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Posted by on Jan 12, 2013 in Blog, Video

Castles by the Sea

Porchester Castle, Hampshire.

I seem to be on a bit of a castles mission at the moment, or at least the ones relatively close to me. Today was another windless wonder (that’s 2 in a row – almost unheard of!) so this time I was up and on it and down the coast  by 1.30, when the sun was already quite low in the sky, and was doing good shadows everywhere. It’s the first time we’ve seen the sun for ages, so I was damn well going to be out in it, doing stuff.

I was expecting to have some ‘access problems’ or ‘staff problems’ here, but neither transpired, there were no gates, or signs to say I couldn’t enter the public walkway outside the castle, and I was unchallenged for the entire time I was there. I couldn’t find any staff to ask for permission.  A  fair few local residents came along and were very interested and encouraging, and even helped me take some video at one point. Met some really nice people – will definitely be going back again.

Update: I will not necessarily be going back again. English Heritage have been in touch suggesting that I probably shouldn’t, which I interpret as ‘definitely can’t’.

It might be closed at ground level, but not from up here...

It might be closed at ground level, but less so from up here…

Too close for comfort ?

You might notice that at some points in most of my ‘specialist flights’ I do go quite close to stuff, and I am willing to directly overfly certain types of building, castles being one of them. This is not as reckless as it may appear.

Flying very close to something as you go over it means that in the very unlikely event that we have a mechanical fail, and the craft plummets, then it does so from a very short distance indeed, which minimises the chances of anything other than superficial damage to either building or craft, with a reasonable chance of zero damage to either, and maximises chances of recovery later. I imagine people are more inclined to give back a hexacopter you have erroneously landed on their roof than one that has descended at terminal velocity through it.  Today I had checked the castle itself was closed and empty of people before I started. This is definitely one advantage of British castles being closed all the time :)

Also, did some pre-flight planning, as happens quite a lot these days with new fly sites…

Pre-flight evaluation of risk zones and distances..

Pre-flight evaluation of risk zones and distances… toilets not marked, but I knew where they were.

Secondly, castles in particular are built of the sort of stone that has weathered everything Britain can throw at it since it was built, and I find it highly unlikely that my little 3 KG hexacopter could inflict anything more than superfluous scratch marks on a building of this fortitude and condition were it to fall on it. Remember it is built to withstand assault, and I am not trying to assault it.  In fact I am exercising extreme caution in an effort to avoid any contact between my craft and what I am filming – an ancient building that I appreciate and have respect for – indeed the whole reason I fly at these sorts of locations is so we can all share in their brilliance.

Another thing to note is that I will only attempt a close fly-over if I can observe the craft at 70-90 degrees to its forward trajectory AND have a clear onboard camera view on my field monitor.

The sort of walls you could accidentally fly into without feeling too guilty ?

These walls have seen some action over the years. Fortunately, I am only pointing a lens at them.

The castle is big and impressive, with a moat and everything, but not too big to be an insurmountable flight challenge, and I had the best time flying about in the 5 flights I got before it all had to stop thanks to yet another GoPro2 Fail.

No-show GoPro

This time it was reporting the 16GB card ‘Full’ and refusing to record anything else, yet when I get home and load the card I see I have 7.5GB free ! I am getting quite fed up with the unreliability of my GoPro2.

Not only that, but I compounded today’s video-compromising problems by choosing today to try inserting a large section of foam between the gimbal and the frame in an effort to decouple the micro-vibrations that were causing my blurred video yesterday. Unfortunately this had entirely the opposite effect, as I was not to discover until I got home and viewed the footage. The foam is now in the bin.

Quite big, very blue, and I don't want to land in it.

Quite big, very blue, and I’m fairly sure I don’t want to land in it.

And I will be going back to do this again. Fairly soon I would have thought. Unless it snows, in which case I’ll be distracted and do that instead.

Update: It did snow, and I was distracted.

This castle has a proper moat with water. You can't see it here.

This castle has a proper moat with water. You can’t see it here.

Sounds like the Nines…

Sound today is by someone I used to know in a band that doesn’t exist anymore, but it remains one of my favourite songs, and more people should hear it. It’s ‘In the Balance’ by The Nines, which as far as I know, isn’t available anywhere. I haven’t asked them, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind…

So, whilst the video might not be the best in the world, we can at least enjoy Daffydd Tavinor’s quality vocal, guitaring and songwriting.

See you next time…