KAP equipment comprises of a kite, a flying line, a camera and a rig or cradle to suspend and operate the camera.
Regarding kites, my own method was to build large sparred kites from oak dowels and plastic sheet. The 2.4m (8ft) span Multi-Dowel Barn Door and the 2.4m tall Multi-Dowel Sled were the lifters for the majority of the KAP images on this site.
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
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
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:
- they are heavier
- the lowest aperture is larger than for an equivalent fixed lens
- for a given manufacturer, they produce slightly poorer quality pictures than a fixed lenses
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 Rig Or Cradle
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.
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.
KAP with Flowform lifter
KAP with Flowform lifter
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.
Using a Dopero
Using a Dopero
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
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.
Wind Speed Meter
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?
Remember, to build one of my large sparred kites for KAP, take a look at this resource...
Making Dowel Kites is one of my printable e-books. It's a PDF file download.