Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

The Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien
San Francisco, California

Plan view of the Jeremiah O'Brien deck at sunset (50K jpg).

go to location mapThe Jeremiah O'Brien is one of two remaining ships of the Liberty type. She was built in 1943 at New England Shipbuilding Co., South Portland, Maine, for the War Shipping Administration and served during WWII. The Liberty Ships were produced in great quantity and extended the Allied supply lines around the globe. The Jeremiah O'Brien was put into the reserve fleet after the war then transferred to the National Liberty Ship Memorial in 1978 to be reactivated. Following a loving restoration she moved under her own steam to the San Francisco waterfront. Today she is part of the National Maritime Museum at the San Francisco Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is docked just south of the Bay Bridge. The Jeremiah O'Brien crew sailed her to Normandy and back for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day.

This view captures the end-of-day sun grazing across the surface of San Francisco Bay and an overhead view of the aft cargo booms. Note (for scale) the 55-gallon drums on the dock to the left.

The Jeremiah O'Brien bow in oblique and plan views (39K jpg left and 35K jpg right).

I spent last Saturday afternoon giving a lecture at the PG&E Energy Center and had just an hour or so of sun when I left for Berkeley. I had been intending to stop by the Jeremiah O'Brien for a while now and this seemed a good opportunity. The open pier provided plenty of working room and I quickly had the Sutton Flowform 30 aloft. It flew well so I mounted the Canon camera rig and found that the lift could just barely raise it. Making lemonade out of lemons I set about taking some lower shots like the prow shot above. From the side this ship seems very substantial but in plan view you get a sense of how thin its steel plate hull actually is. When the kids visit they really have fun with the guns located fore and aft.

Oblique views of the Jeremiah O'Brien (42K jpg left and 43K jpg right).

I found some vital statistics on the ship from the a page maintained by the National Park Service. The Jeremiah O'Brien is 441.5 feet long and 57 feet wide. Its draft is 27.9 feet with a net load of 4,380 tons for a gross load of 7176 tons. It is powered by a triple-expansion, reciprocating steam engine that seems like it belongs to the nineteenth century. If you pick the right day to visit you can see this engine running and turning the long power shaft that leads to the single screw. Another interesting WWW page on the Jeremiah O'Brien has been posted by Marty Wefald, a volunteer crew member.

A view from over the stern (49K jpg).

As I took these pictures the wind began to fill in from the northeast. At first this was good. The camera cradle was lifted with more authority and I could place the rig over the Jeremiah O'Brien's rigging with a comfortable height cushion.

I'll confess that the Jeremiah O'Brien is the scene of my career low in terms of precision kite flying. Over a year ago, not long after I started kite flying, I tried to photograph the Jeremiah O'Brien. I launched the Sutton Flowform 8 in a strong gusty wind in the lee of downtown San Francisco. The kite flew reasonably well and I was emboldened by the apparently fine performance of my new frilly tail. I tied the kite off to a carabiner and strap while preparing the cradle for mounting. To my dismay I watched the Sutton heal over in a particularly strong gust, fly itself way over to the right side, and foul at the top of the Jeremiah O'Brien's foremast. This provided the opportunity for me to explain my new hobby to the O'Brien crew under the least favorable circumstances. I then watched a septuagenarian climb the mast to retrieve kite and tail (they wouldn't let me due to insurance requirements). My stainless swivel is still up there. The crew was very nice about it and I promised to return to take photos for them (under better wind conditions.)


A view from over the bow (43K jpg).

As last weekend's wind continued to increase I found myself working quite hard to handle the kite with one hand and the transmitter with the other. I hurried my way through the roll of film and then walked the kite over to my parked convertible. I tied the kite off to a carabiner that was connected by a climbing strap to the car's roll bar. It took an impressive amount of work to walk the kite down. The process gave me a chance to practice my left-handed, single-handed clove hitches. I'm happy that my knots and rigging stood up to the load.

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