The View Up Here

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Posts Tagged ‘Waimea’

Challenging but Rewarding

Posted by Tom Benedict on 17/11/2010

I recently had a pair of flights that yielded really nice results.  The first was done just on a whim.  In the past I’ve flown at Mala`ai, the culinary garden at Waimea Middle School in Kamuela, Hawaii.  I like flying there for a number of reasons.  It’s a pleasant place to fly with no ground hazards or obstructions, it’s a great place to try out new ideas for orthoimaging, it’s an interesting subject, and the school uses the images to help plan future work in the garden.  One of the coolest things about the garden is that it’s largely the students who do the planning and the work.  And boy do they ever move FAST!  I’ve never photographed it twice and seen the same thing.  It’s constantly changing.

But almost every time I’ve flown there, I’ve underestimated the size of the place!  The field of view on my camera’s lens is such that the field of view on the ground in the horizontal direction is almost exactly the same as its altitude.  This helps me compose shots when doing orthoimaging.  But vertically the field of view is smaller, and in the past I’ve clipped.  This time was going to be different!  I’d fly high enough to get the whole thing in one shot!

And in the end I did:

Mala`ai - The Culinary Garden at Waimea Middle School - 11 November, 2010

This is still a composite image because I wanted to be able to rotate it to line it up better with the edges of the frame.  But there are no stitch errors inside the garden that needed attention.  The garden itself came from a single image.  As soon as I’d processed the image I let the folks at the garden know there was a new image to download.

About a week and a half ago I got a call to ask if I could photograph the Anuenue Playground in Kamuela, as well.  I’ve wanted to photograph the playground for years, but there are a number of ground hazards and obstructions that have made it less than ideal.  Even though the adjoining football/baseball field doesn’t have lights any more, the poles that used to support them are still there.  There are large trees near the park.  It’s bordered on two sides by busy roadways.  And worst of all the park is full of kids!  I have never had a rig fall off my kite line, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe it can.  So a great deal of additional paranoia was called for.

I surveyed the place a couple of times that week, trying to find a good angle to launch and approach the park.  But depending on the direction of the wind I could add above ground high voltage power lines to the list of ground hazards.  No thank you!  It looked like the only reasonably safe approach was for the wind to blow out of the west-northwest, and for it to be super-steady.  I didn’t even bother to call back to let them know.  I felt like a failure.

Two days after I made the garden picture, I checked the wind models.  Lo and behold, the afternoon called for soft and steady winds out of the west-northwest!  Sure ’nuff, by 2:00pm the winds had shifted and the conditions were ideal.  I waited out an event that was happening in the football field, my chosen launch spot, but by 3:30pm the coast was clear.  I put up my Fled, put my camera in my ortho rig, and got it in position.

There’s one other piece of KAP gear that figures prominently into this session: my son.  I knew I’d never spot it on my own, so I asked him to grab his walkie talkies and come with me to the park.  He got on the radio and guided me in, and I checked my apparent altitude against the footprint of the park on the ground to make sure I had the field of view to get everything.

I came close.  There’s one apparatus in the park that didn’t make it into the photo set, but the rest of the park did:

Anuenue Park, Waimea

I didn’t get enough overlap for a clean crop, but it covered the bulk of the park with reasonably sharp detail.  A quick pass through PTLens to take out barrel distortion and a small amount of tilt, and then a pass through ICE to make the composite, and the image was done.

All in all the camera was in the air for only 14 minutes, taking pictures every five seconds.  The resulting set of images offered a rich selection to work from.  I feel confident that as the restoration work on the park progresses, I’ll be able to return and make additional documentation photos for them.

Can’t beat a good day.

– Tom

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Revisiting the Garden

Posted by Tom Benedict on 10/07/2010

The public middle school here in Waimea has a garden, Mala`ai.  It’s a culinary garden rather than a decorative garden, but the students who maintain it have done a great job of making it a lot more than just a bunch of rectangular plots of plants.  On the ground, it’s a rich and wonderful experience for the senses.  But from the air, you really get a feel for the planning, work, and artistry that goes into Mala`ai.

Mala`ai Overview

I started doing KAP at Mala`ai some years ago.  It all started quite by accident.  My son attends Waimea Elementary School, and I was down at the school on a weekend to photograph some rooflines.  As I walked my kite back toward my car, someone approached me and asked about photographing the garden.  Truth be told, I’d intended to photograph the garden for some time, but didn’t know if it was ok with the people who worked there.  As it turns out, it was more than ok.  They were excited by the idea.

