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Stepping Away

Posted by Tom Benedict on 10/01/2012

It’s unfortunate to post this right after I posted my resolutions for this year, including a resolution to really get back in the air with KAP. But recently, kite aerial photography has been kicking my ass. I’ve had a working video downlink for weeks now, but a combination of bad weather, bad wind, bad planning, and just plain bad luck has kept me from flying it. I’ve had a DSLR rig for months, but I still haven’t had a rock solid session with it. It feels like I’ve spent the last year in a holding pattern.

This past weekend was no exception. Saturday I went to one of my favorite flying spots, only to be told I had to bring my kite down for safety reasons. This is the first time this has happened to me. I was disappointed, but the guy telling me was just the messenger so I didn’t fight with him. Saturday evening I charged all my batteries, did an end-to-end test of my gear, and packed it away for Sunday.

In the morning I drove to Anaehoomalu Bay, another one of my favorite spots, and one of the best places on the island to do testing because of the clean laminar wind. I tried flying a 7.5′ rokkaku, but the wind really called for something bigger. So I put up my Dopero. It gave me maybe four pounds of pull. Perfect! Out came the rig, the camera, and the radio. And… The rig’s batteries were dead.

At this point it had become a grudge match. I intentionally use AA and AAA batteries so I can replace them with store-bought alkalines in a pinch. This was clearly a pinch! I packed my gear and drove to the nearest convenience store. I figured I’d pick up some batteries, maybe something to eat since it was past lunch time, and get back out to the beach. That was when I discovered I’d left my wallet at home. I packed it in.

Enough is enough. Something is sending me a very clear message: step away. So I’m stepping away. I stripped down my KAP bag, pulled the batteries out of all my gear, and shelved everything with all due care and attention. The kites all got a re-pack, and I prepped my kite bag for just flying kites instead of doing KAP. My camera is back to being just a camera. I’ll use it on a tripod for now.

Sunday afternoon I went to the beach with my family. It was the first time I’d been there without kites in years. I just had a chair, a book, and a towel. I went out in the water and was trounced by the waves. I dragged myself back, utterly exhausted and bruised, and feeling great.

As we walked back from the beach, my wife asked me, “This not doing KAP thing… it’s not permanent is it?” I wanted to give her some kind of reassurance, but it was really too soon to tell. I think I grimaced, but that’s it.

When I got home I logged onto Flickr and saw a photograph of dune fences on Fire Island, done by a fellow KAPer. The repetition of the fences and the light and shadow on the sand was beautiful. I wanted to go play, too. Later that same evening someone commented on a KAP photo I’d posted on Google Earth. It was a really clean abstract. It made me want to go back out right then and there. But then I thought about that video downlink, how complicated my gear is getting, and how much pull I have to have just to lift my rig these days. It all came crashing back down.

This morning my daughter asked if we could grab our cameras and walk to her school from where I work. Well SURE! The walk goes along a really nice hike and bike trail, crosses over a creek, cuts through some wild taro, and goes all over the place. She brought her point and shoot, a waterproof Fuji she got for her birthday. I brought my T2i. I think I took more pictures of her than I did the landscape, but I had an absolute blast. By the end of it I found myself looking at her camera and wondering how hard it would be to build a KAP rig around it. Something really light and really simple. Just what you’d want in your pocket when the wind was right.

Nope, not permanent. But I need some time.

– Tom

2 Responses to “Stepping Away”

  1. Ah KAPpers block…similar to writer’s block but with more clobber to carry around…. you just can’t force photography to work can you! Sometimes the intersection of place, wind, light & time just won’t happen…and sometimes it does! Reminds me of a photographer friend of mine who is in a nervous state over an upcoming documentary shoot. I know she can handle a camera well and tried to think of something constructive to say, I ended up categorising my work and hers as way putting the problem in perspective:

    KAP is not a ‘reactive’ act in the way shooting hand-held is; KAPpers have to plot and scheme to get (close to) the shot they want and in doing so can easily fall into the trap of ‘threshold apprehension’ or never being happy with what they are doing because we can always think of a better way!

    I have been grounded for a week after hand surgery and I can tell you not flying for a while will dirve you out there!

    I have had my fair share of KAP failures and I think it’s part of the art, there are always a thousand reasons for not hanging a camera off a kite and there’s a kind of amplification of grief effect with new kit too: any one new thing generates at least 3 new problems when tested in the field! It takes a good while to get the brain deal with all the parts as a whole without thought. DSLR really spoiled things for me simply beacuse of the weight, and that has spawned a whole new line/kite/ wind speed selection problem I’m still learning to deal with.

    The day will come when it will all click and you will wonder why it all seeemd so hard before: KAP with live vid is like walking on air when it comes together!

    Never give up!


  2. […] In an earlier post, I mentioned a mental roadblock I’ve been running into with kite aerial photography and with photography in general. I’ve been struggling with this for the past year or so. Stepping away from KAP just seemed like one more brick in the wall I’m trying to get past. It wasn’t a happy post. […]

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