Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

Adventures in the Port of Oakland
Oakland, California

Cranes await container ships (21K jpg, Canon 50-mm, November 1997).

go to location mapThis page contains a set of relatively unusual KAP images made possible by my new Sutton 60 and a steady (though slight) breeze at sunset. The images are unusual in that they were taken in low wind -- thus the smooth water -- and in some cases only a few feet above the saltwater in the port's northern turning basin. I was flying the kite from a dock 12 feet above the water. In retrospect, I'm surprised at myself for placing the camera so close to the water with a kite I'd only flown for the first time the day before. At the time it seemed a perfectly sensible, and controllable, course of action. I am quite happy with the images that resulted even if they look like they might have been taken from a canoe.

Here is the story behind the images. It had been a rainy and grey weekend and I decided to take a drive around the Port of Oakland to scout sites for future KAP sessions. To my delight the clouds pushed away right as the sun set thus providing an opportunity to get in a quick roll. I stopped on a concrete dock near the Bay Bridge Toll Station and stood there for a few minutes gauging the wind. There wasn't much of a breeze. Ground level winds averaged 3 mph with peaks at 6 mph (according to the Kestrel meter). I hauled out the new Sutton 60 anyway thinking I could at least fly the kite a bit.

A ground-based image of the new Sutton 60 just after landing (37K jpg each, Canon 50-mm, November 1997).

Here is a shot of my new Sutton 60 in its handsome rainbow color scheme. The new, vivid nylon reminds me that my other kites have faded. Though a large kite this Sutton flies gently in low winds.

Most of the images on this page were taken as the sun set and the wind waned (17K jpg, Canon 50-mm, November 1997).

This shot explains the lighting context for the images that follow. The clouds had parted to reveal a sun hovering just above San Francisco -- you can see the city (or at least the Bay Bridge) in the attached jpg. It was a most pleasant time to be flying a kite

A somewhat dowdy view back toward my flying position on the dock (30K jpg, Canon 50-mm, November 1997).

This shot illustrates my flying position. My car was parked on this large concrete dock and the wind was directly at my back. It was a relatively simple matter to launch the large kite in the clean, unobstructed air. I was unable to see the pilings below the dock from my flying position.

Once aloft I nursed the camera as high as I could get it. The best I could do was probably around 100 feet above the water. From that height I took a few shots of the dock like the one on the left below. It shows the remarkably calm surface of the water and parked containers in a storage yard. Beyond the containers lie the highway system and the East Bay hills.

Views of still water and the sunlit dock pilings (40K jpg each, Canon 24-mm, October 1997).

Since the wind as abating the camera began to drop and quickly settled toward the water. Its rate of descent slowed and finally it seemed quite content to hover near the water's surface. While watching this the mirror-like surface of the water was a distinct asset. I could watch the camera and its reflection approach each other and use this effect as a gauge for the camera's distance above the water. During this period the kite seemed quite stable and it was easy to raise the camera by walking backward or inhauling kiteline. So I ended up with an interesting series of very low level shots. The image of dock pilings above is probably my favorite of the series.

Working tugboats (29K jpg left and 21K jpg right, Canon 24-mm, November 1997).

Above are a couple of tugboat shots taken relatively close to the dock. I've always been amused by the old crane in the righthand image but have yet to figured out a way to get to it. The images below were taken earlier in the day when the light was more diffuse. The shot of the (rather large) tugboat on the right was a 'blind' shot in that there was a building between my flying site and the dock. I was rather proud of capturing the boat.

Wharf-side images (25K jpg, Canon 50-mm left and 29K jpg, Canon 24-mm right, October 1997).

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