The View Up Here

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Archive for August, 2011

Tsunami Repair

Posted by Tom Benedict on 20/08/2011

Last weekend I stopped off at Anaehoomalu Bay to try to fly my new T2i KAP rig, but the wind was too low to fly a kite, much less a camera. Instead I looked around and saw that the section of beach that had been washed out by the tsunami had been replaced! I talked to some of the maintenance workers there, and they said the work had been done two weeks earlier. I couldn’t fly a camera then, but I vowed to come back as soon as conditions were better.

This morning I checked the wind and saw that conditions were almost ideal. I grabbed my stuff and headed out, hoping the wind models weren’t wrong. I wasn’t disappointed. The wind was higher than I expected. It was high enough I could fly the rig from my 6′ rokkaku. I did two flights, one with a circular polarizer and one without. The sun was almost directly overhead, so the set with the polarizer worked better than might be expected. In the end I made just over a hundred exposures, some of which stitched together well enough to show the repair:

Anaehoomalu Bay Tsunami Repair

The new sand is a different color from the original sand on the beach, though I expect that’ll become more subtle over time. Even after just three weeks the water in the fishpond has already turned the characteristic green it has been in the past. In time it will be hard to tell something had happened at all. One of the clearest signs remaining is the wide delta of sand out in the bay, extending toward the reef. Other than that things really are returning to normal.

At the moment the entire repair is faced by giant sandbags, and signs along the repair ask people not to walk on the sand bags. I hope that the plans include dumping more sand in front of the sand bags to recreate the beach that was washed away by the tsunami. I also expect there are plans to repair the stone wall that was destroyed. Time will tell.

It was a good day. The T2i KAP rig worked well, I was able to photograph the repairs, and I’m getting a better feel for the weight of the new rig in the air. Can’t beat it.

– Tom

Posted in Hawaii, Kite Aerial Photography, Photography | Leave a Comment »

Your Basic DSLR KAP Rig

Posted by Tom Benedict on 13/08/2011

Once the order from Brooxes came in, modifying my A650IS HoVer rig to take the Canon T2i took very little time.

T2i KAP Rig - Head On!

I still haven’t got it airborne, but I plan to this coming weekend. Meanwhile here’s the low-down:

My A650IS HoVer rig had a flying weight right around 945g. The all-up flying weight on the T2i rig (which does not have a HoVer axis) with the 18-55mm kit lens is 1129g, or just under 200g heavier. Just for comfort’s sake I looked at Cris Benton’s Flickr stream  and checked the weight on his Canon DSLR rig. He’s got a HoVer axis on his, which I don’t, but his is built using carbon fiber and wood, which is lighter construction than my aluminum rig. His overall weight came in at 1410g. Of even more comfort was his comment that when he built it, it was double the weight of any rig he’d flown, yet the weight really didn’t turn out to be a problem in practice. Just another KAP rig. I still plan to test this weight using a water bottle dummy weight, but it’s encouraging.

To make the T2i DSLR rig happen I made the following changes to my venerable A650 rig:

First, the tilt frame with its horizontal/vertical plan rotation axis (HoVer axis in KAP parlance) came out, and a Brooxes Utility Frame with the wide shelf attachment I mentioned in my earlier post took its place. The balance was dead nuts on, first try. Yaaay! (Love it when things work first time.)

Next, the Futaba S3003 servo I’d been using for tilt came out, and a Hitec HS-645MG servo took its place. I mentioned this in my previous post, and my reasons for doing it. I’m glad to say this also worked first time. No oscillation, no wobblies, and with the clean balance on the new tilt frame it’s not drawing a lot of current.

I changed out the GentLED-CHDK cable that triggered the A650IS camera with a GentLED-Focus cable with the 2.5mm plug to match the cable release on the T2i (and a whole host of other DSLR cameras, by the way.) Unfortunately it came with a straight 2.5mm plug instead of the right-angle plug I’d seen on this unit the one other time I worked with one. So I need to pick up a 90 degree adapter from Radio Shack. Minor problem, easily solved.

