The View Up Here

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First Aerial Photography of 2014

Posted by Tom Benedict on 03/01/2014

I’ve been on vacation for the last week and a half, and still have five more days to go. This is a GREAT way to start a new year. I’ve also been doing a ton of photography. Mostly long-duration sunsets, but I finally got airborne over the last two days for some aerial photography.

Yesterday I flew a plane with a Gopro on it, just to see what it would look like. Up until now I’ve only done videos from planes. Never stills. This time I wanted to see what stills looked like. Unfortunately my setup was far from ideal, and I wound up tip-stalling about a hundred feet off the deck. I couldn’t build up enough airspeed to recover, so the plane went in. The Gopro survived, but the plane needs a new nose. I’m taking this opportunity to replace it with one that’s a little more conducive to mounting cameras. Meanwhile, the latest photograph of Mala `ai garden was done from a plane:

Mala `ai from a Plane

Today I grabbed my KAP gear and headed down to Waialea Bay for my first KAP session of 2014. To be fair, I’ve been dragging my KAP gear all over for the last week, hoping to get some flying in. But the weather has been horrid for KAP: no wind, lots of rain, and terrible light. Today changed all that. Lots of wind, no rain, and stellar late-day light.

Two at Waialea Bay

The wind was pretty rocky for this location. I used a Flow Form 16, which is normally a reasonably stable kite. Today it was swooping all over the place. I hung my T2i from the line anyway, and flew. Only two of the pictures were truly blurry, but almost all of them were soft to some degree. This was one of the only survivors. It’s reasonably sharp, though the composition isn’t exactly what I was after. Still, after days of nothing it was great to have something coming off the camera.

So here’s to 2014. May it be a year of good weather, good flying, and good times.

– Tom

2 Responses to “First Aerial Photography of 2014”

  1. wayne said

    Hi Tom,
    Just missed my lunch as I found your website as I was about to go out & grab a bite – couldn’t stop reading !!. I’ve been trying my hand at KAP for about 5 years myself, have almost the same number & style of kites (including the Nighthawk) as you have but not anywhere near as the quality of shots you have. Built 4 rigs, flown 2 – haven’t had the guts to fly my first fully RC rig – also equipped with video spotting for my Ricoh GX 200 (shoots RAW and also has a video link of its own) as I’m in Hong Kong where wide open flat land for soft landings is as scarce here as it sounds to be as where you are. Fortunately GoPro came along around that time so thought this to be a good camera to cut my teeth on but now find I need to move on from Go Pro. So.. just bought the Nikon Coolpix AW 120 and built a new rig for it. Unbelievably this camera does not have an interval timer so fixed up a mechanical one using a servo, now just waiting for a 555 interval timer AND a Pololu Maestro mini controller to see which one is best to control the shutter. I suspect the Pololu unit but have already ordered the 555! ( saw your pic’s on Pololu Valley – now thats a real coincidence as I’d never heard of Pololu electronics until today!)

    Anyhow reasons I wanted this camera are many but the best is that it’s totally waterproof and most of my stuff is over water (see Shahtoosh YouTube) so if the camera gets dunked it’s going to be OK whereas my Ricoh (and RC) would be soggy toast. Yea sh** happens! as early during the filming of Shahtoosh the wind died and the boat wasn’t making enough speed to keep my Sutton FF16 up with disastrous consequences – kites behave like para-anchors in water!! we just managed to get the rig back before the bridle snapped, MOB! had to turn the boat back to go and pick up the kite !!

    Question I am now looking at is, are there any systems available where the camera can track the subject (me on a boat for instance) because looking at these micro controllers and other robotic devices (i.e., Adruno Uno R3) it really seems possible that the servo’s could be programed to follow target/aiming technology.

    Anyway I will keep looking into this idea but would appreciate any help in that area, BTW I am no electric nor computer whiz – had to get my girlfriend to set up the GoPro & Coolpix Wi-Fi for me!! But I am good at hands on stuff so if its buildable I’ll make it work.

    Well now time to get back to work, no time to eat now !! Really good to read of your KAP experiences, As far as I can tell I am the only one “up there” here in HK.

    Best Regards

    Wayne R

    • Tom Benedict said

      Ack! Sorry you lost your lunch to this, but I’m glad you’re enjoying the read.

      I tried bringing up your Shatoosh video, but for some reason it keeps barfing out right after I see the boat you were flying from. CRIPES! That must’ve been an awesome ride! I’ll try to watch the video again when I get home.

      Cool thing with boat KAP is that you don’t need electronics to know where the boat is: look down the kite line. A couple of people have built parallelogram pendulum rigs for doing boat KAP. They’re pretty cool because as the line angle changes, the parallelogram forces the camera angle to compensate. Completely passive, completely hands-on construction. If you take a look at the KAP Forum and search for “boat kap” you should find some of these rigs.

      Man I can’t imagine having a FF16 touch down behind a sailboat. I’ve only ever put my FF8 in the water, and that was an utter beast. The FF16 would be like a brick wall in the water. I’m glad you were able to recover your rig!

      I’m betting there are systems that would let your rig track another target, say a boat that you’re chasing in another boat. I know those things have existed in the multirotor world for a while. But I don’t know how well developed they are. Most of the work I see there has gone into flying to GPS waypoints. But I’ve seen at least one “follow me” system demonstrated. It seems like that would be a really nice setup for getting line-free photos of boats underway.

      So here’s a fun story on Pololu Robotics: One of the founders, Jan Malacek, grew up in Kamuela, the same town I live in. He visited Pololu Valley a lot as a kid, so after he graduated from college he and a bunch of friends moved to Las Vegas, founded a robotics company, and named it Pololu Robotics after the valley. It’s kind of a hoot that I’ve flown their hardware in my rig while photographing Pololu. Geek tech comes full circle.



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