So, what is this KAP then ?

ITW Ultrafoil 15 lightwater

Ultrafoil 15 over Lightwater

As I started to develop my IR photography I found myself searching more and more for good vantage points to take sweeping IR landscapes. Then I had the idea on doing my own aerial photography and, after playing with quadcopters and finding them too limited and expensive, I found myself in the very wonderful and somewhat hidden world of KAP: Kite based Aerial Photography.

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KAP Learnings

ITW Ultrafoil 15

The Ultrafoil 15 sideways!

Having only previously toyed with kites as a child, and with my own children, so all this turned out to be very new and lot more challenging. Looking back, there are three big things I have learned, and in my naivety did not appreciate, now taking this seriously and accepting up the mad challenge of putting expensive and beloved camera gear up on a kite and at the mercy of nature:

  1. Different kites behave very differently, in different situations and weather – practicing with them and getting to know how they operate and react is critical.
  2. There are different kites for different situations – there is no just buy any old kite and it will lift safely in any situation. Kites for KAP are generally specifically designed to generate strong lift and fly stable. Your usual fun kite is not going to work well.
  3. There are good techniques, such as walking down and bridle tuning, that other’s use which work well and are worth getting to know. Just attaching a camera to the bottom of the kite and throwing it up, does not work.

In addition to the above, a few other things which I have learned and are helpful:

  1. There is not a lot of content on the net, or in general, available on doing this – compared to most interests and hobbies this is really niche and you are on your own a lot.
  2. There is a big need for your own invention and engineering skills – there are only a few who supply suitable kites and even less who can supply rigs and suspension equipment! Be prepared to build your own.
  3. Gloves are essential – took just one incident of minor line burn to get to wear gloves every time.
  4. Start with a GoPro, and not an expensive rig and camera. GoPros (in cases) are tough and take the knocks you end up with when starting, and even when you think you have it mastered.
  5. You need good wind – there is no substitute for good constant lifting wind. There are kites that can fly in light-wind, but it does not mean they can generate the lift needed for your heavy rig. I have wasted too much time trying to get kites and cameras up in weak and inconsistent wind.
  6. Parks, with trees and buildings, are generally difficult with lots of wind variation. Framed kites are so much more suited, but even then take off and landing below the tree line can be a big gamble.
  7. Putting a fuzzy tail on all my deltas tames them; making them so much more stable in difficult situations, plus limits the overflying. I now always have a bag of tails with me.
  8. You need to have a selection of line for different kites and conditions. I use 65 and 110daN line (all Dacron black), but mainly the 110 – better to be safe, than sorry.
  9. I prefer using a pendulum for my suspension, rather than a picavet. Just my own preference, when operating solo, based on the hassle I have with the lines of a picavet in crappy park wind.
  10. Walking a kite and camera down is safer (for the camera) than just reeling it in.
  11. It is important to read the forecast wind speed and the maximum gust – a large differential can make for very nervy and difficult flying.
  12. It is important, if by the sea, to note if it is an on-shore (better), off-shore or cross-shore wind.
  13. There is a difference between the manufacturer’s recommended wind range for a kite and what it will lift in. With a camera on the line the range is often much more limited.
  14. Always check the camera is on before sending it up!
  15. Always secure the batteries and bit on the rig with cable ties, otherwise, they fly off!
  16. Swivels on the tow-point can break – have had one break on me already, now I just use them for the tails.
  17. The forecast might be fore a decent 10mph, but at the actual location it is 0. It is why it always important to search for a good cafe on the way. Might as well have a good coffee and bacon-buttie and laughing about it.

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