Choosing my Sierra Leone gear list was a difficult task. I wanted a balance between mobility and high quality.
What do I mean by that? I needed gear that was easy to transport but could still shoot great photos and video.
Sierra Leone Gear List
Before we travelled to Sierra Leone, I knew it would have to be light on gear. There was no way I would be casually getting a portable slider/ dolly in my flight bag. That was out of the question.
On previous trips, I have overcome this challenge by taking a steadicam with me.
This time on the Sierra Leone gear list, I wanted it to be functional and lightweight. This was going to be difficult.
FULL LIST OF GEAR AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE
In my bag is my favourite toy, the DJI Phantom 4 (Get it here).
This drone massively ticks those functional and lightweight boxes. Some drones are huge, this one is decent. It will still raise questions at airports. You’ll get the usual prompt to open the case and explain it’s contents. I found it much easier to describe it as a camera, until one airport security guard knew it was a drone… Fortunately, he was excited to see it. WIN 👍
Whilst the Phantom 4 does come with it’s own case, I would highly recommend getting an actual carry case as it much easier to sling a purpose built protective rucksack on your back. Best one I have seen so far is the Anbee Hard Shell (Link), but there is a cheaper alternative (here). That hard shell just gives you a bit more peace of mind knowing your drone is safe.
— Additional Note: I bought my DJI Phantom 4 with extra batteries. Trust me you’ll need them because once you fall in love with aerial photography/ filming you’ll want to keep going. Here’s an alternative bundle of the DJI Phantom 4 with extra batteries just in case (Link)
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I knew if I was going to stick to the functional and lightweight rule, it was going to be impossible to bring two cameras. One for photography, one for filming.
My first thought was “my Sony a7sii was going to be overkill” – and it’s not as robust as I would like it to be. Any dust on that mirrorless sensor and it’s game over. On this occasion I opted for the Canon 80D. A great mid-range DSLR. I knew from experience I could still get decent stills but also great video. But that’s not all.
I paired the Canon 80D body (link) with two lenses… and I spent a great deal of time justifying to myself, why these two:
Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4L IS II USM Lens – Black (link)
Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 EX DC HSM Lens for Canon* (link)
* That ‘Canon’ bit is important to make sure you have the correct mount for your camera.
With these two lenses I covered myself all the way from big wide shots at 10mm all the way up to capturing distant shots at 105mm. Anything beyond that I was just going to have to walk nearer.
Different tasks need different tools. For backup I always like to have a small compact camera on me for those occasions.
This time I took with me the ever reliable Canon G7x (link). I even shoot a good portion of my vlog series on the Canon G7x because it’s so functional and lightweight!!
A great alternative is the Sony RX100 iv (link) – only because it shoots 4k video and at 1000fps – YES, one-thousand frames per second!
Check out the vlog series here if you haven’t seen it yet.
It is not always possible to transport a stabiliser or steadicam. They are completely worth it, but not always practical.
Clearly I can’t leave it there. There is always a solution, and about one week before this trip, I found it.
DJI have their second entry on my Sierra Leone gear list. It’s the DJI Osmo Mobile (link). I’d known for a while there would be occasions where we would benefit from filming with some stabilisation, but how to achieve it had been playing on my mind.
I had come across the DJI Osmo (similar tech but more expensive – link), but once I heard there was one you could incorporate with your mobile device, I was sold. It meant I could shoot 4k stabilised footage on my iPhone, genius.
All the items mentioned in my Sierra Leone gear list are listed below on Amazon. I would be grateful if you are considering purchasing any of these items you use my affiliate links (below) as they help towards the cost of maintaining this website.
Whilst this has been a very specific look at my Sierra Leone gear list. Basically what I could squeeze in my bag at the time, here is a better look at my favourite gear I take with me on my adventures.
Instagram Spam or Insta-Spam, is the new unsolicited email. That notification on your phone has the potential to be your best friend asking you to make plans for Saturday night or it can be something much worse.
In June, Instagram was able to boast a user base of 500 million people with over 300 million using the platform every single day.
The platform has continued to grow in popularity and has some of the best engagement rates for marketeers in the industry. Simply Measured believes Instagram has engagement rates that are 15 times higher than Facebook and 20 higher than Twitter. This means what ever you are selling has to be on point when it comes to design, otherwise you’ll be ignored and not get that all important ‘double tap’.
The downside, as there is always one, is that high engagement rates means lots of opportunity for spam – and Instagram has it by the bucketload.
irrelevant or unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, typically to large numbers of users, for the purposes of advertising, phishing, spreading malware, etc.
Welcome to Instagram Spam
A while back, Instagram instigated the great purge of 2014 which saw lots of users lose followers (essentially spam or fake accounts), for instance Justin Bieber lost 3.5 million followers, and Instagram themselves lost 18.8 million.
… lost 3.5 million followers!!
That should give you an idea of the levels of spam on Instagram, and that was back in 2014, which would mean that of JB’s followers 4.2% were fictitious. Those volumes have either maintained or grown alongside the popularity of the site as spammers always find the next way of staying relevant.
Let me explain this
Instead of telling you, let me show you an example of Instagram spam overkill.
I post regularly to Instagram (cheeky plug) and use hashtags to promote visibility of my photos and to help show off those photos to people who might be interested. However, hashtags make you very visible to Instagram spam. Unsurprisingly spammers take full advantage of this and respond in full force.
