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A Challenging KAP Session

Posted by Tom Benedict on 14/03/2013

I’ve had a long-standing request to photograph one of the gardens in town. I’ve tried with a kite, I’ve tried with a pole. The first time I photographed it from above, I slung a line from a nearby tree and used that to hoist my KAP rig. But since then the tree I used was cut down, so I really had no way to pull it off.

Then I got a new request to photograph a different part of the yard in order to help plan a project at the school. That location clearly needed KAP, so I gave it another go.

These photos are straight off the camera, except for a re-size in Photoshop. The last one is a little dark because the sun went behind a cloud.


It all started innocently enough in the field near the place where I work. The school is just on the other side of a big stand of eucalyptus trees to the right of this photo. The trees are the real obstacle when photographing the school. They’re 80’+ high, and far enough away from the school to make the geometry really unfriendly to KAP.


That’s when I saw The Gap. Ooooh yeah! Not only was there a gap in the trees, it was almost at the perfect angle to fly a rokkaku through it! W00t!

The trip through the trees was hairier than I like, but I managed to get through with all my gear intact. The camera was hanging from the kite line for all these photos, but I didn’t let line out to raise the camera until I was past the trees.


Aaaaah! Subject #1! For the record, I couldn’t actually see anything during most of this session. My rig was in the sun, so I couldn’t see where it was or which way the camera was pointing. I had 10-20′ high bushes between me an the subject, and trees at my back. I was flying blind. Except for the fact that I was using a video downlink! Now that I’ve used it on a flight that would’ve been close to impossible without it, I’m starting to like it more. I used my A650IS for this session, so rebuilding the video downlink to interface to both of my KAP cameras came in handy.


This gives you a better idea of the challenge involved. In the foreground is the school. In the mid-ground is the garden and yard. Behind that is the line of bushes I couldn’t see over. Past that is a dry creek bed, and past that is the path I was standing on for most of this. Just out of view at the top of the frame is the big stand of eucalyptus trees.


This one is a little dark, but it further illustrates the challenge with this session. Yep, that’s me in the upper left corner with the kite line stretching up. Those trees are big!

Once the KAP work was done, I reeled in my rig and got it off the line. The trick after that was to reel the kite down until it was below the tops of the trees. Past that it came down like a big floating elevator. I managed to hand-catch the kite without dipping the line to the ground. A good end to a good session.

Hey, I almost forgot! I flew on the other side of the eucalyptus trees back in 2010:

St. James Circle and Waimea Country School

You can see how far the garden has come since then. It was just fallow beds waiting to be planted.

– Tom

P.S. Yeah, I didn’t mention the OTHER challenge with this session. In the next to last photograph you can clearly see what look like utility lines just above the school. Those really are utility lines, and the upper line really is electricity. It’s insulated (I checked) but I was very VERY concerned about the possibility of touching it with my kite line. If the wind hadn’t been perfect, and the kids hadn’t been out of school, and things hadn’t been working perfectly, I never would’ve risked it.


4 Responses to “A Challenging KAP Session”

  1. Great result!…I dare say there are those who would say ‘easy with a microcopter’ but I know what satisfaction you get from a KAP win ike this…and I bet you had plenty of time over taget too! Well done Tom!

    • Tom Benedict said

      It probably would’ve been a snap with a microcopter. Really, it’s the perfect setup: trees blocking the wind, no pedestrians around, and a small concentrated subject that won’t require stitching afterward. But yeah, KAP is just plain fun.

      But that would be a neat subject to write about. I know there are clearly times when a microcopter will work out better than KAP – just ask Michael Layefsky. But when is KAP clearly better than a microcopter? Cool! New post!

      • It’s hard to do the ‘whole sum’ when comparing KAP to other low level photographic methods. There are so many negatives to KAP in many situations but when you get the result you want with just the wind for lift nothing can beat the satisfaction of it! A ‘copter is a costly thing however you look at it…power…parts or skill. KAP is simple, requires patience and its biggest expense is a camera!

      • Tom Benedict said

        I agree. It’s a complicated question. And there are many MANY instances where something like a microcopter would be a better option. But there’s one case in particular where I think KAP wins hands-down, all cost issues aside: Any time there are people on the ground, I’m far more comfortable with a kite and KAP rig than I am lifting the camera with something that can’t auto-rotate in case of a failure. I know people have flown microcopters over groups of people, but that’s in direct violation of one of the AMA safety guidelines: don’t fly over people.

        That’s not to say I’ll willy-nilly put a KAP rig over people, either. Things can still fail. Parts can still fall off the line. But I’ve used KAP to do what amounts to portraiture. There’s no way I’d attempt that with a microcopter.


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