Day 169 – New camera

Not a fancy Canon or Sony or whatever. Just the lens and sensor from my Mavic drone.

Well, I say “just”, but it’s quite a big thing for me to get it replaced.

I think I might have mentioned on here that there was a bit of an issue with the old one: there seemed to be some delamination under the front lens cover and that made the images smeary and yellow. It was evident in the top image that I shared on this post – despite my best efforts with the editing software.

The photo was taken at the beginning of the year and gradually, the problem got worse until I had two choices: stop taking photos with my drone or buy a new drone.

Actually, I was forced into the first one – the distortion and discolouration became too much to overcome with Lightroom. I mean – just look at this:

Ugh.

And I seriously considered the second choice as well; but then the virus happened and – having a bit of extra time on my hands – I looked at the price of a new drone.

Wow. Ouch. Eina. Lawd!

And while the new drones have a few extra features here and there and yes, they are HIGHLY desirable, in all honesty there was only one issue with my current drone. So instead, I looked into getting a camera replacement done. It seemed possible, but no-one was at work at any of the repair places during lockdown because they’re not classed as “essential services”.

Unless of course you want your drone camera replaced.
In which case they are quite literally the dictionary definition of “essential”.

Fast forward to this week and I finally bit the bullet and got round to taking Florence to Fixology in Sea Point, who sorted it within an hour while I walked on the Promenade:

Yes, rather expensive (the camera replacement, not the wander on the Prom), but not outrageous and better than having an otherwise lovely piece of precision technology sitting on your desk doing nothing.

Anyway, it was a bit breezy last night, but I did have a low level test flight around the garden and the images from the camera look spot on (as they should).

With plans for the next couple of weekends, I’m rejuvenated and looking forward to getting some decent footage and images of activities and landscapes.

Watch this space.

Day 21 – Mildly delayed

I have been trying to get these daily posts out at 8am, but this one is slightly late.
I’m pretty sure that no-one will notice – is there really anyone frantically hitting refresh at 7:59, like they’re hoping to be the first in line for concert tickets on some underprepared concert ticket website that will then crash 10 seconds later?

Remember going to concerts?
That was fun, wasn’t it?

Anyway. I digress. Often.

Yesterday was a flat, dull, calm, grey day. Horrible for photography, but great for taking the drone up for the first time in ages and having a quick spin out of the back garden. It needs some work on the camera (the drone, not the back garden): the lens plate is slightly damaged, but apparently fixing that is not an essential service, so it’s not going to happen for a while yet. So I was left having to do a  little bit of fiddling in Lightroom, which did at least give me a different image for my photo-a-day Lockdown album on Flickr.

And then, after a quick rain shower, and just as it seemed that all hope of any colour was lost, a watery peach sunset, which I togged from the top of the braai chimney while the braai was in use.

I would not advise this approach.

This photo really is nothing special, but as a symbol of hope and optimism after a miserable grey day, it’s still nothing special.

Today is also grey. Hold tight for the sunset.

The Suiderstrand Fire

Around lunchtime on December the 22nd, a veldfire ignited near the parking lot in Suiderstrand. With the southeaster blowing hard, the fire quickly spread and within half an hour, one building was completely destroyed. If it weren’t for the quick reactions of the Working On Fire helicopter from Bredasdorp, it could have been a lot, lot worse.

We weren’t down here then, as we were spending Christmas with family in Cape Town, and it took a while before the panicky messages on the whatsapp groups – in Afrikaans, nogal – began to make sense and I finally worked out that our place was not in immediate danger. It was a horrible few minutes. The point of ignition was only 100m from our front door, and had the fire started 24 hours before, it would have been blown directly towards our place.

The wind has been pumping since we arrived down here, and it was only yesterday morning that I managed to get the drone up to survey the scene from above and see just how lucky some houses were to escape serious harm.

There are plenty of melted gutters and lots of damaged paintwork, but nothing that can’t be repaired after the festive break. Not so much for the burnt-out home though. It’s a sad and sobering sight.

If one is looking for positives – and at this time of year, one should always have a glass half full – it was that this was the only casualty, and that no-one was injured or killed in the fire.

The village reacted well, with plenty of people on hand to assist where possible and great communication. And we’ve all renewed our knowledge of evacuation procedures and emergency numbers, which is never a bad thing.

We just hope we never have to use them.

The water crisis is not over for everyone

More rain today in Cape Town. To be honest, we could all do with some summer now, but any complaints are tempered by the still very fresh memories of the recent drought.

Our dams are now up to 84.5% full, an incredible recovery from the time of that visit to Theewaterskloof just 20 months ago. Amazingly, Theewaterskloof itself cracked the 75% milestone this week. With all this good news, it would be reasonable to think that we were all in the clear now. And Cape Town pretty much is: for the moment at least.

It’s a different story just up the road though. I drove out to Montagu this week, where there hasn’t been any significant rainfall in 4 years. Much of the local economy is reliant on farming, and farming is reliant on water.

There is no water.

It’s hardly rocket surgery to work out implications of this situation. If farms can’t farm, there’s no money to spend locally, there’s no money to employ workers. Thus GDP drops, unemployment rises, poverty rises and brings with it increased drug/alcohol use, and with that, increased crime and health problems.

I was lucky enough to visit the Poortjieskloof Dam on the (currently misnamed) Grootrivier. Poortjieskloof supplies several of the farms in the area and has a capacity of 9.4million m³. That’s about one third the size of the Steenbras Upper dam that you drive over at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass. i.e. it’s big.

It’s also almost completely empty.

The water that you can see there is little more than a metre deep, well below even the bottom of three outlet points on the dam wall. When full, it should be 33m deep, but even the lowest of the depth markers (4m) on the bank is way above the water level. It’s a shocking sight, and a reminder that we live in an urban-orientated, insular news bubble. While we are celebrating our deliverance from the infamous Day Zero, this dam – literally just 100km from Theewaterskloof – is on its last legs, along with the local community which depends so heavily upon it.

While I do understand that the climate is changing, I’m also aware that that is what climates do, and the amount of hype in the media leaves me cold. I’ve seen enough good science being manipulated to sell papers and get website clicks to just willingly believe everything I read. However, that said, if one takes this as an example of the implications of prolonged drought and its effect on a small community, extrapolation to a city the size of Cape Town is frankly terrifying. Whether or not you think that there is any anthropogenic effect on the climate is almost immaterial. The fact is that we’re clearly unable to deal with any robust change in our environment.

However, it’s not all bad news in this particular case. While I was visiting one of the local farms, their 170m deep borehole was completed and yielded its first water, which will hopefully at least allow them to save their trees in preparation for next year’s crop. This year has been a write off. Add the cost of drilling and pumping from a borehole onto a season with literally no income and you can see the desperate state that things are in.

I’m looking forward to going back and seeing healthier farms, a healthier local economy and happier faces next year. As for Poortjieskloof – that will require literally years and years of above average rainfall to get back to any significant level. And that seems very unlikely to happen at this stage.

Giving me ideas

It’s time to register to fly your drone if you want to use it in the UK.

It’s because they’re nuts about Health and Safety there, and they want to prevent things like this.

I don’t have to register, but if I want to fly over there in the future, then I will have to register. It costs 9 quid a year and you have to score 80% or above in a 20 question multiple choice test.

There’s also a list of do’s and don’ts  on the site, including this one:

A person must not cause or permit any article or animal (whether or not attached to a parachute) to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft so as to endanger persons or property.

Of course, these are the rules for the UK, so they don’t necessarily apply here in SA.

All of which is giving me ideas for some fun with next door’s gerbil (whether or not attached to a parachute).

Hmm.