Friday, January 22, 2010

KAP of causeway

KAP of the Eau Gallie Causeway in Melbourne Florida.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Auto KAP with a 555 timer

In order to get my camera to take pictures automatically, I installed a 555 timer onto the circuitry of the camera and literally removed and replaced the shutter button.

The 555 timer sells at Radio Shack for less than $2.00. I purchased two in case I messed up the first one. The packaging of the timer comes with a schematic that shows the pin-out of the device, and Wikipedia has detailed schematics for the circuit that creates the timing intervals, (look up 555 timers on Wikipedia).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kite used for KAP aerial photography

Ten years ago I bought a Power Sled 24 with the intended purpose of using it to fly other kites from its line. The sled kites are made for lifting other things into the air, such as wind socks, small kites and streamers. So when I recently discovered kite aerial photography, I already owned a really good kite. Power sleds are super stable in 6-10mph wind. They are difficult to get into the air, but once they get above the trees, they are very difficult to get back down again. If there's a strong wind, hang on tight because these kites pull about as hard as a large dog on a leash that wants to walk faster than you do.
with my kite, I first get it up above the trees where it becomes very stable, then I can take my time and attach the camera and rig. I have about 500 feet of line which can get the camera high enough to capture five or six miles a landscape in a single photograph.

I will say however that in wind below 6mph I need a very long "runway" to get it up above the trees where it can find a steady breeze. In winds above 10mph it begins to act strangely, like suddenly folding in on itself and getting tangled in its own line. Although I really like the sled kite, I have read that most KAPers use one of the following kites: Delta, Delta-Conyne, Flowform, or Dopero. And I will eventually get one of those listed, so I can fly in lower winds, and still another for winds above 10mph.

I have found that it's a good idea to use 100 to 150# line with a big kite, and to purchase a swivel from a bait and tackle store that is rated for more than 100 pounds of force. Having a swivel between the kite and the line, allows the line to untwist itself as you pull the kite down and it makes it very easy to disconnect your line from the kite when packing everything up at the end of the day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Picavet suspension rig

In 1912 Pierre Picavet invented a suspension system for Kite Aerial photography that is still used today and is known as a Picavet suspension rig. At first it seems complicated but it's actually really easy, just check out
for a detailed explanation of how to make it. I will admit however that the most difficult part is the creativity required in finding suitable material to make the cross itself.

The Picavet rig will allow the camera to remain level and it greatly reduces the amount of shaking and vibration that the camera experiences, thus your pictures are less likely to be blurry. Not that you won't have a few blurry pictures, but you won't have pictures so blurry that they are unrecognizable like most of the ones I had before using a Picavet rig.

On my first rig I used about ten feet (3 meters) of 5/32" (3.97mm) thick line. But I found that 60% of my photos were still coming out blurry. So then I switched to 50 feet (15 meters) of #18 twisted twine. However the first thing I found is that no matter how careful I am its all in a big knot by the time I arrive at my destination. To resolve this I had to learn how to tie a daisy chain in the picavet line. A good place to learn how to tie the daisy chain is on Youtube.

KAP of Canova beach in Melbourne Florida

Aerial Photograph taken from my kite.  The position of the camera is higher than the 15 story building in the foreground.  From this altitude people look like dots as they walk on the beach.  This image is looking South from Canova beach in Melbourne Florida with the Atlantic ocean on the left, the city of Melbourne on the right and the Indian River can be seen in the distance.

How to trigger the shutter button from the ground

The first question most often asked about KAP is, "How do you get the camera to take the pictures?" There are several ways. The first method I used was to modify the circuitry of the camera by installing a 555 timer. This allowed the camera to take photos automatically every few seconds. I purchased an inexpensive, used digital camera on the internet. I then disassembled the camera’s case, and removed the shutter button, replacing it with a 555 timer circuit. Once powered on the camera begins taking photos every 8 seconds and continues to do so until the memory card is full, or the power is turned off again. This method is only recommended for those who understand electronics and know how to solder. If using this method I recommend the astable schematic found on the 555 timer page of Wikipedia. Words of warning; if you use this method don’t try to modify your good camera, instead purchase a cheap used camera from a site such as EBay.
A second method, which I now use, is remote control. I purchased the BBKK from and am using it with my 10mega pixel Kodak camera. This was a vast improvement over the first method because the remote control allows me to change where the camera is pointing while it’s in the air allowing for a much greater diversity of photos once the camera is brought back down.

My first KAP aerial photograph from a kite

A house in my neighborhood.  This was my first KAP flight and my first photo.  I simply wrapped a toy carabiner onto the kite line and then hung the camera by its wrist strap.  Almost all the pictures came out totally blurry but it was a good introduction into kite aerial photography.

Kite Aerial Photography KAP introduction

Recently while surfing the internet, I stumbled upon a site that featured fascinating aerial photographs taken on a camera suspended from a flying kite. I have always enjoyed kite flying, and for the past ten years I’ve owned a large kite known as a Power Sled. It’s designed to lift other kites, streamers, and wind socks into the air by attaching them to the Power Sled’s main kite line; but after all these years this was the first time I had given thought to flying a camera from my kite. I began on a “kite string” budget. Even though I started off doing everything wrong, I was able to capture some fun photos on my first attempt.

Welcome to my adventures in kite aerial photography. Follow along as I share the steps I’ve taken to make this hobby work, and stay tuned, as I continue to post exciting new photos here on The Kite Aerial Photography of Gary Eugene Howell.