Why did YOU get into KAP? And why do you keep doing it?

edited September 2012 in General
I guess I should preface those questions with a quick statement:

There aren't enough stories out there with kites in them. And as far as I know there's no fiction out there at all featuring KAP. So a month ago I decided to rectify both. Initially my goal was to write a short story featuring KAP (I actually have an earlier KAP story I still need to pour some serious editing time into). But by the time I finished my first brainstorming session it had grown in scope. At this point it's looking like either a novella or a short novel.

There's just one problem. I have a gaping plot hole: Why did my main character get into KAP? And why, despite everything going on in the story, are they still doing it?

My own reasons for getting into KAP are a little too weak to stand on their own in a story: I just thought kite aerial photography was a super-cool idea, and I wanted to play. Even to me, that seems like a pretty weak reason to spend as much as I've spent on KAP gear over the years. To a reader who's never even heard of KAP? It strains belief. I need something better.

So I'm fishing for ideas. What got you into KAP? And what keeps you going even in the face of crashes, dunkings, tree-eaten kites, line burns, and all the other stumbling blocks KAPers run into in the normal course of putting a camera in the air?

Sorry, no idea when I'll have a readable draft. This is just something I'm scribbling in a notebook in between work, dishes, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of kids. The consoling thought I cling to is that Madeline L'Engle wrote "A Wrinkle In Time" in much the same way, writing a word here or a word there as she walked past her notepad throughout the course of her day. Hey, she won a Newberry for that book! Now if only I was anywhere even remotely as good as her... >sigh<

I appreciate any and all help you can give me. Tell your story. If you don't mind, some of your story might make it into mine.




  • Unfortunately, my story is much like yours. I had an old camera and thought "man..that would be neat to hook this to a kite." Little did I know it had been done for over a hundred years and by many many people all over the world.

    Regardless, it was something for me to accomplish. Something none of my friends had done. Something I knew might make people raise an eyebrow while I could feel cool and say "yes..that is a kite. Yes it is a camera".

    Add that to whatever it is about flying a kite. There is something magic about it. Kind of like staring at a campfire. You can do it for hours and not be bored.

    From what I have read of your posts, it seems like you sort of had a progression to your KAP. First, the goal was to fly a camera and get *any* picture, then eventually, compose. For me that draws a parallel to many of life's experiences. Lots of people can be mediocre at something or not try. To become great at something it takes time and a few crashes along the way. Do it long enough and you can teach others like Brooks or Wind Watcher or Pierre (sorry if I left anyone out).

    Maybe it has been a story written many times before. About football, mountain climbing, the Indiana Hoosiers, etc. Perhaps that is a stretch :)

    I suppose this is a bit of a stream of consciousness as I ponder your question.

    In any case, is it possible it becomes more than just KAP? is it a sense of identity? Exclusivity? Belonging? Doing something unique just to see if you can? Looking at something from a different perspective?

    It is a good question.
  • for me....it's the wind....blowing around my heart and soul....taking a bit of me ....up into the sky...to see and experience a different place...a different point of view....the wind keeps me going.

    If I was born 300 years ago....I would be right at home at the top of a mast on a big square rigger rounding the cape....

  • Tom

    this may not help at all, but I was 'forced' into KAP. In 2002 we moved house and our new house (actually a very old building) is built on a very steep slope. I wanted a picture of the house and gardens, but because of the slope there was (and still is) nowhere you can stand to take one. Nor was there anywhere nearby where a telephoto lens would do any better. Indeed the estate agent (realtor) photos of the house were hopeless.

    For a couple of months I struggled with the idea of climbing a neighbouring tree, then with the idea of using it and pulleys to lift a camera, but it was clear I'd need some way of manipulating the camera remotely.

    I'd always had kites and had an R/C set left over from 15 years earlier when I'd dabbled with radio-controlled gliders. The idea of using a kite to take an aerial photo somehow came into my head and I stumbled on Cris Benton's website and that was that.

    Of course, if I'd known about 11 metre carbon-fibre carp poles back then I might never had got into KAP!
  • I'd played with kites when I was a kid, making and flying, this was back in the 1970's. Art College and time became an issue, but I came across a book at the time which described a line traveller with a camera. But being a poor art student meant that I did not have the resources to do anything about it at the time. Over the years, my interests changed and Google Earth became part of my life doing research for my other main hobby Metal Detecting. I saw that someone had used a KAP set up to photograph his detecting area from above. The light went on and I was hooked on kites again. Google soon got me here and the KAPshop, the rest is history.
  • WW put it beautifully.


    It's like watching a campfire but in right mix with a dose of excitement, little sense of achievement because of doing something non trivial, imaging things from "impossible" perspective (too low for a crewed flying thing to high for standing) and for me also operating a thing (a kite) I made myself (so again sense of achievement).

