Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Equipment

Equipment - Table of Contents


I have a son (Charlie Benton) who so loves equipment his friends call him 'the gear guy." As they say, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Kite aerial photography involves an interesting blend of mechanical and electrical components ranging from kites to cameras and remote-control radios. It is definitely an activity suited to those that like to "putter" with things. On the other hand, a KAP rig can be designed using components purchased off the shelf and assembled with a minimum of fuss.

My first rig, based on a Brooks Leffler article,January 1995 (44K jpg)

This section will present the components I've been using over the last few months and is by no means comprehensive. As mentioned in the Home Page Acknowledgment section, I'm a relatively inexperienced hobbyist (high on enthusiasm but low on accrued flight time). I happily note that there are many other ways to do almost anything I describe below. Along that line if you have experience in kite aerial photography, I'd be very interested in hearing about it and in your suggestions regarding my approach.

The pages below provide information on the components that make kite aerial photography possible. The links include:

Framed Kites and Soft Kites - Most kite aerial photographs are taken using single line kites and there is an entertaining world of possibilities awaiting the selection of your camera-lofting platform. There is much to appreciate in the steady lift of a workhorse kite and like so much else in modern life finding the ideal kite takes a bit of care.

Cameras and Photographic Accessories - We have an extraordinary selection of cameras available today with motorized film advance and autoexposure. By and large they weight less than the 49 pounds of George Lawrence's panoramic camera too. This page profiles the cameras I've tried and how they have performed.

Radio Control and Batteries - Equipment from the radio-controlled model airplane world is very easily adapted to the remote control of aerial cameras. There are quite a few options for relatively low-cost, high-performance radio systems. This page outlines the basics.

Camera Cradles and Suspensions - Your camera can be attached to the kite line (or kite) by cradling devices ranging from simple, static brackets to motorized, remote-controlled rigs that can sweep the horizon and shoot an entire roll of film. This section describes my remotely-controlled rigs and their Picavet suspension.

My Gear Bag - The best KAP rig will fail to get the shot if you do not have it nearby. Lately I've been trying to distill a basic set of KAP accouterments to fit into a small single equipment bag. This page provides a peek at the contents of what I consider the essential kit -- the gear I use on a regular basis. I have assembled a roster of my gear (with approximate costs and sources) as a guide for academics developing research proposals.

Speculation on Low-Cost Approaches - I'm somewhat intrigued by the design of low cost approaches to kite aerial photography that would avoid the cost and complexity of remote control and have been working on a couple of ideas. Son Thomas and I have built one rig based on a disposable camera. I present it and other ideas herein for discussion. There is also a page containing Bill Nelson's description of his "ice trigger."

Fast forward to 2003 and we find Benton enjoying a lovely sabbatical leave as Artist in Residence at  the Exploratorium, San Francisco's fine science museum. One project


My learning curve in KAP has been greatly assisted by the many KAPers like Anne Rock, Brooks Leffler, Craig Wilson, Steve Eisenhauer, and others who have contributed to the Aerial Eye, Internet archives, and FAQs. I welcome reader's suggestions and corrections while noting that errors and omissions are mine alone.

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All rights reserved. Revised: Saturday, June 26, 2010

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