Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

Battery Mendell
Marin Headlands, California

go to location mapIn the past month I've been gaining experience flying KAP Rig #2, a Canon SLR-based cradle I built in August 1996. I put this rig together because I wanted to shoot wide angle views and the images on this page certainly qualify! They are taken by my newest lens - the Canon 15-mm f-2.8 fisheye. In theory, this amazing collection of glass sees 180 degrees across the diagonal of the 35-mm frame though I seem to be getting a bit less than this. This gallery page has images from one of its earliest flights was over Battery Mendell in the Marin Headlands. Thanksgiving weekend provided a steady, moderate breeze and the three-pound SLR rig was lifted quite nicely by my Sutton Flowform 16.

A two photograph montage of Battery Mendell from about 100 feet up (66K jpg, Canon 15-mm, November 1996).

The Marin Headlands are located on the north side of the straight that leads to the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay. Battery Mendell commands, fog allowing, a clear view of the Pacific Ocean and its approaches to the bay. The 200-foot high bluff provides a fine setting for this pre-WWI fortification. Long in disuse, the fortification is now returning to the earth. This view across the battery looks north toward Fort Cornet, Rodeo Beach, and the coastal range beyond. This is as far as you can drive toward the west in the headlands.

Battery Mendell was previously featured in a page I posted last May.

Your author in a low-level shot (45K jpg, Canon 15-mm, November 1996).

The Canon 15-mm lens has extraordinary depth of field and the barrel distortion characteristic of fisheye lenses. The distortion produces a curved horizon effect when photos are taken with the lens pointing below the horizon (as in most KAP shots). I find the effect pleasing -- figuratively evocative of the planet's roundness. Take that Flat Earth Society. This view was taken from a height of only 8 or 9 feet. The rounded object in the upper left is one of several half-buried, armored sighting stations. The rough bluff trailing into the distance leads southward to the Pt. Bonita Lighthouse. On the far horizon you can see the shores of San Francisco across the straight.

Low-level views of the parking area, trail, and bluff near Battery Mendell (57K jpg left and 44K jpg right, Canon 15-mm, November 1996).

Views are from 20-30 feet up near the parking area. I only had five exposures in the camera so I sent it up to finish the roll at lower altitudes. On the left you can see the trail and your author (middle of image) flaunting the National Park Service's fence. Just behind me the bluff drops steeply to the ocean below. In the upper left of the image you can see one of the camera rig's tripod legs extending into the photo. I have since shortened them. In the right image you can see the parking area including my red convertible. When I'm flying solo, as I was this day, I launch the kite and then tie it off to the car's roll bar while I mount the camera rig. I've gotten very efficient at doing this.

A (distorted) plan view of Battery Mendell and a context shot (51K jpg left and 46K jpg right, Canon 15-mm, November 1996).

Barrel distortion is evident in the plan view of the battery as is one leg of the camera rig. I am flying the kite from the top of the photograph. The right-hand photo is an eastward-facing view that shows the battery's approach road and the bluffside trail. On the horizon to the left are the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco beyond it (well you can sort of see them in the jpg). In the photo Battery Mendell lies just below the bridge. Its profile is flush with the bluff top making it difficult to see. I guess that is the point.


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