Andrew was enthusiastic when he heard I’d made my first video using footage from a drone, so he wanted to watch it. After seeing the three-and-a-half-minute video, he was gushing about how cool it was. But he wanted to know how to make such a video himself.
“How do you do it?” he asked. “Do they just have a button and it flies around and decides what to shoot for itself? Is that music just added automatically?”
The questions were shockingly ignorant. I was offended. Just a little. He thought I just pushed a button? He thought the drone did the work? He didn’t think I struggled to make this? He thought it was easy?
Let me back up.
About six months ago, the real estate company where I work bought a drone for me to learn to use. It seemed as though it would be fun and we could use it for high-end property listings. I fooled around with it for a few weeks, but then I got busy doing other things. I hadn’t touched it for four months.
Then one of our agents got a property listing and the broker suggested it would be a great opportunity to try out the drone. Since we had spent $550 on the thing — and I’d agreed to learn to use it — I didn’t feel any choice but to agree. But I knew I wasn’t ready.
You see, I had studied extensively about how to fly the thing. I had studied the principles of using the various confusing controls while also trying to control the direction and framing of the camera. The few times when I had tried it, I had felt intimidated and over my head. (No pun intended.) The results I’d gotten weren’t great. I regretted ever having agreed to learn to use the thing. It was a lot harder than I’d imagined.
For the last four months, I’ve found excuses to leave that DJI Phantom 3 Standard sitting in its box. I’ve been busy, but the truth is that I was mostly intimidated. I had learned that it was difficult — and I’m terrified of not doing a thing well and looking foolish. So the drone sat there.
But I ran out of excuses Monday. When the weather cleared enough, the agent and I drove to a remote location — 50 miles from the office — for me to shoot aerial video of this 25-acre tract of land.
I knew I could get the drone into the air, but I was afraid of losing it by flying too close to trees or by not noticing an altitude change as a hill started. And even I didn’t crash it, I was afraid the video would be nothing but jerky images that were unusable.
But I didn’t tell anybody that I was afraid I couldn’t do it.
The flight was just as scary as I had feared. The drone was soon above the trees and I had no idea where it was — maybe a quarter of a mile away. On the screen of my iPhone — which shows the video coming back from the drone — I could sort of see where it was going, but I was soon confused.
The camera was pointing almost into the sun and the ground below looked black in the contrast. I couldn’t tell which way it needed to go for me to retrieve it. I almost panicked, but I kept experimenting with the controls — turning a bit more and then moving the camera to look around — and then something eventually happened.
As I gingerly moved the camera one more time in a desperate effort to figure out what to do, I suddenly realized that I had accidentally gotten the camera into a perfect position. I eased forward on the throttle and it moved ahead, recording the majestic trees below just as I had imagined.
What had been an accident that came from desperate experiments suddenly looked like exactly what I wanted. Maybe I would end up with a few usable seconds of video after all.
Then something magical happened.
I suddenly realized that I almost knew what I was doing. The fear faded. I was still a rank amateur at this, but my instincts started kicking in. Something took over. What had seemed impossible suddenly seemed possible.
When we left that land, I had about 16 minutes of video. (The drone’s battery is good for only about 20 minutes of flight time.) When I imported the video into my MacBook, I just started cutting every section that showed the horrid and confused movements which filled most of the footage. I was left with about 10 clips lasting about three and a half minutes.
I re-arranged the clips. I listened to dozens of music choices from a service I subscribe to and found something of suitable mood and length. I added brief transitions between the clips and then added the company logo.
Suddenly, I had something I was proud of. It wasn’t perfect. It has serious flaws. The one live turn which I included is jerky. (It makes me cringe.) There were also issues with lighting and contrast.
But I had a finished video that was good enough for a first effort. And everybody else involved at the company thought it was great.
When Andrew asked me Wednesday evening whether everything just sort of magically created itself, I was sort of offended because I knew how hard it was. I knew the effort I had put into and I knew how intimidated I’d been. I even showed Andrew how the editing process worked on my computer. He was confused and thought it looked like too much work.
I haven’t been able to quit thinking about his reaction — and about my reaction to him.
I was scared to do what I did because I knew it was hard. I was terrified of not doing a good job. That almost stopped me from even trying.
Andrew thought the whole thing was easy. If I hadn’t explained to him how hard it was, he would have been willing to jump in and start flying. Maybe he would have crashed the drone. Maybe he would have been terrible. We’ll never know. But the point is that he didn’t know it was difficult, so he was eager to try.
There are plenty of times when we’re confronted with things that are very difficult and we make them even harder by studying them too closely and scaring ourselves. I’m really good at that. Maybe you are, too.
I suspect some of us would be better off if we were more like Andrew — naive but wiling to try doing more things we want to do.
After forcing myself to do this drone video project Monday, I know I’m more prepared for the next one. I’m still not very experienced. I still won’t get everything right. But I know I can do it — so I’m not intimidated.
How many things that we want do we fail to pursue because we’re afraid? For me, it’s been a sizable list. I have to learn to jump in and pursue things I’m afraid of.
There’s a cliche in the “positive thinking” world that says, “Leap and the net will appear.” That’s not always true, of course. There are times when we leap and fall on our faces. But if we really want a thing — and if it’s not a literal leap that causes physical damage — we all ought to make more leaps instead of waiting until we’re absolutely forced into it. (As I was Monday.)
Let’s try leaping more often for the things we want. As long as we’re sane and we respect other people’s boundaries, it’s likely that a net will appear more often to make our leaps of faith possible.
Note: You can see the new video below. The next one will be better, though. I promise.