AJ Henderson AJ's Blog

September 17, 2017

FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot’s Certificate

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Photos,Technology — AJ @ 2:39 pm

So for those who don’t know, I recently was given a broken Phantom 3 Pro for free and fixed it up and decided to get my Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA.  I took the test this morning and passed with a 93.  It was an interesting process since I was the first one taking the test on a new system that PSI had just rolled out.  After helping the proctor figure out how the system works, it ended up only taking about 15 minutes of the two hours allotted to cruise through the 60 questions, even with double checking answers.

The first piece of advice I have for anyone taking it is be sure to note that there is a legend section in the start and then all the “sections” start which are basically just the page numbers for the documents being referenced and start after the legends.  It was easy once I figured out how to use the book itself, but having studied online, the supplemental materials book was actually the most confusing part of the entire test process (including figuring out how the computer testing system worked since the proctor was as new to it as I was.)

I used UAS Ground School with the AMA discount code for training.  It honestly wasn’t really necessary as the test isn’t that hard if you do some basic studying, but I found it was worth it just for the level of detail they went in to and the fact that it helped with understanding things that weren’t directly needed for the test itself, but are still useful tidbits of information to know.  I wouldn’t want to pay the full $200 for the training, but at the discounted rate of $125, it was worth it in my opinion.

Now I just have to wait for the test to show up in ICARA so I can get my certificate processed.  Let me know if you have any aerial photography needs.  For any of my photo/video friends with drones that don’t have their certification yet, I can also act as the remote pilot while you still operate the controls if you have a potential job with your drone, but haven’t had a chance to go through getting your part 107 certification yet.


October 25, 2015

Terra Nova Men’s Retreat 2015 Photos

Filed under: Church,Personal,Photos — AJ @ 12:49 am

So it took a little bit longer than I expected, but the I finished going through the photos from this year’s men’s retreat.  The retreat was September 17-19th at YMCA Camp Gorham.  The retreat was a great time and I came home with around 1200 photos to go through.  Slightly different from previous years, I actually decided to put up two galleries, one with the 5 star, top rated photos and one with the 4 star images that weren’t quite my favorites, but were still better than average.  As with the previous Men’s Retreats, all images are released under a Creative Commons license.  If you want higher quality versions of any of the images, let me know.

2015 Terra Nova Men’s Retreat 5 Star Gallery

2015 Terra Nova Men’s Retreat 4 Star Gallery

Terra Nova Men's Retreat 2015


December 24, 2014

First Home Purchased

Filed under: Personal — AJ @ 6:31 pm

Well, the day is finally here.  We bought our first home today.  We’ll be moving in over the next few days with the majority of the move occurring on Saturday.  Our new address will be 14 Massachusetts Ave, Rensselaer, NY 12144.

It’s been a long road to get here.  We weren’t actually looking for a house all that long.  We started looking shortly before Declan was born and continued a few weeks after when things settled down a bit.  Most properties we saw near work were too in need of repair or too expensive of both and most of the good properties we were seeing were out in Niskayuna, far too far away to have a manageable daily commute.  Finally, we saw a nice little new construction go on the market in Hampton Manner in Rensselaer.  It’s an older development, but our street has lots of remodeled houses and a fair number of lot sub-divisions with new constructions on them.  (Ours is one such sub-divided lot.)

We knew pretty much immediately that it was the right house for us.  It is literally down the street from Red Mill Elementary, which is East Greenbush’s top ranked elementary school.  It had a two car garage, was large enough for our needs, small lot in a quiet neighborhood.  It had decent enough sized bedrooms with large open areas for the main rooms and a gigantic garage that can double as a workshop.  As an added bonus, we have a shed in the back.  So, with our hearts set on buying the property, we began what turned out to be a rather long process.

