Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

Plaza Scenes
Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley, California

A backlit, sunset view of the LHS Plaza fountain taken from the ground (18K jpg, Canon 15-mm, July 1997).

go to location mapAs this day at the Lawrence Hall of Science waned I decided to take another roll of film examining the plaza's octagonal fountain and the vestigial impression of a fiberglass whale sculpture. Flying during this roll provided the most terrifying kite behavior I have yet to experience. You will recall from the previous page that there was a slow wind that occasionally lapsed to near calm. I was flying the large, light Rokkaku and could nurse the camera rig to some height with patience. At other times there were dramatically rapid descents. Having not flown the rig for about a month I felt out of practice but at the same time I yearned to take some KAP photos, to tend to an unwillingly neglected pastime.

A plan view of the fountain and the vestigial stain of a fiberglass whale tail (25K jpg left and 20K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, August 1997).
So I spent a bit of time enjoying the challenge of keeping camera separated from pavement and getting shots like the ones above. On the left you can see the entire fountain with the sun coming from the left and the shadow of the eight-foot-high water jets on the right. The right-hand image shows the rubber matting that normally holds Pheena, the fiberglass whale sculpture made by master boatbuilder Chris Benedict. The sculpture had been moved aside for refurbishment and what remained was a distinct "footprint" stain on the matting. It makes for an interesting and enigmatic image.

An image taken during kite flying crisis and an oblique view of the vestigial stain of a fiberglass whale tail (25K jpg left and 20K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, August 1997).

While I was flying over the plaza the wind appeared to drop off at ground level while the pull from the kite became stronger. The Rokkaku began to fly in increasingly steeper angles until it became uncomfortably steep. I take this type of behavior to mean the kite is caught in a thermal -- a localized bubble of warm air rising above the hillside. It continued to be quite still at ground level. I decided to feed the kite more kiteline with the hope it would lower to a more stable flying angle but it simply went upward.

As the kite gained more altitude I pointed the camera straight downward and took the photograph on the left (above.) In it you see me almost dead center. This is the position from which I'm flying the kite. On careful inspection of the attached jpg you can also see the kiteline running along the lower centerline axis of the image. The DNA sculpture is in the upper right, the relocated whale sculpture the upper left, and the fountain the bottom center.

After deciding to not spool any more line out the kite flew directly overhead for a long minute or two. Then it started to descend rapidly. I spooled line in hand over hand and at times could not keep up. As the camera cradle approached the pavement -- it was coming straight down -- I abandoned the kiteline and simply caught it. It was moving with enough velocity to have crunched it pretty well had it hit pavement but it was not too difficult to catch. I was lucky it came straight downward. I put the camera cradle on the ground undamaged and turned my attention to finding the kiteline. This I did and eventually inhauled enough to stabilize the kite before it hit the ground. I then decided it was time to call it a day.

A shot taken just 1 foot above the fountain's water jets (31K jpg, Canon 15-mm, July 1997).

These fountain shots were taken in better air before the white-knuckle flying. In the one to the left I'm able to suspend the camera immediately above the fountain's water jets. I had hoped it would come out as a more dramatic image

A view of the fountain and photographer from a more comfortable height (25K jpg, Canon 24-mm, July 1997).

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