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A New Perspective | Soaring Over the Sierra #2

There's no denying it - I'm getting older. Sure, there are the little things - injuries take a bit longer to heal, there's more than a bit of gray hair on my body, and I find myself saying things like, "I remember when candy bars used to cost 45¢." But surely the biggest indicator of my age is my resistance to change - a trait that I've called my own since I was twelve.

Anyway, I'm that guy who is constantly looking to fix things that are broken. To make things I've come to love last just a little longer. I'm the guy who found his favorite Mexican restaurant 27 years ago in a small central California town and hasn't looked back.

Seriously though, the food really is that good.

I'm also the guy who keeps writing down stories and publishing "still videos," when everyone else has moved on to InstaTube and TokTics. The guy who goes "car camping." The guy who hasn't tried to score sponsorships to enjoy the outdoors. I can assure you, @mini.turbodb thinks I'm crazy. And old. She assures me that "#" is pronounced "hashtag" and not "pound sign."

That doesn't mean I can't change. And I'm here to prove that with a video* that shows just how modern I've become.

* This video animates on demand (as you scroll), with always on closed captions (that I've previously heard referred to as paragraphs).

Now, on to the story. Err, ahh, "video."

I've been waiting a long time for this...

When the DJI Air 2S was released two years ago, I knew I wanted the Air 3S. That still doesn't exist, so I've "settled" for the Air 3!

For a long time, I've wanted to get a drone. This won't be the story where I go into the details about what I wanted in a flying camera, or how I actually made the decision to purchase one - though I'll certainly put one together for that as well. Rather, this was the first time I was able to use my new DJI Air 3 drone in the real world, and I was thrilled with the new perspective that it offered on a place that previously felt so well-known, especially to my Dad.

If you recognize any of the places shown in the photos, please help to keep them special by not mentioning their names or locations.

Maiden Voyage

Technically the second flight - I was too nervous to capture anything worthwhile on the first - I sent the drone to scope out Lost Knife Knoll a few minutes before Pops and I headed out on our hike. The only problem - or at least, the biggest one - was that I hadn't figured out how to increase the max altitude, so I couldn't actually fly high enough to get a view from above the ridge.

#winning (that's pronounced "pound sign winning" )

Still, I did get some pretty nice shots of a few other nearby formations.

Sleeping Bear, using the 1x (24mm) lens.

And with the 3x (70mm) lens.

Looking out over Tip of the Spear, being above the ridge gives a new look at ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  Dome.

A familiar view, with a lot less hiking.

Hiking with the Air 3

With Pops carrying our sandwiches, I loaded up all my normal camera gear and quickly realized that bringing the drone meant doubling my load out. This was one of the things I was a little worried about with the Air 3 which weighs in at 720 grams. However, I soon realized that the remote and batteries quickly dwarfed the weight of the drone itself, so once I get a larger fanny pack, I should be just fine from a weight perspective.

At least when someone else is around to carry my sandwich.

It was really nice to get this perspective of Pops and I at Lost Knife Knoll.

When I figured out how to take a panorama - where the drone does all the heavy lifting - I was pretty jazzed.

Straight down.

Having figured out the "straight down" shot, I headed over to the bridge we'd crossed on our way up the mountain.

Granite chute.

Green river. Crystal clear.

Flying at Sunset

I was really looking forward to flying out to ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  Dome to capture near-vertical faces of this omni-present landmark. Of course, I was also scared $#!#less that I'd lose the drone somewhere along the way, its recovery impossible given the terrain.

Naturally then, I decided to attempt the three-mile (17,700 foot) flight at sunset, when the lighting would be fantastic and the risk of crashing into an obstacle would be at its highest.

From a distance, I already felt closer.

I liked the foreground separation with the 70mm (3x) lens.

Still a mile from the dome, this was a view we'd never experienced before.

Amazing light as the Air 3 warned me that "ambient light levels are too low for obstacle avoidance to work correctly." Time to head home.

Sleeping Bear silhouette.

Looking back towards "home."

I loved the ability to press one button and have the drone return to the exact location where it'd launched.

The Remaining Flights

With the first flight to ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  Dome cut short by the pilot's nerves, I spent the next couple days getting more comfortable with long distances. After all, these were near-perfect conditions with line-of-sight between the drone and controller, and DJI promised a 20km range. Certainly they'd never inflate stats such as that. Plus, I'd bought the insurance, so I might as well fly like I had.

The Castle, usually only visible from below.

Sleeping Bear, the aerial view.

Sleeping Bear, viewed from the head, rather than the feet.

Like an iceberg, 90% of ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮  Dome, is rarely seen!