For the most part things went smoothly, so at the end of November, it looked like we should be good for an early December close date, so we let the apartment complex know we’d be moving out for the new year.  Then we hit the snag on the next to last step of the process.  The mortgage insurance company wanted proof of employment from Danielle.  This should have been a minor issue, but when they sent over the paperwork to Albany Med to get confirmation, it got lost somewhere and they didn’t hear back for over a week.  Nobody bothered letting us know or following up until I started asking about status since we hadn’t heard anything in a while.  They then submitted it again with some facilitation from Danielle and got a response fairly quickly, however Albany Med HR still thought Danielle was on FMLA leave (which she had come back from a week and a half earlier at that point, as had been scheduled on her original FMLA paperwork).  Some quick back and forth was supposed to have worked it out, however HR still had the wrong data the next time they tried a few days later.  Finally the paper work managed to make it through and we got a valid confirmation, but all in all, it took almost 3 weeks just to get that one confirmation done on the next to last step.

Finally, with the last hurdles cleared, we were able to move forward and get a closing date set for Christmas Eve at 9am.  We got there with only a few days left that we could move on to get the closing done and while things mostly went smooth, again there was a big issue (which luckily turned out to be an easy fix).  Our lawyer’s office had given us the wrong name for the cashier’s check to be made out to, so we had to quickly run across the street (thankfully there was an open Trustco across the street) and have them re-cut the check to the correct name.  We also almost forgot to get the keys to the house, but Danielle checked our packet and realized they weren’t there.

It looks like we should make it in time, but it’s certainly a lot more under the wire than we had wanted it to be.  We’ll be moving boxes out of the way over the next few days and then getting a truck to move on Saturday at 9am if anyone wants to help with moving the big stuff.  We’ll also still have some little things that need packing inside that we were living off of.  I’ll try to get some photos posted after the move.


September 10, 2014

I’m pleased to announce…

Filed under: Personal — AJ @ 10:33 pm

Declan James Henderson, born 9/10/2014.  Mommy and baby are great.  Check out his website for pics and more details.


September 8, 2014

Baby On The Way

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 4:12 pm

So after the latest checkup, they decided that it is now the right time to start the process of inducing labor.  Little baby boy Henderson (initials DJ, though he won’t go by them) will be on his way either late tonight or tomorrow morning.  We’re heading over to the hospital shortly and they are doing prep drugs tonight and then inducing in the morning if things haven’t started going yet.  (He’s over a week late already.)  No super major health concerns, but enough of a minor one that induction was deemed necessary.  Stay tuned for updates and the unveiling of baby Henderson’s own website.  (It’s technically already up now if you really want to try guessing.)


December 16, 2013

Hawaii 2013

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos — AJ @ 9:34 pm

Just finished up our last day in port in Hawaii.  It’s been 5 great days in Hawaii and now we have another 4 days at sea, a day in Ensenada and then back to LA and flying home to Albany on Sunday.  I haven’t had time to go through many of the 2000 or so photos and videos I took while we were here, but here is a gallery of a few of the highlights as they came out of the camera.  I’ll post more edited versions later when I have time and an internet connection that isn’t over my phone.

Pearl Harbor - Arizona Memorial

Picture 1 of 16


October 28, 2013

Matt & Stef’s Wedding

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos — AJ @ 5:59 pm

My cousin Matt and his wife Stef just got married this past weekend.  It was a great time at the Old Daley Inn at Crooked Lake.  Family was in from all over and the wedding had a great movie theme.  Even though I wasn’t the official photographer, I brought a small portion of kit along with me and took some casual shots of the wedding and the family while I was there.  You can see some of the highlights of the shots I got in my gallery here.  Just send me an e-mail if any family want’s prints or touch ups or higher resolution copies of any of them.


October 16, 2013

Cat in a box

Filed under: Personal,Photos — AJ @ 5:35 pm


Shadow loves any box she can get in.


July 5, 2013

Birthday and More Photo Investments

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal,Photos,Technology,Work — AJ @ 6:31 pm

So, hit 29 this year.  For a combined birthday present and business investment I decided the time was finally right to pick up the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II.  As some may be aware, there is currently a $300 off sale going on from Canon that is reflected across all retailers.  In addition, I found it on Buydig with another 5% off (plus 1% from my credit card), free shipping, a free multi-coated Hoya UV filter, a free cleaning kit and free 2 day shipping.  The cleaning kit was kind of a joke and 2 day shipping didn’t matter since it came from NJ and had to wait until I was home to sign for it anyway, but the filter was a nice $60 bonus.

