Thursday, March 19

Lashio in northeast Myanmar


It's been fine and sunny for the past few days but before that it was wet and windy – the sort of weather that makes you look ahead to future holidays and look back over past ones.
Here's a video from Myanmar taken in 2012. It is of Lashio in Shan State, in the north east of the country, a hundred or so kilometres from the Chinese border along the famous Burma Road. It's sbeen in the news recently because of clashes between the Myanmar army, the Tatmadaw, and local Kokang tribes (ethnic Han Chinese living in Burma in an area along the border with Burma). Many refugees from the fighting have gone to Lashio. The town also had clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in 2013. However when I was there it was a bustling city of about 130,000.
Things change, and not always for the better.

Monday, February 2

A drone's eye view of Nikao

It's been ages since I made a drone video.
I used to make a point of calling my Phantom a 'quadcopter' because some folk objected to the word 'drone'. They thought everyone equated them to the Predators used to bomb people in Afganistan and Pakistan. And elsewhere.
So 'quadcopter' was OK. Also UAV which if you've got one you might remember means unmanned aerial vehicle but is just jargon to most people.
Well, I've now decided to ignore those folk and call my little machine a drone as the many thousands of people all over the world who got one for Christmas are undoubtedly doing.
My drone is a Phantom 1 and I'm not particularly interested in the flying side of things; it's more of a flying tripod (quadpod?).
I added prop guards when I first got it, for protection when flying into trees and bushes (necessary, believe  me) and more recently a gimbal to help steady the camera while the drone was flying. That made it a bit heavy and shortened the flying time so I got some gruntier batteries, removed the prop guards and added slightly bigger props. I've now got a longer flight time.
Unlike more recent (more expensive) drones I can't see what I'm filming until I get it back to the computer but I like editing anyway.
What I need now is some decent weather. Had a few good days a couple of weeks ago but we've had strong winds, heavy downpours and even the occasional thunderstorm since then. This is good for filling the water intakes and relieving the previous drought conditions but not much use for drone video.
Anyway, here's a short drone video of the Nikao area taken on a couple of days when I thought there wasn't much wind.
It turned out that although it was calm where I was standing, higher up and further away it was quite gusty. You can see that from the smoke trail in some sections of video. The drone got caught by the wind, spun around a couple of times and then drifted behind some trees. I don't fly it beyond line-of-sight but when it's high up it's a small white blob against a light background of sky and it hard (make that impossible) to see what it's actually doing. Thought I'd lost it but there's a failsafe switch on the controller and a couple of minutes after flicking it on I heard the sewing-machine sound of my Phantom heading home. Whew!
I could see from the video that the wind caused quite a bit of vibration but I flew it again next day and everything worked well.
No more flying since then because of the wind, but it looks as though the weather's improving so maybe I'll get a chance to fly again soon.

Wednesday, January 21

New Year Concert sets the tone for 2015

2015 is going to be a big year for the Cook Islands as it marks the 50th anniversary of internal self governance. There will undoubtedly be lots of parties and celebrations and Motone Productions got things off to a great start with a family-friendly concert at Nukupure Park (aka Ngatangiia sports field) on New Year's Day. Even the weather played its part in what turned out to be a wonderful occasion. We'd had seven days of rain from Christmas Day to New Year's Eve but January 1 was fine and sunny, well, for most of the day.
Cook Islands News estimated the crowd at 'Tarekareka - our people, our music' to be about 800 at its peak and local talent lined up to entertain them all.
This video includes popular trio Island Groove; Arorangi gospel singers The Boys of Harmony with our new star Ridge Ponini who later treated the audience to some more operatic items first with his cousin then with Kiwi-Cookie Bonaventure Allan-Moetaua; and finally the Triggerfish duo of Kura Happ and Mo Newport.
The concert also included the Takitumu drummers, Kahiki and special guest stars from New Zealand Annie Crummer and her father Will Crummer with his band the Royal Rarotongans.
A fireworks display ended the evening and even the rain during the latter part of the show didn't spoil the event.
More about the concert on the CINews website.
Incidentally, Ridge Ponini has been accepted by Otago University Department of Music to study opera starting this year. Unfortunately he wasn't able to get scholarship funding for his first year, possibly because it was a late application or maybe because the Cook Islands education department aren't interested on opera.
Hope he has better luck next year.