Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

Gun Emplacements in the Marin Headlands
Marin County, California

Charlie Benton as a sundial gnomon, January 1996 (link to source photo, 42K jpg)

go to location mapIn the last issue of the Aerial Eye editor Brooks Leffler posed a series of questions. What subjects are your favorites for aerial photography? What do you try to achieve? Why do you shoot what you shoot? I find kite aerial photography compelling because it engages familiar subjects from a novel vantage point and in doing so requires the imagination of both photographer and viewer. Regarding the selection of subjects, I've been pondering Brooks' questions a bit and can report that I am pursuing three general categories of photography subjects. They are differentiated not only by subject but also by level of skill required.

The first subject category is the natural landscape - parkland, open space, beaches and the like. The majority of my KAP photos fall into this category because they are the easiest to take - just right for a beginner. The natural landscape offers wide open areas, unobstructed winds, and fewer people to worry about. The images of Pt. Reyes, the Marin Headlands, and the Berkeley Waterfront in my WWW site belong to the natural landscape category. When flying in open space I can concentrate on the camera rig and photography while the kite tends to itself.

The second category is the built environment - our architectural fabric of buildings, plazas, and civic space. These generally urban settings represent a greater challenge as flying space is tighter, the lower winds are turbulent, and kite-eating objects (e.g.: trees, spires, power lines) abound. I think the resulting images are worth the trouble and I aspire to take more images in this category. Over the next few months I will continue to explore this category with the University of California, Berkeley campus as a subject.

The final, and I believe most challenging, category is the social landscape - images of people engaged in individual or group activity. The placement of KAP rigs above human subjects requires skill and confidence, particularly at the lower altitudes that capture human activity well. As is often the case with greater difficulty comes greater reward. My sense in viewing the kite aerial photographs of other KAPers is that images portraying people at work and play are particularly engaging. The Brooks Leffler image of a group constructing a boardwalk ( the cover of the Aerial Eye, Vol. 1, No. 2) and Craig Wilson's hot dog concession photo (American Kite, Fall 1995) come to mind. I'm still working toward competence in this category and have few images to show as yet.

Back to the Images

The images in this gallery page were taken in the Marin Headlands just north and west of the Golden Gate Bridge. Fortifications and gun batteries pepper the landscape all around the Golden Gate - a landscape of unused and abandoned defenses from the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, WWI, W.W.II, and the Cold War. Each diagrams their day's state of the art in ruins that are slowly returning to the earth. They are an interesting place to poke around and take photographs. On the day of these images I flew the Sutton 16 and the Sutton 30 to loft the Yashica T4 camera.

A view of Battery Rathbone-McIndoe from the east, January 1996 (62K jpg)

Battery Rathbone-McIndoe sits atop a 400 foot or so ridgeline facing south and guarding the entrance to San Francisco Bay. Its a fine spot with sweeping views of the city and the natural landscape of the Marin Headlands. We've come here many times over the years just to hang out. This shot is looking west to see the first two of three gun emplacements.

Plan view of Battery Rathbone-McIndoe, January 1996 (59K jpg)

To the right you can see the center and western gun emplacements with concrete aprons before them. To the left the bluff tapers off sharply into a natural landscape. The green areas between the gun positions are two-story-tall bunkers with earth-covered roofs.

A closer plan view of Battery Rathbone-McIndoe, January 1996 (59K jpg)

This image juxtaposes the freeform lines of encroaching nature with the ordered geometry of the fortifications. You can see erosion fanning onto the concrete apron from the bunker roof and the paths worn into the surrounding carpet of vegetation.

The crumbling remains of Battery Mendell, January 1996 (38K jpg)

From 1905 to 1943, Battery Mendell's two circular pits boasted 12-inch guns on disappearing carriages. They have now stood empty for a half century. The battery is located atop a 200' sheer bluff at the Pacific Ocean end of the headlands, near the Point Bonita lighthouse. The Pacific is visible in the upper left of the image.

The other gun position of Battery Mendell, January 1996 (49K jpg)

A close look at one of the gun pits. I'm standing where the circular wall meets the straight one.

Charlie atop a lookout perch, January 1996 (36K jpg)

Charlie is standing on the concrete roof of a lookout perch two stories above the ground level facilities of the battery.

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All rights reserved. Revised: Thursday, July 18, 1996