I got it on Friday after my birthday and just before Autotask’s summer engineering picnic.  Wanting to give it a try, I swung by home and picked it up.  It was a great day for really putting the lens through its paces.  It was cloudy with on and off rain leading up to an all on down pour which gave me a chance to try out the weather proofing.  I’m pleased to say it held up very respectably.  I was using the 5D Mark iii with the battery grip on it (which notably does compromise the weather sealing a little bit, but only if water comes up from the bottom of the grip.)  I did finally head for cover when it got to an all out down poor, but through multiple small to moderate rain showers I was able to keep shooting no problem.

The only problem I noticed with the weather sealing (and I’m not sure if it was the weather sealing’s problem or not) was that two minor very small spots of condensation formed under the top LCD panel where I’d been handling it.  It was exceptionally humid though and the rain caused a very rapid temperature change, so I think this may have just been condensation and it evaporated within the hour with no ill effects.  Otherwise, there were no signs of any problems from the rain.  I’ll probably still pick up a rain coat for it for added protection, but it’s nice to know that the weather proofing really does work.  (Plus it’s a bit fun to get weird stares from people wondering why you are shooting with an expensive looking camera in the rain without concern.)

Rain or shine, the focus was fast and very accurate, though I did find the limit of modern AF point selection.  Since I was shooting mostly vollyball from fairly close (mostly individual player shots) and following the ball itself, I had to leave it on full autofocus.  While the reject rate was only about 1 in 3, I was a little disappointed because I normally am aiming for closer to 1 in 5 or so.  That said, I think it was probably an unrealistic expectation for conditions.  Between the net, the ropes holding up the net and other players, there was a lot of movement and shifting the shot very fast and it still held up 2 out of 3 shots focusing on what I intended.  Even on the shots where it didn’t focus on what I wanted, something was in sharp focus.  So the camera doesn’t quite read minds, but it is very fast and accurate.  This was also before I had a chance to micro-adjust the lens.

As far as sharpness goes, I was a little disappointed, though I think this was again a result of unrealistic expectations.  I was comparing it to the results from my 24-70mm f/2.8L II which has got to be just about the sharpest lens on the planet.  While, in my opinion, the sharpness of the 70-200 doesn’t even remotely approach the sharpness of the 24-70, it still isn’t anything to complain about.  Reflections are still pretty clearly visible in people’s eyes at portrait distance.  It’s also still easily twice as sharp as my 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS is, and as previously mentioned, the AF is so much faster and tighter.  The full time manual focus, shorter minimum focus distance, fixed lens length and orientation and extra speed round it out to make it quite satisfying even if it isn’t as magic as the 24-70 was.  (f/2.8 across the entire range is a beautiful thing.)

Shot in the Rain

A quick shot while heading for cover when it started to down pour

Motion stopping and great focus.

Motion stopping and great focus.

Since then, I’ve also had a chance to try it out a bit more for indoor work and flash work while doing a bunch of portrait work while my brother-in-law was jamming on his guitar.  They really show the power of f/2.8 and the accuracy of the focus even in fairly dim conditions.

Portrait at 142mm f/7.1

Portrait at 142mm f/7.1

Low Light with Flash, 200mm f/2.8


Depth of Field at 85mm f/2.8

Portrait, 70mm, f/2.8

Looking forward to the first wedding I’ll be shooting with the lens on the 20th.


January 9, 2013

Traveling with Kitties

Filed under: Cool Stuff,Personal — AJ @ 11:53 pm

So Cole (one of our cats) had an eye infection just before we were going down to visit my parents for the holidays.  Since it would have cost us over $300 to board the cats together and have him be able to get the treatments he needed, we decided to take them with us on a plane.  While it wasn’t exactly cheap (Southwest charges $75 per carrier per direction), it was actually far less painful than we expected.  Neither cat has ever been particular fond of their carriers.  When taking them to the vet, we have a chorus of dissonant meows the entire way there and back.  Following the recommendations of a number of online sites, we got two new soft carriers for traveling with so that they wouldn’t associate the vet and other unpleasant experiences with them.