This has since turned into a really good relationship with the folks who take care of the garden.  The students are constantly changing and adding to Mala`ai, so every time I go back it’s different.  No, it’s better.  And each time I go, I try to make at least one large composite that covers the entire place.  They print these as posters, and hang them on the wall in the classroom so they can use them for planning purposes.

My daughter is starting at Waimea Middle School this Fall.  She spent several years working on the garden at her elementary school, and is interested in taking the gardening classes at Waimea Middle School.  So in a way this most recent picture is a gift for her, too.  Here’s hoping she enjoys it.  And here’s looking forward to all the changes she and her classmates will make over the course of the next several years.

– Tom

P.S.  If you’re a KAPer, or even if you’re a kite fanatic who’s never dangled a camera from their kite line, see if there are any community gardens, school gardens, or other non-profit gardening projects in your area.  Aerial views are extremely useful for planning purposes.  KAP is one of the least expensive, most readily available forms of aerial photography around, and is ideally suited for making overviews of gardens.  Consider volunteering your kites, your cameras, and your time.  Seeing a garden change over time, and knowing you had a hand in it, no matter how remote, is incredibly rewarding.

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From UFO to Rubbish

Posted by Tom Benedict on 21/05/2010

Back in May, 2009, I brought my KAP gear to work at the summit of Mauna Kea, and during some free time at lunch I tried desperately to get my rig in the air.  I never did get to clip on the camera, but some of the guys across the way at Keck saw the kite and wondered why a UFO was flying over our dome.  Andrew Cooper, one of the guys at Keck, witnessed the event and wrote it up in his blog, A Darker View.

I have flow on Mauna Kea, and have done some surprisingly good KAP there, despite the prevalence of questionable wind.  During my first session at the summit, I got a good set of photos from summit ridge, but when I moved less than 100m to the south, the only stable point of flight my kite had was roughly 15m below my feet!  It’s not a trivial place to fly, and certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.  I’ve flown there a couple of times since, but it’s never something I take lightly.  During one flight I let out the full 500′ of line the FAA allows kiters to use.  So far as I know I may well hold the high altitude record for kite flying in Hawaii, and possibly the Pacific.  But reading Andrew Cooper’s blog let me add one more to my list:  My kite had been flagged as a UFO!

Last week I did a session much closer to home.  In fact, this time it was just outside the door at work.  Two of my kids go to school at Waimea Country School, a small private school in Waimea.  I’ve been trying to do aerial photography of the school for ages, but I was never able to get the vantage point I wanted because of a big stand of eucalyptus trees.  In case you’ve never run into one, eucalyptus trees grow from 80 to 100′ in height.  They’re big.  They block wind, they grab kites, and they’re generally un-fun to fly near.  I’d made attempts in the past, but something was always wrong.

This time everything went right.  The wind, which normally blows along the stand of trees, blew diagonal to them.  So I was able to launch, get the kite a good 2x higher than the trees, and clip on the rig.  Once I had the camera well over the trees, I walked over to the treeline and laced the line through the tree branches until I had it just where I needed it.

St. James Circle and Waimea Country School

The flight went off without a hitch.

As it turns out the school was in the middle of its last fire drill of the year, so all the students were lined up in the field in the upper left of the frame.  I sent a copy of the shot to the school’s headmistress, who got a big kick out of it.  She wound up showing it to most of the school and the parents of the kids.  But I didn’t hear the best part until later in the week.

This morning when I was dropping my daughters off, my younger daughter’s teacher ran up to the car to tell me how much she enjoyed seeing the photo.  But she confessed that she had no idea I was flying a camera at the time.  One of the kids in her class pointed up in the sky and asked, “What’s that?”  She looked up, saw a bit of green hanging up in space, and figured it was just a garbage bag fluttering around in the wind.  “It’s just a bit of rubbish,” she told him.

So now my 6′ rokkaku, which was sewn by a friend of mine at work and framed out by me, can claim the lofty title of being a kite, being a hexagonal levitation machine for aerial photography, being a UFO, and… being a bit of rubbish.

Hey, it’s all good so long as the photography works out.

– Tom

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