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Kite Monopole

Posted by Tom Benedict on 06/05/2013

World Wide KAP Week 2013 is over, and despite having to work all week and a bad run of weather, I got out more than I thought I would. I’m not planning to write much about the individual sessions because by and large they were KAP sessions like any other. But I got to play with some stuff that’s worth mentioning, so over the next few weeks I’ll write about them.

The first is the kite monopole.

All this started when my 808 #16D camera arrived. I got it after seeing some stuff that John Wells had done with his, including converting one to do near-infrared photography. My initial thought was to fly it on an RC airplane, positioned so that the airplane played a major role in the video rather than just being the aerial platform the camera was attached to. By taping it to the tail, I was able to see all of the control surfaces on the wing, while watching the plane fly. Too cool!

Having seen that, I knew I had to try it with a kite. So on a whim I decided to put a tripod on top of a kite and tape the camera onto that. The resulting video was an instant recipe for motion sickness! But it proved the idea could work. I just had some stability issues to work out.

I knew that I wanted to try it again during World Wide KAP Week, this time doing stills instead of video. I wound up using a Gopro Hero3 rather than the 808 #16D (which really is a video camera, first and foremost). And this time instead of building a tripod, I made a guy-wired monopod using a replacement spar from Rydra’s and my Widow sport kite. The idea was that this would allow the kite to flex more than the tripod had, and would transmit less of the kite’s motion to the camera. I think it helped, but what really made the difference was that I switched from a Nighthawk (a pretty jumpy high-wind kite) to a large rokkaku (a much steadier flier that can’t handle as much wind).

Gopro Monopod - Setup

Setup was a pain. There’s no other way to put it. Tying and tensioning the three lines to hold the monopod at the right angle was a drag. I arranged most of it at home, including tying the two prusik sliders for the rear legs of the guys. Unfortunately by the time I got to the beach all the knots had slipped, making it a disaster of strings and knots, none of which wanted to slide. But eventually I got everything sorted and let fly.

Gopro Monopod - Let Fly

Then the second problem hit: Without multiple legs, there was nothing constraining the camera to point forward. The monopod rotated around its axis and flopped off to one side. I flew long enough to take about 30 pictures, saw what was happening, and landed it.

Gopro Monopod - Fixing Things

Making modifications to this setup in the field was complicated by my far-sightedness. There is no way to look suave while wearing reading glasses over your sun glasses. Not that I worry overmuch about that kind of thing, but people did get a kick out of watching me tweak this thing. I wound up re-tying the guy wires so they led to the camera rather than to the monopod. This put more of a righting moment on the whole rig, and kept it pointing forward. After that, it was time to fly.

Gopro Monopod - In Flight 1

In the end, it worked! It gave me exactly the view I was after: one that showed the kite in the air as a kite, similar to the video I made using the RC airplane. The idea behind the two was the same: show the aircraft doing its thing, rather than hiding it away. We sometimes get so wrapped up with the idea of using a kite and camera to make beautiful pictures that we forget the kite itself and the way it’s being used are beautiful as well.

– Tom

One Response to “Kite Monopole”

  1. Jasja said

    Fantastic Tom!

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