Aerial Kite Photography


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Aerial Kite Photography - Nailing A Camera To The Sky

Ever flown a kite or taken a photograph? Well, that's most of us isn't it! No wonder aerial kite photography holds such a fascination for so many people. More correctly, it's known as Kite Aerial Photography, or KAP, which is less of a mouthful.

Some have theorized that it's part of our human nature to want to see things from the air. Consider the fact that aerial views of cities and landscapes were sketched or painted long before any flying machine was invented.

The hobby of aerial kite photography got started in earnest around the mid 1980s. However, the very first examples of such photos date back to not long after photography itself was invented. In 2007, KAP is more popular than ever. The subject matter varies widely, but buildings and landscapes are particularly popular.

Digital cameras are widely used in aerial kite photography. In fact, their use in KAP has pretty much stayed in step with their acceptance by the general public. Initially, the cheaper cameras just couldn't take a decent picture compared to a 35mm film camera. As we all know, that is not the case now! Some digitals are very small and light, which is an advantage for doing KAP.

At the cheapest end of the scale, disposable cameras combined with ice triggers and balsa wood cradles enable small, cheap kites to be used. On the other hand, this approach allows bigger kites to take pictures in very gentle breezes which wouldn't allow heavier gear to stay airborne.

Some enthusiasts are after quality at any cost. Hence, they spend many hundreds of dollars on high-end cameras, radio-control gear and special equipment to suspend it aloft with a minimum of movement. The R/C gear allows the camera to be panned around to get the best shots, and the shutter clicked on command.

Some Aerial Kite Photography Highlights

Here's just 3 of the more notable activities of these photo-artistic kite fliers:

A quite famous aerial photograph was taken from a kite in 1906, documenting the San Francisco earthquake. A KAP enthusiast named Scott Haefner did a re-shoot of this striking picture, close to its 100th anniversary.

A small group of experts known as Team Drachen made good use of some grant money by using KAP to document whale behaviour. This took place at San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, in Mexico.

In November, 2002 a 360-degree panorama of the San Andreas Fault was created from KAP images.

The Equipment

You've probably gathered by now that this hobby requires a kite, a flying line, and a camera. It might come as a surprise to learn that the camera is usually suspended from the flying line, not the kite itself.

Although other types can and are used, flow-form kites are very popular in kite photography. With no spars and therefore no assembly required, you can just turn up somewhere and get your camera in the air immediately. 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.

Interestingly, zoom lenses are of little use in kite 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.


A piece of gear commonly used by serious KAPers is the Picavet, an arrangement of lines and pulleys. 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. It's purpose is to provide a stable and self-levelling platform for the camera, while suspended from the flying line. Some aerial photography enthusiasts add other devices such as vanes and porous sheets to reduce the movement and give even more opportunity for getting good pictures.

Finally, it's handy to know what the average wind strength is. 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.

Tim Parish


Expedia New Zealand


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