The View Up Here

Random scribblings about kites, photography, machining, and anything else

IR KAP with the A2200

Posted by Tom Benedict on 16/06/2014

I finally got out to do some near infrared kite aerial photography with my newly converted A2200. Opportunities came up during the week to fly around town, but I punted on them in favor of returning to my camera proving ground: Anaehoomalu Bay.

Back in 2008 when I replaced my aging Nikon Coolpix 5600 with a Canon Powershot A650IS I tested it in town first. But I really put it through its paces at Anaehoomalu Bay. There are so many different terrains with so much varied texture, it’s a great place to see what a camera can do. Back then the A650 was clearly a step up from my 5600, and the photos at Anaehoomalu Bay really let the camera shine.

Where the Wind Comes from - Panorama

That first session with the A650 was great. So how did my first session with the NIR A2200 go?

In a word, frustrating.

To be fair very little of this was the camera’s fault. This time all the blame is on me. When we got there the wind was very light so I grabbed my 7.5′ rokkaku. By the time we’d hiked to where I wanted to do KAP, though, the wind was blowing. Rather than do the smart thing and walk back to the car for a different kite (or, better yet, the whole kite bag!) I put the 7.5′ rok up anyway. The kite was clearly over-powered. It was iron-bar flying all the way.

Within a few minutes I heard an approaching helicopter. Sometimes tour companies will overfly Anaehoomalu Bay, but nine times out of ten it means County Search and Rescue. These guys routinely fly below 500′, so I started hauling in line as fast as I could. Sure enough the County S&R helicopter came flying out from behind the trees. There are plenty of horror stories of kites and kite lines being hit by low-flying helicopters, but the County S&R pilots are some of the best I’ve ever run into. I’m pretty sure they knew the day I started flying kites at Anaehoomalu Bay and noted every day I flew after that. They flew over, came back, circled my kite once, and took off. The whole time I was taking in line, hoping I didn’t get caught in their prop wash. Without having tripped the shutter even once my arms felt like cooked spaghetti.

After the helicopter flew away I put the kite back up to a good operating altitude. Eventually I even start to take pictures, but for some reason nothing worked right! I’d used this camera for KAP before, but for this set of tests I was using a new card I’d just prepared that same morning. Of course none of my defaults were set up, so the whole setup was hosed. I’d forgotten the cardinal rule of… well… really of all photography: Do an end-to-end test of your gear at home before you ever take it out in the field!

Camera settings were wrong, things were blurry, the wind was gusty, but I did manage to get a couple of frames I thought might turn out ok. In frustration I finally landed all my gear so I could catch my breath. Within minutes the wind shifted 180 degrees, flipped my kite up and over, and dumped sand on all my gear. I dismantled the kite and started shaking the sand off my rig and camera. By the time I had everything packed the wind had shifted another three or four times and was blowing stronger than ever. I was glad to have everything back in the bag and ready to go.

By the time we’d hiked back to the car the wind was howling. Well out of rokkaku territory and well into Nighthawk speeds. It was clearly time to go.

When I got home I was pleasantly surprised to see that despite the helicopter, the blurries, the blown panoramas, despite everything, one frame did turn out.

Anaehoomalu Bay Infrared Aerial

I spent the next morning sorting out all the native Canon and CHDK options so the camera would do what I wanted. Then I repeated all those settings on my unconverted A2200. Next time I’ll be better prepared. And next time I’ll test everything at home before I head out!

– Tom

P.S. Next step: Mounting both A2200 cameras on the same KAP rig for 4-color photos!

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