  • edited September 2012
    When I think about the convoluted road that led to my KAPing today, I need to go back to when I was a wee lad. My father was always tinkering with things, mainly to do with model trains. Ultimately, he built real coal fired steam locomotives, big enough to pull a train with twenty adults. The finished locos were in the living room. My mum didn't mind, figuring she left her knitting work lying about as well. All this exposure to technology at a young age taught me to not be afraid of it.
    When I was very young, my father also built kites. Big box kites out of split bamboo and rice paper, which we would fly together. He was also an avid photographer and a good teacher. When I was bout five, maybe six years old, he thrust his Pentax S1a SLR into my little hands and encouraged me to play with it, to take my own pictures. Much to the horror of other people, who did not think it wise to trust a kid with such an expensive piece of kit, but that's how he taught me to embrace adventure and new things and just try what I could do with it. Very encouraging.
    Surprisingly enough, my father never got the idea to lift a camera with his kites, even though he must have known it had been done before.

    At the age of about thirteen I started flying R/C model aeroplanes with a group of school friends. It took us a few years to get the idea and the guts to fly a camera. In the end, we even designed and constructed special twin tail boom gliders for flying Super 8 movie cameras. Anyone remember the Eumig mini 3?
    Around the same time (this is the 1970's), I was exposed to the Peter Powell steerable kite craze in England. I wore out four of those. During the 80's I was in university and stopped flying kites and rarely flew R/C planes.

    Fast forward to 2004, when I found myself in a kite clinic on a work outing. Due to my experience with Peter Powell kites, I had no trouble whatsoever flying stunt kites. Before long, I was hanging on for dear life controlling a big Nasawing. That got me hooked on (stunt) kite flying again. Shortly thereafter I bought a Cody kite and then it hit me: KAP. It took me until July 2007 to take my first shots.

    I keep doing it because it enables me to take pictures few other people can. I can show things from a unique point of view. I also keep doing it because it is challenging. I get an enormous sense of achievement out of getting 'impossible' images. That's why I keep getting back to urban KAP. It's more risky than flying in a field, but the kick I get out of it is addictive, even though I would not call myself an adrenalin junkie. Maybe it's the little boy in me that says "hey, look what I can do!".
  • For myself, KAP just adds a beautiful dimension to life's existance.

    We all dream of doing things outside our normal capabilities, such as flying and seeing the world from a bird's eye view. KAPing does that elegantly well at minimal expense.
  • Well, if you're going to write some fiction - here's an idea for the main character.
    He's a special needs kid. He relates to his kite but has difficulty "engaging" with people. (Or maybe it's really people who have difficulty "engaging" with him?) From time to time he has tried but apparently nobody sees the world the way he sees it.

    He knows why. People are complicated and hard to understand. They don't follow rules - even rules they have made for themselves. And their rules are too complicated. When you don't follow their rules, people get angry with you, and sometimes get angry even when you do follow their rules.

    People are bossy. Sometimes they make you be with them when you'd rather not and sometimes they don't want you to be with them when you want to be. And you can't tell when they are telling the truth.

    But kites . . . kites are simple - even the ones that look complicated. Kites don't get angry with you. Kites like to play with you. Kites follow simple rules and the rules don't change. Only the wind changes.

    You can talk to kites, but you don't have to. A kite will watch you from above but won't look down on you. And if you learn the kite language, a kite will talk to you, sing to you, tell you what it likes and how it feels. And a kite doesn't know how to lie.

    One day the kid sees a TV show about someone putting a camera on a kite and for the first time, he actually sees what the kite sees. So he figures out how to tie a small camera to the kite line (just using string and tape for now) and starts to KAP.

    He takes his kite & camera to different places and one at a time, people come up to him and talk to him about his kite. They notice the camera and ask him about that too. He talks a little about his kite and his camera. They tell him how pretty his kite is. Then they walk away and they actually look a little happier than before. A little later someone else walks up to him and it's just like before.

    When he gets home, he looks at his pictures. As he studies the photos - even the really blurry ones - he realizes that only his kite sees the world the same way he sees it.
    I don't know how/if this character development would integrate with your other ideas for the story. You'll have to let me know. :o)

  • Maybe I'm slightly different from most people in that my initial interest in KAP comes from being interested in Aerial Photography particularly in relation to Archaeology. Using a kite for me is just a means of getting a photograph. I have taken aerial photographs from light aircraft. While on a single flight you can quickly cover a large number of different locations over a wide area, the cost is prohibitive for me, not to mention the planning involved and issues with restrictions relating to airspace.

    The few kites I had as a kid - bought single liners, in every instance that I can recall either the string snapped or the end of the line was not tied to the winder resulting in quickly lost kites. So I didn't develop a great interest in kites at that time.

    Through the 1990s, both privately and as an Air Cadet I did a bit of flying, occasionally some aerial photography, I've found some aerial photos from 1994 and 1997.

