the first place. There was more than one occasion I gave those "random name generators" a go, I'm ashamed to admit. You kinda need to do this first so you can sort out your URL, but you can always change it later on. 

You're not stuck with your blog name, but try and pick one that you're really happy with as it can be a hassle to change later on, and you want your audience to be able to remember you and find you easily. 

When choosing a blog name, keep in mind that you want people to remember it easily and be able to find it on social etc, but you also may want to make it obvious what your blog is about. My friend is beautylust.co.nz, it's pretty clear that her blog is going to be about beauty, and because she bought a local domain (.co.nz), it's easy for other New Zealanders to identify that her content will be relevant to them. Mine, on the other hand, is perhaps less obvious than many other names, but I think it has a certain ring to it. Plus, I hate alliteration. 

There's no hard and fast rule around names, so it's up to you whether you want to choose one that's memorable, unique, quirky or whatever else. If you're uncertain, think on it for a week and see if you still like it.

2. Choose a platform

If you just want to try this blogging thing on for size, start with a free site on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. These allow you to get up and running with the basics, but your URL will be www. your name .wordpress.com or www. your name .blogspot.com. It's not too hard to move up later on, but I'm incredibly lazy so just went straight in and bought a Squarespace site after my old blog with Wordpress fell through.

If you want to commit to a blog for the long run, I would suggest you get a site with Wordpress.org or Squarespace.com. With Wordpress, you are able to do heaps of customisation and there a plenty of things called plug-ins and widgets which help you improve your site. The downside I found, is that it takes a fair bit of research into all these different things, and then you have to find a good host for your site (the easiest way I found to think about hosting is to imagine that they're your landlord, but for the internet instead of a house) and you will have to buy your domain name yourself. Squarespace also gives you heaps of freedom but those last two things are done for you once you've signed up and started paying. 

3. Find your style

I personally find this one really important, trying to decide the look and feel of your blog. When I worked for a blogging agency I would wince every time I came across an ugly blog. Maybe that sounds superficial, but people have short attention spans these days and you want to give a potential reader every incentive to stick around and read your content.

As in so many situations in life, your first impression is very important. 

Wordpress have heaps of options for free "themes" that you can choose for your blog, or you have the choice to pay for better ones when you want a bit more flexibility and options. Squarespace give you access to all its "templates" which I think are stunning and give you heaps of flexibility to edit. Wordpress also have nice ones too but the free ones aren't as good and there are literally hundreds to choose from, which can be draining! 

3. Decide which social media channels will work for you and get your handles ASAP

How to start a blog Instagram

I will do another post about how to choose the channels that are best for you, but consider what you think you can keep up with and what will benefit your blog and brand. Sometimes less is more, especially if you don't have time to dedicate to running them. My main ones are Facebook and Instagram, but I focus mostly on my Instagram as I'm quite visual and I love the simplicity of it. 

Social media is a great way to get eyeballs on your site. There's also SEO which is paramount to your site's visibility with search engines, but baby steps for now. Social media is a good place to start as most people are already pretty fluent in it, or at least proficient enough to get their friends and family to notice them. 

Once you have your blog name it's a good idea to lock in your social accounts to ensure you get the handles you want. 

4. Think about who you are and who you are talking to

This will also get you thinking about what you want to achieve with your blog. Are you writing to fellow travellers to inspire their journeys? Are you creating a blog to house extra information about makeup, that you think would compliment your beauty vlogging? Do you want to provide other parents with helpful reviews of baby food?

I used to have a blog that I classed as "fashion, beauty and lifestyle", because I worked for a fashion event in New Zealand, but I actually don't love fashion that much, and I certainly don't have the best sense of style around. I didn't particularly enjoy it, and I had no idea who I was creating content for; if I didn't love my content, why would anyone else? So, it was no surprise when I lost interest and it fizzled out. I still cringe when I think about it! 

Don't forget to get a clear idea of yourself and why you are blogging. There are thousands of blogs out there, so what makes your one unique and valuable to a potential reader?  

5. Start writing

Once you've got your blog up and running, you could spend hours stressing over little details and getting everything perfect, but don't let that distract you from what you're really here for. Just start writing. There's no point having a fancy new website to show your friends if there's nothing on it!

Spend a good few hours coming up with headlines and potential topics that will get you going, and then work from there. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started. 

You started this blog for a reason, time to let the world know what that is! 

Images: Unsplash