KAP equipment comprises of a kite, a flying line, a camera and a rig or cradle to suspend and operate the camera.
It might come as a surprise to learn that the camera is usually suspended from the flying line, not the kite itself. The advantage of this is that camera movement is damped somewhat, enabling more opportunities to get decent pictures. In other words, the camera doesn't move around in the air as much as the kite does.
Let's have a brief look at the gear that KAPers use.
Aerial kite photography as a hobby has seen all sorts of cameras hoisted up there. In the early days, some big kites were used to lift rather heavy, high-quality film cameras.
The explosion in cheap, light digital cameras has had an impact on the hobby. It's not just the weight. These modern cameras take great pictures too.
Interestingly, zoom lenses are of little use in kite aerial photography. In fact, people often try to cram more scenery into the field of view by using wide-angle lenses, even fish-eye lenses. Another popular technique is photo-stitching, where a number of images are combined into one super-wide panorama.
An ideal high-end KAP camera doesn't have a zoom lens for 3 good reasons:
Having said all that about zoom lenses, it really doesn't matter so much at the cheaper end of the scale. Most digicams these days do have optical zoom, but the whole package is quite light. And if you are not a pro photographer, who cares about a tiny, almost unnoticeable loss of image quality.
The latest trend is to by-pass still photography altogether...
A piece of KAP equipment commonly used by serious photographers is the Picavet. Yes, it was invented by a Frenchman, in the early 20th century. However, it wasn't until the late 20th century that it was re-discovered and put to widespread use in KAP rigs. It's purpose is to provide a stable and level platform for the camera, while suspended from the flying line.
The Picavet is a cross suspended from the flying line. 4 lines are threaded through pulleys, one line passing through one pulley at each end of the cross. The camera cradle is suspended from the center of the cross, which stays level even while the flying line angle changes.
A very well known KAP enthusiast named Brooks Leffler has made one of his KAP rigs available on Amazon. There it is on the left. This is one of the cheaper options which works by mechanically operating the shutter of any small point-and-shoot camera which you install in the cradle.
The biggest problem with taking only a limited number of photos per flight is wasting some of them due to camera movement. Unless the air is perfectly smooth, there is always some swinging and swaying from time to time. Hence, some aerial kite photography enthusiasts try to add other devices to reduce the movement and give more opportunity for getting good pictures.
One such device is the Jones Airfoils KAP Feather. 'Put a feather in your KAP!' they say har har hardy har. Jokes aside, this interesting piece of KAP equipment uses materials that let a bit of air through, to reduce the effect of wind gusts. Also, it acts as a vane to keep the rig pointing into wind in a more steady fashion. The end result is what KAPers love - a camera 'nailed to the sky'. The kite might be constantly shifting here and there in response to gusts and turbulence, but the camera's view shifts slowly.
In theory, any moderately sized kite that flies can be used to raise a small weight, such as a camera. However, some are better than others for the purpose of taking pictures. For many KAPers, photography is the main thing and they want an easy, no-fuss, stable kite that can lift the required weight over a wide wind range. Anything less would get in the way of taking good pictures.
For these reasons, parafoil or flow-form kites are very popular in aerial kite photography. With no spars and therefore no assembly required, you just turn up somewhere and get your camera in the air straight away. The photo shows a Sutton flowform kite with KAP rig. Thanks to Bruce Owen, an archaeologist, and his wife for supplying this picture of KAP equipment.
These kites are convenient to transport as well, since they roll up into a small bag. Another advantage is that they are tolerant of quite strong winds.
I've seen examples of many other high-lift kites being used as well. Big Rokkaku kites, Delta Conynes and the commonly seen delta kite have all been used. All of these can fly at much better line angles than most flow-form kites, so that's one reason for using them in kite aerial photography.
Not everybody lives in a windy location, so there are some who specialize in getting photos in even very light breezes. One of the best kites for this is the Dopero, or Double Pearson Roller as it was originally called. Not only can this kite hang up there in the slightest breeze, it can lift a useful amount of gear at the same time.
Finally, it's handy to know what the average wind strength is. The wind speed is always changing from moment to moment, and it's hard to estimate with any accuracy.
With a little device called an anemometer or wind speed meter you can decide what kite and camera rig to put up. In stronger winds, it can help you decide whether to attempt flying at all. Kites and cameras can get lost when the flying line snaps!
Have you ever dabbled with dangling a camera from a kite or flying-line?
Photo courtesy of Jared Tarbell.
You might have noticed that this site has a monthly newsletter...
For single-line kite fliers and builders, it's always been a good read. But if you are interested in KAP and/or large home-made kites you won't want to miss it!
So sign up today, and download the free 95-page e-book "What Kite Is That?" straight away. Info-packed and fully photo-illustrated.
And there are even more free resources, such as a kite-making e-course, waiting for you in the next issue of this newsletter.
Jul 28, 14 05:06 AM
This was an experiment with mounting a camera directly onto the kite. With winds gusting to over 30kph up high, the Fresh Wind Barn Door kite was selected...
In a word, it was tricky. I mounted the camera as close as possible to the center of gravity of the kite, but it still ended up quite a few cm closer to the trailing edge than I would have liked. It was only practical to mount he camera - on its bendy tripod (!) - near the diagonal spars crossing point. Electrical tape secured 2 short tripod legs to the diagonal spars, holding the camera upright with the kite sitting on its trailing edge.
It was a struggle to get enough lift to gain much height, and the kite swung dangerously from side to side. Might try the drogues next time! I did my best to urge the kite higher in mid-swing.
Eventually, for a few seconds, the kite got to around 100 feet on almost 200 feet of 200 pound Dacron.
A video clip will of course be forthcoming on Facebook. And only seasoned kite fliers will bother watching it all the whole way through, possibly wrestling with sea-sickness all the while. Hence the title of this post. Still, it was an interesting, if slightly nerve-wracking, outing! At shoulder level, the breeze measured around 9kph gusting to 18.5kph. Some low cloud over the hills was absolutely tearing along, perhaps up around 40kph.
Huge Homemade Kites And Aerial Photography: This is often the topic for posts which appear here. New things are always being tried so sign up for my newsletter to stay right up to date with the latest developments!
Apologies for this site's current lack of video when viewed on mobile devices...
For now, please view this site on a Desktop or Laptop computer to see the videos. And there's plenty of them!
Are you just
holding the string?!
For so much more, try
Make all the Dowel kites, including the one above...
ALL the e-books.
Best value of all...
"Love the easy to understand step by step instructions, made from next to nothing materials and above all so much fun to fly... cheers Tim for sharing your well thought out pdf kite designs with the whole world.
Very satisfying making your own and watching them get air-born for the first time."
"I've just bought your super e-book and spent most of last night pouring through all the great stuff in it!
Very detailed and USEFUL information - thanks for such a great book."
years ago, I tried making a kite using the 'instructions' in a free
kite-safety booklet. What a disappointment for a young boy.
Your instructions and methods are wonderful. You help the builder to focus on accuracy, without making it hard. Also, you use materials that are durable, yet cheap!"
"omg i made a kite from this site and i fly it ....... booom i didnt expect this bc in the other sites instuction are trash
to try these books