While the trip started out a little worrisome with non-stop meows on the way to the airport, as soon as we got there and got out and started to walk around with them at our side, the meowing stopped almost completely.  We had put their harnesses on before putting them in the carrier so we could leash them up for going through security (they have to x-ray the carriers and you carry the cat through) it turned out to be completely unnecessary as neither cat even tried to get out of our arms, even when one of the carriers got stuck on the other side of the x-ray machine for a few minutes.  After we were through security and the cats were back in the carriers, we had a pleasant time talking with other travelers about Cole and Shadow and being able to pet them while waiting for the plane.  (While they were not allowed out of the carriers, the carriers we got have a little slot specifically designed so you can reach in and pet them.)  The only unfortunate event on the trip down was that we hit a delay on our second flight and it made it so Cole didn’t quite make it to the final airport before he had to go to the bathroom.  In retrospect, I wish I had thought to take a photo because I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so ashamed and timid in my life.  While I feel bad for the little guy, it was incredibly cute in its own way.

After getting the cats to my parents house, the fun really began.  They spent about 45 minutes to an hour just exploring all the nooks and crannies of the garage before we finally decided to pick them up and bring them inside.  I’ve got a few great photos of Shadow covered in dirt and dust and cobwebs from exploring that I’ll be posting after getting them transferred off the laptop.  After that, they actually both surprised us by being very shy.  We brought them to our bedroom and they both promptly hid under the bed for a few hours unless we came in, closed the doors and coaxed them out.  By later that night however, they were starting to get braver.  They were roaming the bedroom itself pretty freely unless someone else came in and Cole was starting to venture out a little to see if people were safe to meet.  Shadow started creeping to the edge of the room a little bit later and I was able to take her around the house by petting her and moving a few feet at a time, though as soon as she saw anyone else, she ran back towards the bedroom.

Their hesitation went on for about two days, but by the end of the third day, they were both moving around the house and interacting with people pretty freely.  Cole really enjoyed being around so many people like we expected, and while Shadow did come around people some for attention, she really enjoyed having a big house to run around and play in.  We did keep them locked in the bedroom when we were out of the house just to make sure that there wasn’t any trouble and keeping them locked in the bedroom with us at night lead to a little stress since Shadow loves to misbehave to get a reaction and then run away which made it hard for Danielle to sleep for the first few nights.  But then between some inventive use of a spray bottle and realizing that Shadow wasn’t doing any damage, Danielle was able to sleep well.  It was really nice to be able to sleep with the cats since we normally can’t allow them in our room at night since they like to jump from the window sill above our bed down on to us, which is rather unpleasant when you are in a dead sleep when they do it.

When it came time to leave, the cats didn’t want to go and it was just as hard to get them in there carriers as it had been coming down, and once we did, the meowing began again, but it stopped about half way to the airport (it was an hour drive from my parents’ house).  And again, they mostly just slept and/or checked out people walking by from the safety of their carriers on the way back home.  The trip back was entirely uneventful as far as the cats were concerned and they flew amazingly well.  I guess the advice we read that if your cat can sleep, your cat can fly really is accurate.

Oh, one last important note if you are considering traveling with your cat.  One thing we found pretty clearly when we were researching is to not use any sedatives.  Apparently they interact weirdly with cat physiology and altitude and it can be a very bad combination for the cat.  I’d definitely recommend a soft carrier that you can sling over your shoulder so that your cat knows you are there and has the comfort of being up against you.  Having a slot to be able to reach in and check on them is also a huge plus for both the cat and your comfort.  While it wasn’t a problem going through security either time, I’d still recommend harnesses and leashes as a precaution.  It’s better safe than sorry and you never know what might startle them in to a panic.  Also, as a nice little side perk, when traveling with a cat, since you have to carry them through security, you seem to always get the metal detector line instead of going through the worthless and invasive body scanners.  They actually opened up the metal detector specifically for us in Raleigh and then closed it after we went through.  I’d be willing to travel with our cats in the future (including the $75 fee) just for that.

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