The View Up Here

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Life’s a Beach

Posted by Tom Benedict on 22/02/2012

I didn’t get to pull out my 4×5 camera this past weekend. By Friday afternoon it was pretty clear I’d caught a cold. So I spent most of the weekend indoors wishing I could be outdoors. By Sunday afternoon, however, I was ready to risk anything to get out of the house. So we went to the beach. I came prepared!

Most of the time when I go to the beach I’ll either pack my KAP gear or I’ll pack a book and a beach chair. This time I brought my KAP gear, all my kites, a two-line kite (a Jon Trennepohl Widow), the full-spectrum Canon XT I have on loan, my shortwave radio, a long-wire antenna, and my book. But no beach chair. I figured if I needed to sit down, I could just flop on the sand.

The wind was perfect. So while everyone else was taking off their sandals to get in the water or setting up their chairs to read by the seaside, I was muttering under my breath about not wasting good wind and trying to get everything set up in the shortest amount of time possible. Up went the 6′ rokkaku, out came the rig and transmitter! I got my T2i airborne with the video down-link, and got down to business.

Blue Umbrellas

The wind was a little stiffer than I liked, but other than that conditions were perfect. The sky was a little hazy, but not so much that I didn’t get good shadows. The video link worked like a charm. I was able to compose a number of photographs that I knew I’d like when I got home. I exposed 39 frames — a far cry from the hundreds I typically do when not using a viewfinder. Of those only a couple were real tossers. It was a matter of choosing the best rather than choosing not-the-worst.

Sand Play

I brought my T2i down and switched to the full-spectrum Canon XT. I stuck my Hoya R72 filter on the end of the lens and did some IR KAP.

Hapuna Prince Resort in the IR with Kohala

I was really pleased to see how well the IR cut through the haze in the air. This is typical of IR photography, but it’s neat to see it when it happens. In the distant background you can see individual clumps of trees on Kohala Mountain showing up brightly in the near-IR.

The Canon XT doesn’t have live view, so I can’t use the video down-link with it. I was a little surprised to see one of my carefully composed T2i photos and one of the blind-aimed XT photos were almost identical in terms of composition! So I put them together as a visible/IR diptych:

Visible and IR

The card in the XT is fairly small (512MB?) and I had it set to make RAW files, so I knew I couldn’t take too many pictures before the card filled up. Eventually it was time to land the camera and pack the KAP gear away. Then out came the shortwave radio!

Two weeks ago I brought my kites to the local radio club meeting as a sort of show-and-tell. Mostly it was to get the gears turning to see what the club members came up with. A number of people were interested in doing some QRP DX using a longwire vertical. Someone else had the idea of sending up a pair of handhelds, set up as a cross-band repeater. The ideas bounced around faster than I could keep track of them! By the time we left, everyone was making “Hmmm!” noises. It was a fun meeting.

For my part, I wanted to see how a long wire antenna would work out. I don’t have my General license yet, so I can’t transmit on the HF bands. But I can listen! I’ve had battery powered shortwave for the last ten years or so that goes out to 120m. When I bought it I also picked up a 10m antenna. Not ideal for the longer wavelengths, but decent for the shorter ones and better than nothing. Just for grins I tied the antenna to my kite line and ran it up. I couldn’t develop enough height to be too worried about static buildup, so I just plugged it straight in.

And boy did it work! I picked up transmissions from Japan, China, and Australia. I got some others I couldn’t identify, but already that sounded pretty cool. I tried some of the longer bands, but the short antenna just couldn’t pull them in. Besides, I didn’t have a decent ground plane, so I knew I wasn’t getting everything out of it that I could. I packed everything away and started making plans for setting up a quarter wave ground plane antenna that would get me out to 120m. Only this time I’ll add a static discharge resistor!

As I was packing my radio away and landing the rokkaku, I realized the wind was picking up as the sun got lower rather than the other way around. The normal pattern is to have the wind drop off at sunset. Aaaah, but we weren’t having normal weather! (If it’s any indicator, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa had a snowstorm Saturday night.) So I pulled out the two-line kite.

I fly our Widow, but really it’s my wife’s kite. I’m more of a single-line guy. She saw me throw it in my kite bag when we were packing for the beach, but didn’t say anything. As we were driving down I asked if she’d be interested in flying it. She looked a little pained, but shook her head. Ever since her brain surgery, she’s had a hard time adjusting to the loss of her stereo vision. She explained that she was worried she wouldn’t be able to fly it with one eye. I thought otherwise, but I held my tongue.

Once the Widow was airborne, though, I had to see her try. It was good clean wind, the sand was clear for most of the window, and I could see her watching out of the corner of her eye. So I waved to her and gestured for her to come over. She stepped in, took the handles, and flew it just as she always had.

Back In Command

Eventually she had a hard landing in the sand that busted a spar. I didn’t care. A busted spar can’t hold a candle to the look on her face. It was great to see her at the controls again.

As the evening drew to a close I put up the PFK Nighthawk that Pierre Lesage and Heidy Baumgartner gave me when they visited Hawaii about a  year ago. The wind was really too light for it to do any lifting, but you just can’t beat the wind range on that kite. Pierre has used one to fly a camera in 45 knot wind. I was flying mine in less than five knots. On a whim I decided to re-create a photograph I’d made during Worldwide KAP Week 2009.

PFK Fine Guidance System

I’ll get out with my 4×5 next weekend. For now life’s pretty good.

– Tom

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