Recently in Kite Aerial Photography 2007 Category

How are we figuring out what goes where? In most KAP applications, the camera is pointed at the horizon, or slightly towards the ground from the horizon. It's pretty easy to get landmarks this way (trees, buildings, roads, stuff like that). Looking at the ground, however, it's not so easy. How do you get good landmarks in a sea of green?

Simple. Ground markers.

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Kite Aerial Photography is not going well. Friday the 13th was a particularly bad day.

MORNING: In the morning Josh, Julie & I drove to NNWLF. We set out ground markers and got the kite up. After we got the camera up we realized that the remote control wasn't going to gain us much with the canon S70 because it take about 10 seconds between shots in the RAW mode. The interval on the timer is about 15 seconds. Then the camera battery ran out ARG. So, we went back to lunch.

AFTERNOON: Armed with fresh batteries we went back to NWLF and set out the ground markers, got the camera up, and took a lot of shots. Or so we thought. When we returned I found that there were no photos on the card. We're not sure what happened. Perhaps the LED didn't trigger the sensor. The problem was we didn't check. ARG.

EVENING: Julie & Josh painted the kite line at 10 meter interval, so we could gauge the height of the camera. When the paint dried, I went out the roll up the string and found it was in four pieces. Some animal had chew through the line in several places. ARG.

Well, we are learning a lot. We have a long way to go before we are a well-oiled KAP machine.

Of course there was a fine finish to the day. I was working on the computer and got distracted for a few minutes. Then I heard thunder in the distance and the power went off for a few seconds. I lost the first version of this lament. I then pulled the plug on all computers and went to bed.

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Here's a rundown of our equipment and various settings that we're using.

Sutton Flowform 16
G-kites Dopero
Peter Lynn Pilot 50

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It was Friday the 13th, the kind of day the superstitious worry about and the kind that I figure is just another day. The wind was pretty good, enough to pick up our Flowform 16 kite with our camera rig. We went out to North by Northwest of Landfill and set out our ground markers [images when our internet gets back up]. With a pretty good wind from the west, we got the kite up and the camera rig above the roadside population. We took two runs along the road, once south and once north (higher and lower). Overall, it was a good run.


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... are boring.

I took about 118 photos this afternoon and the > 100 straight-down shots are not interesting. Straight-down shot will provide good data when we have the ground markers and get enough shots in the right places. But for visual appeal & interest, the photos are boring.

Flying the kite was fun. It was cloudy with 10 - 15 mph winds from the N - NNW. It was a challenge to get the FF16 kite up--a 15 minute ordeal. But when it got up, it stayed. It was tiring to take it down and then it easily went right back up again. I took shots of the CG and then went to Staffanson.

Here's one of the few shots with the camera tilted. I like it.


This is a view of part of the common garden from the West. The rows are 1 m apart and those things are tripods for the video cameras. The tripods weren't in use today and have plastics bags over them. Flags are more visible than the Echinacea plants. But If you click on the thumbnail, you'll be able to see some flowering plants in the larger image.

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Overall, today went pretty well. We managed to get the camera up on the small kite. CRW_3830.jpg

The wind gave us a few problems, though. The camera came down a few times and we had to run to grab it. CRW_3839.jpg

The big kite, however, had issues. After letting it out around 80 meters, the kite took a dive to the right... into a building. WHAM. This isn't a sound you want to hear. A few tears on the front, but not horrible. The problem came when Stuart was moving the kite. A gust of wind caught the kite around him. SNAP. Another bad sound. The carbon-fiber sticks were fine; an aluminum connector was not.

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Here are some key resources:

Kensington general forecast and 48-hour surface wind forecast (from NWS in Minneapolis).

Hoffman general forecast and 48-hour surface wind forecast (from NWS in Grand Forks).

Current conditions at nearby weather stations.

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We have finished two weeks of the summer field season and I feel like we haven't settled into a routine because we have been doing something new and different each day. It's exciting.

