The View Up Here

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Traveling KAP

Posted by Tom Benedict on 22/06/2012

I’m heading to Amsterdam in less than a week for the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation conference. Most of my time will be spent at the conference, of course, and a good chunk of it will be spent walking around Amsterdam and taking in the sights. But at least some of that time will be spent with a kite winder in hand, doing aerial photography using a camera suspended from a kite line. For ground photography I’m bringing two cameras, a small tripod, and my carbon fiber pole. But what to bring for KAP?

The most versatile answer is, “All of it!” But that’s not the most practical approach since I’m already bringing posters for the conference, a laptop, clothes, etc. I can’t justify carrying that much stuff. Some of it will have to stay home.

Rather than pare down what I don’t think I’ll need, I’m starting over from scratch and only considering the stuff I do think I’ll need:

First and foremost, I have to choose kites. I have six kites I use for KAP, spanning the wind range from 4kt to 20kt+. But I’ve been assured high winds are rare in Amsterdam this time of year, and that 5-10kt is typical. So I’m only bringing two kites: my 6′ rokkaku and my 7.5′ rokkaku. Both of these break down to 35″ in length, and will fit inside my poster tube.

Next is winders: My main winder is a home-made plywood winder with 1000′ of #200 braided Dacron. It’s great for rapid release and retrieval, but it eats up more room in my bag than my laptop, power supply, mouse, and cables! It’s staying at home. Instead I’m bringing a hoop winder with 500′ of #150 braided Dacron. It’s slower to operate, but I use it enough for this to be an easy transition.

Next is the choice of camera and rig. I’m already planning to bring my Canon T2i for ground photography and my Canon A650 for pole photography (if I can manage to pack my photographer’s pole, that is!) I’ve used both of these cameras in the air, and have a rig for each. But they’re practically the same size. Rather than bring two rigs, I’m planning to bring the shutter cable for the A650 and use it on my T2i rig if I wind up going that route. It already has all the required mounting holes to take either camera.

As far as accessories go, I’m limiting myself to a hat, gloves, battery chargers, and a small kit of tools and parts for any reasonable rig repair I’m likely to face. The anemometer, strap, carabiners, additional kites, extra winders, night lights, and all the other gear I typically carry will stay at home.

Everything but the cameras and kites will go into my checked luggage with my clothes. I’ve had enough fun with airport security over the years that I don’t want to risk having to leave my winder or my KAP rig behind when I go through security. Sure, there’s a chance it might get lost or stolen. But there’s a rule I follow every time  I travel: never take something you can’t stand to lose. If my luggage is lost, it’ll be lame. But it won’t be the end of the world.

I’m really looking forward to this trip to Amsterdam. The SPIE conference happens once every two years, and is a prime opportunity to touch base with others in the field. Amsterdam is a city with a rich history I’ll only be able to scratch the surface of during my short time there, but already I have a list of places to visit. And every opportunity to do KAP off-island is a real treasure. It should be a fantastic trip.

Oh! And the poster? It finally came together:

SPIE 2012 Vacuum Poster

– Tom

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