In aerial kite photography, the most important aspect of the kite is to ensure that the camera is
stable. Virtually any kite design can be used if the camera is light-weight. As the camera gets
heavier, so too must the design alter to include characteristics such as increased wind range and ease of
launch. But generally, a single line kite is the most suitable as they can have very long line
lengths and need less intervention from you, the flyer, than do designs where you have to steer the
The designs used by aerial kite photography enthusiasts are most commonly parafoil,
(including variations such as the delta conyne. Of
these, the parafoil is the most popular kite. For its size, it can generate a strong pull, and needs little in
the way of storage space as it is constructed without spars.
Kites which have spars, such as the rokkaku or delta, fly at a higher angle than parafoils. The major
benefit of this is made apparent when there is not much space between the subject you are photographing
and the place where you launch the kite. With a higher flying angle your kite can carry more weight. This
is because the force is acting upwards not sideways.
Make Your Own Kite!
Aerial kite photography need not be an expensive hobby. If you don't want to spend your
hard-earned money (although many kites are really inexpensive) it is very
easy to make a simple kite suitable for getting started. Using cheap plastic garden-bag-type plastic
and some dowelling rods, you can quickly create a kite that will not only work well but can look good too.
The simplest-to-follow instructions I have found are in a down-loadable ebook called Making Dowel Kites by
kite-enthusiast Tim Parish. Tim explains how to make 14 different kites from "quick and easy" to
"awesome 8-footer". So if you want to save yourself some money and have the fun and satisfaction
of making your own, Tim's ebook has instructions for all of the following:
- The Simple Series: ultra-basic Diamond, Delta and Sled, all 1m (3ft) tall)
- The Dowel Series: performance Sled, Diamond, Barn Door, Rokkaku, Sode, Delta, Roller and Dopero, all 1.2m (4ft) tall and transportable
- The Dowel Boxes: a moderate wind and a fresh wind version, both 1.2m (4 ft) long
- A 2-Dowel Kite: a 3-spar Sled which is 2.4m (8ft) tall when set up
Another, really inexpensive way to give aerial kite photography a trial run
without investing too much cash, is with the
Aerial Camera Kit
by Smithsonian Adventures. A disposable camera is included with the kit - all you need to
provide is your own kite. Customer reviews are mixed concerning the adequacy of the instruction
leaflet that comes with the kit but the construction seems good and it is really so cheap
that it almost certainly worth a try if only for the fun of it.
Where to Fly Your Kite
With aerial kite photography you will find that you have to be selective about where you
choose to launch your kite. You have to work with the weather, people, buildings and other
obstacles. For example, launching your kite downwind of trees can be unpredictable
as there may be a lot of air turbulence. The same goes for buildings and hills. So avoid any large
obstacles because even though you can't see wind turbulence it is better to assume it is there and
to choose a wide open area to fly your kite.
Of course you need wind in order for the kite to fly, it won't fly on a totally still day. Heavy kites
need more wind than light ones. You can gauge how much wind there is by observing leaves, flags, bushes and so
on. Run some tests before you put the camera on the kite. Pretty soon you will have a feel for what works. Also bear
in mind that near to the ground the wind is less stable than further up. So make sure your kite is
flying high enough to catch those smoother wind currents.
You don't need to run madly along to get your kite to fly. Nor do you need to jump up and
throw it in the air. Just stand with your back to the wind, hold the kite high up with the
nose end pointing up, and gently release it - the wind will pick up the kite and it will rise. If
the wind is sufficiently strong this will happen without intervention from you!
Once the kite is airborne you can let out the line slowly, a little at a time. The kite will
drop a bit each time but if you pull back on the string it will rise again. Then when it gains a
bit more height, repeat the process. Keep doing this until the kite has reached the height
you want for your photograph. Note: in strong winds, you might like to wear gloves to prevent your
hands from getting chafed.
When you have made your photos and are ready to bring the kite down, just slowly wind the
line onto the reel. The wind will become less stable as you reel it in and you may find there
are moments when it suddently becomes lighter. At these points you will need to pull the line
in more quickly by dropping it on the ground until you get a chance to wind it in later. Make
sure you do this is nice big loops so it doesn't get tangled.
And there you have it! Aerial kite photography is not difficult, not expensive, and great fun for
'adult children' of all ages.
Follow this link to read Aerial Kite
Photography Part 1 if you would like to know how to take aerial shots with a kite, a camera and a rig,
how to attach your camera to the kite and how to release the shutter when it is air-borne.
Or follow this link to read about the History of Aerial Photography.
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