Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I saw an older post on the site that mentioned Kite Photography. I find that very interesting, and I want to try it.

I have a couple of old compact cameras that I wouldn't mind putting them at risk. (Ideally I would like to try it with on old Olympus mju 300.)

What tips and information do you have to share?

I cannot really figure out how to have the compact camera take pictures while in the air, and away from my hands. How can I accomplish that?

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If you want to know more about Kite Aerial photography, there is a very informative forum that has helped me alot in the past to take my first KAP picturs –  BioGeek Mar 9 '12 at 15:58
    
@BioGeek This forum looks very interesting! I will have a good look at it... I like the pictures that you have posted on flickr! –  s.dimitriou Mar 12 '12 at 10:28
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

that's an interesting question!

The first thing you need to consider I guess is the type of kite you wish to use; i.e. will you be using a single line kite, or a 2-4 line controllable kite? I'd recommend using a large-ish single line kite which will allow you to more easily use a really long line which will help to get the camera to a better altitude. Probably go for a delta kite or a parafoil/flowform kite of around 1-2 square metres.

The second thing to think about is how to activate the shutter. The easiest way would be to simply use the time delay having the camera mounted about half way along the kite line (as shown in Fig. 78 of the image below). If you want a more elaborate way to activate the shutter (which also enables you to have the camera mounted closer to the kite and hence higher) you could consider using radio control gear from an old car or plane; you'd basically need to mount a servo with a cam on the output shaft mounted on top of the camera (this is shown in the photo below). I'm doing exactly this to get aerial shots from a radio controlled aeroplane!

[[Images from the book "Kites and other wind machines" by Andre Thiebault removed due to copyright infringement]]

My own remotely operated shutter release, soon to be attached to an RC plane!

Servo operated shutter release

Edit After initial tests, I can confirm that I do not recommend attaching a camera to a remote controlled aircraft :-(

(See below image)

enter image description here

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@mdresser: Just curious where you got the graphic from? It's very informative, but I'm suspicious that photo-SE may not have the rights to use it... Unless the rights are yours to give, it needs to be a link to the source... –  Jay Lance Photography Apr 22 '11 at 13:53
    
Looks like it's from a 30-year-old book. books.google.com/… Unfortunately, we can't just include that, as informative and interesting as it is. @mdresser, could you please summarize instead? Sorry, but, y'know, following the law and so on. –  mattdm Apr 23 '11 at 2:06
    
I went ahead and removed the offending images. –  Jay Lance Photography Apr 23 '11 at 5:44
    
I notice that there's ten copies of this book available on Amazon for 99¢. Seems like a good investment if one has any interest in this! amazon.com/Kites-Other-Machines-Andre-Thiebault/dp/0806954647 –  mattdm Apr 23 '11 at 13:33
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fair enough. updated answer to recommend AGAINST the use of a model aeroplane for aerial photos... –  mdresser Apr 24 '11 at 0:57
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I think your best bet would be to find a compact camera that can support time-lapse photography (natively or via custom ROM). When you start to get into pricier equipment and more sophisticated control mechanisms, you really need to be looking at a different platform (ie, a plane or helicopter) because of the added weight and the risk of damage should you lose control of the kite.

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I'd actually say that, for the case of a single line kite at least, there'd be much less likelihood of loosing control of it than there would of loosing control of an RC plane or helicopter. –  mdresser Apr 22 '11 at 13:47
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I must suffer from some sort of Charlie Brown syndrome; my experience (as an amateur, mind you) has quite a few more rough landings than smooth ones. I'm sure a more skilled flier would be more comfortable putting expensive equipment on board. –  D. Lambert Apr 22 '11 at 14:18
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.. not cool –  Charlie Brown Apr 22 '11 at 19:48
    
@Leonidas The idea of CHDK that your answers mention sounds really good! But... Even though I have 3 or 4 old compact cameras resting in my drawers, none of them is a Canon! I wish Olympus would have done something similar! –  s.dimitriou Apr 24 '11 at 22:53
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One popular choice with time-lapse support would be the GoPro cameras: gopro.com/product-comparison-hd-hero2-hd-hero-cameras –  BMitch Mar 9 '12 at 19:28
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Concerning how the camera keeps taking pictures while on the kite, you might have read my answer to the question what one can use the intervalometer-script of the CHDK for Canon-cameras for.

If you own an older Canon compact, look at the list here.

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Perhaps this is not quite what you have in mind, but you could consider taking some video before moving on to still photos. I bought a low-quality digital video camera off eBay for ~10USD. It's about the size of my thumb, and weighs just a few grams. It's a good way to experiment, you can see what kind of views you would get without having to consider how to release the shutter, and if it all goes terribly wrong, you're only out 10 bucks. (I came to this plan after breaking a basic Canon digital camera (~50USD on eBay) with a rough landing.)

Some other tips:

  1. Use a single-line kite. A relatively small (<2 metre span) single-line delta, rokkaku or foil can most likely lift a compact camera.
  2. You need to consider how you'll suspend the camera from the kite line. Attaching a camera directly to the kite frame does not work. A Picavet suspension is fairly simple and effective.
  3. If the wind isn't right, don't force it. Put the kite away and try another day.
  4. Don't expect brilliant results on your first outing. It takes some practice.
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I especially like you 3rd suggestion! –  s.dimitriou Mar 12 '12 at 10:25
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