I still need to get a small diameter, wide rubber band. You get these on bundles of broccoli or asparagus at the grocery store. I used to keep a stash of them when I was doing 35mm film photography actively. They’re great for locking a zoom lens at a particular position, or locking a focus ring so it can’t drift. I’d like to run the kit lens at 18mm and lock the zoom. Nothing beats the band!

Here are some other photos of the rig:

T2i KAP Rig - Front

T2i KAP Rig - Back

T2i KAP Rig - Bottom Detail

The only real caution I saw is that unless the camera is horizontal to the ground, the lens can strike the ground before the legs do. Not a huge deal, but certainly something to be aware of.

T2i KAP Rig - Lens Interference

So now the plan is to fly tonight and tomorrow night using a dummy weight tuned to the 1130g of this new rig and camera, and to go out Saturday to find some kind wind and a photogenic subject so I can finally get it off the ground.

Things get even better! As I was writing this, I got word back from Getty Images. I’ve been given a list of things they’d like to see from Hawaii, most of which lend themselves well to this new rig and to its sister rig that I’m building for my 24′ pole. Time to get this thing airborne!

– Tom

Posted in Kite Aerial Photography, Photography | 1 Comment »

Just Getting it Airborne

Posted by Tom Benedict on 11/08/2011

The editor in charge of the Flickr Collection at Getty Images got back with me and said he’d check with his Creative Research group to let me know if they had identified any areas of their collection of Hawaii images they wanted to expand. So it’s a start! But so far no word on what those areas are.

Meanwhile this led to a discussion with my wife and father, both of whom are good critics. What I mean by that is that both of them understand that the ultimate purpose of criticism is to improve the thing being criticized. So neither holds back punches, and both have provided me with good insight in the past. My wife pointed out that there’s a difference between grand sweeping panoramic landscapes and tightly focused single-frame images. Of my KAP work, she preferred the latter rather than the former. My father gave me some additional information, but agreed that the single frame, carefully composed photograph of a single subject stood on its own better than the panoramic landscapes. Each has a place, but of the two it was the single-frame photographs they preferred.

Up until now most of my design work with the T2i rig revolved around the idea of it being a special purpose rig for making panoramas. Well that needed re-thinking! I’m still working on the design for a highly stabilized KAP rig, but now it looks like making it more general-purpose would be a better idea. In the mean time, it’s pretty clear that my first priority should be to just get the T2i airborne.

While Michael Layefsky was out, I got a chance to see his DSLR rig. He uses a different body from mine, but the weight and the overall build is similar. The T2i rig I built for a photographer here in Hawaii used the Maxi parts from Brooxes, but Michael’s rig was built using the normal BBKK components. Well heck! I have a spare utility frame on my masthead rig! Yesterday I pulled it off and gave it a good looking over. Sure enough the T2i not only fit, it fit with room to spare.

But that’s where convenience ended and reality took over. The center of gravity of the T2i with 18-55mm kit lens is quite a bit forward of the tripod socket. It’s actually almost in line with the lens mount, but off to one side. Some careful work with the utility frame, the camera, a three-point support, and a postage scale nailed the CG and let me plan where to drill the hole in the frame. Unfortunately the answer was that the tripod socket hole needed to be drilled about a quarter inch off the side of the frame, out in space. ARGH!

I made a wider shelf for the utility frame, match-drilled it and bolted it onto the frame, and went from there. Now I have a frame that’ll take the T2i or the A650, and mount either one to my BBKK KAP rig, or my masthead rig. The shelf was made using 0.050″ aluminum, so it hardly added any weight. And since most of the weight is borne by the utility frame, the thinner material isn’t a huge concern. Besides, I always always use a safety tether between my cameras and my rig, so even if the shelf separates in flight or on top of the mast, the camera isn’t coming down.