Looks land-able. (I didn't have the guts to do it.)


Trees around camp are looking a little sparse!

Behind Little Bear, our Dome seems so... small.

Lost Knife Knoll.

So much to learn

I have to say, it was a ton of fun flying this thing around, even if all I did was take un-animated GIFs. If I learned one thing, it was that really mastering this new flying camera will take a lot of practice, especially if I ever want to actually shoot video. Flying the drone and controlling the camera gimble at the same time is an art, especially if one wants to end up with a pleasing result.

That said, I'm a stubborn one, so I'm sure I'll figure out a way to muddle through it eventually. Until then, get ready for mediocre-at-best content - you know, the norm.



The Whole Story


  1. sk
    sk October 18, 2023

    so what is the mexican place?

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 18, 2023

      Oh man, it's sooooo good. I mentioned it in the previous story for this trip as well. It's La Morenita in Turlock, CA.

      There are other La Morenita restaurants in the central valley, though no others in Turlock AFAIK. It is not a chain. 😉

      • Scott Kelley
        Scott Kelley October 18, 2023


      • Greg von Buchau
        Greg von Buchau October 21, 2023

        Turlock! Ugh! Native Californian here. Never thought I’d go to Turlock, but on your recommendation I just might.

        • turbodb
          turbodb October 21, 2023


          There are lots of good things that come from the central valley. It's just that you have to hold your nose as you pass through. Or, have the overwhelmingly delicious smell of Mexican food wafting up from the plate in front of you!

          I really hope I'm not overselling this. I can say that I was introduced to this restaurant when I was in college, and I've only ever eaten one thing on the menu. (More than a hundred times.)

          #2 (Quesadilla Supreme) with chili verde (pork)

          And, personally I love the chips and cabbage salsa, but the "normal" red salsa isn't bad either.

          • Greg
            Greg October 21, 2023

            Next time I’m going down through the Valley I’ll give it a try in good old Turdlock.
            And BTW. Your drone shots are really outstanding.
            Just finished a couple of days at Medicine Lake near Shasta. At least 30 fish from my float tube.

  2. Nate Zavaleta
    Nate Zavaleta October 18, 2023

    Have you ever ventured into Baja?
    Made this video from a trip last year... Always practicing with the drone. Love your content!

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 18, 2023

      Never been to Baja, but I'll surely get down there some day. Looks like you all had a great time down there!

  3. T o m
    T o m October 19, 2023

    Funny, I use my drone to primarialy take stills and refer to it as a flying camera as well.

    Nice shots, you have me wanting to upgrade from my now six year old Mavic Pro.

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 19, 2023

      Hahaha, great minds Tom! 😉

      Only a few weeks after I got the Air 3, DJI released the Mini 4. Seems like a pretty nice drone in an even smaller package, so definitely worth considering; would have been a hard choice for me - essentially deciding between small size and 70mm lens. Even now, I'm not sure which I'd have choosen.

      • T o m
        T o m October 19, 2023

        I've been toying around with the idea of upgrading, but for what I am using mine for I'm going to wait until I lose it on the top of a butte or something.

        Next time I am going to get the insurance so I don't worry as much when flying it far off.

  4. William Rambo
    William Rambo October 19, 2023

    That drone takes really great shots. Looking forward to more from you!

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 19, 2023

      Thanks Bill! Definitely a fun new toy to play around with. Hopefully I get more confident in flying it, and can streamline the process of getting it in/out of the air so it's not such a time consuming process. Then it could become a really useful tool!

  5. Jim Michael Battagin
    Jim Michael Battagin October 19, 2023

    I especially liked that shot of Lost Knife Knoll...what a great and different perspective.

    JOHN D MORAN October 19, 2023

    Very nice drone photos but I see it does come with a price. The drone photos definitely add a lot to the stories and make it easier to get some good perspectives without a lot of heavy lifting/hiking. I've seen a number of photos of the dome but ones taken by drone really give a better view of it. Thanks for entertaining us with another great outing. And thanks for sharing La Morenita. We hope to get up the way eventually and will certainly try it when we do.

    • turbodb
      turbodb October 21, 2023

      Thanks John! It's definitely going to be a fun tool to learn how to use - like any new piece of camera equipment, I suppose!

      I just mentioned this in a comment above, but I really hope I'm not overselling the food. I can say that I was introduced to this restaurant when I was in college, and I've only ever eaten one thing on the menu. (More than a hundred times.)

      #2 (Quesadilla Supreme) with chili verde (pork)

      And, personally I love the chips and cabbage salsa, but the "normal" red salsa isn't bad either.

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