Here's a recap of accomplishments this past week...

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Turns out, our camera wasn't saving settings properly. That's lame. I got it to work and have some slightly modified settings from Julie's post. Here's the rundown.

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This afternoon for work, a kite was flown. Now, this was not just any kite. This kite had a name that involved "16", as that presumably is roughly the square footage of this beast. Being a gusty afternoon (Rachel clocked the wind speeds at anywhere from 7 to 27 mph). Having trouble getting the kite up by just letting the gusts grab it, I went to the house to grab a few more pairs of gloves (didn't want rope burn). As I returned, Rachel and Julie figured out the trick to get the kite up: run with it.


Julie of the RAJ Mahal here. This is my first blog entry, ever. But I am excited to spend Saturday night flogging.

I'm also very excited to be involved in the KAP project this summer. As Stuart has noted, "aerial photography from
kites is one of the oldest forms of remote sensing of the earth's surface."

Stuart constructed the rig:
Brooxes Basic KAP Kit purchased from

We attached the camera, a Canon Powershot S70, and sent it up on a test run on our Flow Form 16 x 4ft, which is suitable for winds of 8-25 mph, but (as we found) becomes increasingly difficult past 15mph.

Our other kite is a G-Kites Dopero, good for 5-12mph winds. It's a bit smaller (6ft by 10ft).

Everything went fairly smoothly until we returned and were frustratingly foiled by technology. We shot the images in RAW format (necessary for the fine scale images we hope to produce) which are supposed to be accompanied by a JPEG thumbnail. Turns out we don't have the software to open and work with these RAW files and we couldn't find the JPEG files anywhere! We have a couple promising leads on programs to manipulate the RAW files - hopefully Josh, our resident techie (would you prefer tech guru? I just don't like to encourage technology. We don't mix, technology and I), will help us overcome this obstacle.

So, as of yet, we don't *really* know how our test run went. The lens had retracted back into the body of the camera both times we sent it up, but based on the number of files we uploaded, it does not appear that it stopped shooting images. Don't know what's up with that. I find it a little troublesome. I don't like when gadgets do mysterious things that defy control.

Important notes:
*Wear gloves
*Stay away from trees
*Electrical tape is great for affixing the LED over the camera's remote sensor - it's opaque, which is good because the system doesn't work as well in direct sunlight. And it's easy to remove and re-attach.
*Make sure to use the fuzzy tail - increases stability
*Pin the rig on as close to the kite body as feasible/practical (not *too* close)
*When bringing down the kite, hold the wheel vertical as you roll in the line. If you hold it horizontally, the line twists as you roll is, which is bad for storage
*When bringing the kite down, it works for one person (in gloves!) to pull the line down, hand over hand. The other person should stand behind with the wheel to roll in the line. Try to keep up so that the line doesn't get dirty (which, as climbers know, severely shortens the lifespan of a rope)
*A second person is necessary for assisting in bringing the kite/rig down, especially in high winds
*A second (and ideally third) person is necessary for determining exactly where the rig is flying. It's hard to tell where it is (what it is taking pictures of) without people on either side (say, 50m away) for rough triangulation.
*Holding the kite can be tiresome, especially in high winds. Don't be shy about taking turns.

Build a kite-flying contraption. I am imagining something with handles like a rolling pin (so that you can roll and unroll smoothly, without twisting the line) and some sort of a clamp to hold the line in place once the kite has reached cruising altitude. I don't think it should be something that affixes to the ground because you need to be able to walk around (in an attempt to coax the kite into a transect). I don't fish - how do fishing poles work? I presume they have some sort of locking mechanism - perhaps something we could mimic on a larger/cruder scale?

Here are some links (from Stuart):
lots of info and links to good Q&As and safety stuff
great resource
looks good
looks good
good links here!


looks good
old discussion


Abers at Emporia State U


comprehensive, but old
info on rigs