Here is a photo I posted to the platform and fell prey to a world of Instagram Spam:
One post to Instagram, generated 73 comments – SEVENTY THREE!
And amazingly you’ll notice it only received 8 likes, which given the interest generated in the comments section, should have been higher. Of the eight likes, I actually know two of the accounts that liked my photo. On closer inspection of the other ‘likes’ on this photo, the remaining six likes are all from genuine accounts (aka not trying to sell anything).
Let’s look at how they got there in the first place. As I’ve mentioned, I use hashtags to help highlight my posts. Evidently hashtags have their uses to help other users discover my photos.
They are clearly the source of my Instagram spam. However I make use of hashtags everyday and on plenty of other photos on my Instagram account.
The difference was that I had never used this combination or theme (Friends) before. My thought process here is that the theme of ‘friends’ assumes you’ll be tagging your Instagram post with the accounts of your friends too, so what better way for a spam account to get reach than to target a photo that ensures their comments will be seen by you, your friends and friends of friends.
My Instagram Spam Solution?
To date this has worked.
I have begun creating my own hashtag lists, relevant to the subject of my photo. They are often a blend of subjects and therefore don’t tend to hit variant words, such as:
#friends #friendship #mates #besties #bffs
Until the next Instagram purge, we’ll have to live with the threat of Instagram spam, but it’s best you are aware of it next time your notifications go wild.
First question. Why would you want to edit 360 photos on your mobile?
Facebook have recently added the functionality to their mobile platform to upload and share 360 photos. This means you can share an immersive experience of your travels and friends.
What does it take
As it turns out, not much. Start with your 360 photo and upload via your mobile device. Facebook will recognise your 360 photo, and boom there it is:
To see the embedded 360 content, click through the above image
(opens in a new window)
Because I like to keep things simple, I shoot with the Theta S and edit 360 photos on an iPhone. This basically means I can take the image, edit and post it all from the same location.
Edit 360 photos on mobile
Recently Eric Cheng published a note on Facebook tackling how to edit 360 photos and consequently inject the missing metadata that is striped out during some editing processes. Eric’s process involves editing the 360 photos on photoshop.
However, I don’t always have the time to edit my photos in editing software like Photoshop, and like to edit on the fly using the powerful mobile apps that are available. So I started to explore what was possible in order to edit 360 photos on mobile.
In the Edit // Generally I will use VSCO on my mobile device to edit any photo. Why? Well it gets the basics right and has an easy interface to use on mobile.
I have found that you are able to edit 360 photos in VSCO, tweak all the elements you’d like to (similar to editing normal photos on Instagram). Bonus feature is you can export out at the original resolution, so it won’t try and re-format your photo for mobile in any way. And that’s important, as it preserves the metadata.
Why is metadata important? // Usually, metadata contains boring information about the device you captured the image on or even geo-location of where you took the photo. In the case of 360 photos it lets platforms such as Youtube and Facebook know this is a 360 photo and is displayed differently.
If that metadata is deleted from the image, as some processes strip it out, Youtube and Facebook are no longer able to tell if it is a 360 photo, hence why it is displayed as a strange looking regular image.
Fortunately, the process I have outlined above with VSCO, maintains the crucial metadata.
Upload to Facebook via the mobile app
Troubleshooting // The process isn’t perfect, but I have a solution which works with my set up.
When you reach the stage of uploading the image to Facebook via the mobile app, all being well, you will see the ‘360’ icon in the bottom right of your selected 360 photo (see image left).
If the exported image doesn’t display the ‘360’ icon, that means the metadata hasn’t been saved.
But worry not!
I was able to go back into the Theta S app on my phone, browse to my images in my camera roll, as if I was going to share my photo to Theta’s own 360 network (yes they have one).
At that point the image I select in the Theta S is recognised as a 360 photo. Exit the Theta S app.
Return to your Facebook app on your phone, re-select the 360 photo you wanted to share, and boom there it is.
Summary of the Process
Edit in VSCO
Export original resolution
Upload to Facebook via the mobile app (make sure the ‘360’ icon is displayed)
[OPTION] Open your 360 photo in Theta S app to ensure metadata is added to your photo
Sit back enjoy your beautiful 360 photo
If you’re interested in learning more about 360 photos on Facebook, and you definitely should.
Check out Facebook’s dedicated site to all things ‘Facebook 360‘. They helpfully break down how to upload and share your 360 photos and what devices you can get if you want to up your game.
Alternately, they have a Facebook Group where you can explore the work of other people sharing their experiences and 360 photos.
For more of my work on 360 photos, please follow me on Facebook.
Grange Park Opera Festival is one of the major music festivals in Europe’s operatic summer season.
Based in Hampshire, just seven miles outside of the historic town of Winchester, The Grange, one of the most celebrated neo-classical mansions in Britain, and owned by the family of John Baring, Lord Ashburton. English Heritage has a guardianship deed on the Grade I-listed building.
The season runs for seven weeks, with four productions that are staged in a 550-seat theatre (with red velvet seats from the old Covent Garden ) built within the 19th century orangery. To date, there have been some 53 productions, many of which have been acclaimed for superb singing, outstanding conducting and magnificent stage sets.
At the heart of the festival is a commitment to presenting both international and rising talent, introducing British audiences to little heard operas and bringing in a new audience to hear opera for the first time. To help develop the next generation’s love of opera, there are special schemes that give free tickets to young people and subsidised tickets for under 30s.
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