The only bits remaining are a new metal geared servo for the tilt axis (my current plastic geared on oscillates, even with the A650 and Ho/Ver axis), and the GentLED-Focus cable that’ll let me trip the shutter on the T2i through an R/C remote. I placed the order for those bits from Brooks over the weekend, and should have them in-hand by tomorrow at the latest.

So at long last, months after I bought the T2i, I’m finally going to have it airborne. It sounds goofy to say this since I’m the one who’s been dragging his heels, but I can’t wait!

– Tom

P.S. Yes, I’m still planning to build the ultra stabilized rig. But for now? Time to do some KAP!

Posted in Kite Aerial Photography, Machining, Photography | Leave a Comment »

A Good Session and a Question

Posted by Tom Benedict on 05/08/2011

A whole slew of recent obligations have made it increasingly difficult to get out and do KAP. I griped enough about this in previous posts, so I won’t repeat it here. It’s all downer stuff, and things have changed since then.

Some time off, some much-needed kicks in the seat of the pants, and a new outlook on photography got me past the photographer’s block I hit about a month ago. In particular an article by James Gentles helped me to see with new eyes and enjoy getting out with kites and camera. Last weekend I took my gear to Hapuna Beach and played around. The wind was great, the clouds looked nice, and dang it if James’s article wasn’t right on the money when it comes to KAP and sunlight. I had a great time.


On a whim I took my gear for a walk down the beach toward the State Park end, and made a number of panoramas that worked out well.

Hapuna Beach State Park from North End

I was curious what the view was looking back the other way toward the Hapuna Prince Beach Resort, and was impressed with how it came out. In the foreground is the northern pavilion in Hapuna Beach State Park, and in the background is the Resort.

Hapuna Beach State Park and Hapuna Prince Resort

I’m still trying to do photography for sale through Getty Images, so I was trying to make good, technically solid photos that would meet their requirements. As I walked back toward the spot where my family was playing, I remembered something a fellow photographer and Getty contributor said: It’s very hard to sell a vertical panorama. He’s tried over the years to make vertical panos that sell, but without much luck. Two of my kids were making a big sand pit that I figured would look nice from a high angle, and the line of the waves on the sand looked good, too. So I made a vertical of the beach with the kids in the foreground, the surf in the midground, and Hualalai in the background.

Hapuna Beach South VPan 2

When I got home and processed everything, I was really happy with how the session had turned out. I got solid panoramas with few to no errors, and a number of good single-frame images as well. It was a good day of KAP.

A couple of days later I put together a set of photos and submitted it to Getty Artist’s Choice for review. I didn’t have enough from the Hapuna flight to fill out a full set, so I included a couple of Halemaumau erupting at night, one from Akaka Falls, and a photograph of the stream running through Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens at Onomea Bay. To my delight they selected one of my images for sale in the Getty Flickr Collection. But to my surprise it wasn’t any of the aerial panoramas. It was that stream in the botanical gardens.

Stream in Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens

I almost didn’t include it in the set. I figured it was too tropical island cliché to be of any interest. How wrong I was!

So I sent email to the editor in charge of the Flickr Collection at Getty Images. He’s busy, so I don’t know when, or if, he’ll be able to reply. But I had to ask: What Hawaii imagery are they after?

I know Getty is interested in low altitude aerials because other KAPers list photos on Getty. I know it’s not a people vs. no-people because none of my photos with people were selected. I know people use Hawaii imagery because I’ve seen other photos from Hawaii in their catalog. And it can’t be a resolution issue since most of my panoramas are at least 10k pixels wide with decent noise. But I’m obviously missing something. The last thing I want to do is waste the editors’ time. I hope he has time to reply. It will do us both a favor.

Regardless of his answer, I don’t think this will change how I do photography in the field. When I found out that Getty Images needed photos of people in public places, I submitted more of the people pictures I’ve already been making. When I found out that more pixels is better, I started submitting more panoramas and bought a higher resolution camera. I’m still doing the same photography I like to do. I’m just choosing different photographs to share.

– Tom

Posted in Hawaii, Kite Aerial Photography, Photography | 1 Comment »