    My awareness of Kite Aerial Photography began around 2000 while at university doing a science degree in Archaeology. I found a few references to KAP just by simply reading up on aerial photography but there was nothing in the university library specifically on KAP. Using the internet a quick YAHOO! search led me to Cris Bentons Notes on Kite Aerial Photography - which firmly implanted the idea in my mind. At that time although digital cameras were available they were rather expensive, KAP would have to use a film camera - I was having trouble scraping together the money for the developing/printing of my normal photographs, and then there was the question of how to trigger the camera - so nothing really started at this time.

    Moving on to 2007, my brother was clearing out a load of junk including a rather battered and broken radio control car, which I intercepted before the binmen took it away, the transmitter seemed to work and the steering servo worked - here was a remote camera trigger. I bought a small cheap Delta Conyne and went on holiday to Ardnamurchan with it, just to see how well it would fly, could I really fly a camera with a kite like this - well it flew great, it didn't have enough pull for a camera, but a larger one would - so a couple of months later a larger Delta Conyne arrived closely followed by a cheapish digital camera.

    I cobbled together a simple KAP rig just to prove that the idea would work before putting effort into making something better - the rig after the important parts like the camera and RC bits (shutter trigger) was built of cardboard with some foam to protect the camera, along with pieces of paper, gaffer tape, string and a webbing strap with quick release buckle. I got a few photos of my house and garden on the 6th January 2008, and I was hooked. by the end of that month I was flying a UU rig, taking photographs of archaeological sites. I also quickly discovered that my new digital camera had a built in intervalometer - so I gave up with the RC gear.

    I still find things to photograph, sometimes around home I might have great conditions that I sould take advantage of will be struggling to think where I might go fly.

    There are many sites I fly, I like nothing better than some low sun casting shadows across earthworks or cropmarks in fields - and I spend a lot of time with these subjects. I'm also interested in other bits and pieces - sort of loosely have some projects or subjects even tick lists I'm working through for example the Arable Farming year, trying to capture all the mechanised processes of this group the one large thing I don't have is spraying - but that gets done in low wind and I don't really want to be near enough to be breathing spray or fumes (so that is a problem). Different styles of housing - we have a lot of that in the UK. Military/defensive structures/features - I have never deliberately targeted anything active although such sites may be visible in the background. I have a large file filled with KAP points of interest in Google Earth.

    A lot of what I fly I suppose is driven by curiosity - the aerial photograph can show details and layouts that are hard to understand (or appreciate) on the ground. A camera in the air will show me what is the other side of that belt of trees or tall fence. I am well aware that 'curiosity is what killed the cat'.
  • edited September 2012
    Similar to Hamish, my KAP is rooted in archaeology: There was this underfunded excavation project in Jordan - we discussed documentation strategies and I asked how photographic overview should be provided. The answer was: "There is no chance getting overview images, the site can't be reached by e.g. cherrypickers and we can't afford an helicopter." I couldn't live with that and dimly remembered having read something in an obscure archaeological journal...

    And in spite of mainly flying drones/UAVs for this purpose now, KAP still remains a valid tool for documenting remote sites only reachable by hiking or sites in windy spots. KAP equipment can be very light and portable, so I tend to carry a small kit with me whereever I travel to. I'm ready for every Greek temple crossing my path!

    And I like the feeling of finding the perfect picture on the SD card after the flight which got there without the help of video downlink or RC equipment, only my judgement in flying the kite and a CHDK intervalometer script. Sounds not very romantic but for me it's magic - you can get very special imagery by doing something as enjoyable as kite flying!

    Cheers, Jorre
  • WOW!

    Thank you for all these ideas. This is more than I dared dream of.

    JP, I had to laugh when I read yours. For a whole host of other reasons the main character has Tourette's Syndrome. (I had written that earlier KAP short story along with another non-kiting story in which the main character had TS. There were a number of similarities between the two characters, so I decided to chuck both of the earlier stories and combine their idea pools into one for a new story.) Some of the ideas you came up with don't easily work with the character, but the bulk of them do. I hope you don't mind my using them.

    The story already has three characters who do KAP, so it's GREAT to have such a broad pool of ideas to draw from. It's good to see the similarities which drew some folks to KAP as well as others who came to KAP for wildly different reasons. This gives me a ton of ideas to pull from for their back-stories.

    I hope no one minds if I use their ideas in the story. And I hope no one minds if they find a direct quote (or two!) in the story as well. A couple of statements really jumped out at me, and completely jive with the characters I've been building.

    Keep the ideas coming!

    Thanks, everyone.

  • edited September 2012
    Sorry, double post.
  • Similar to the other archaeology guys above, my interest stems from my passion for archaeology.

    I flew the odd kite as a child, but i never took it any further in my formative years. I moved onto electronics and the early computer systems and became a nerd.

    I eventually joined the military and ended up on various interesting assignments around the globe. I used to love sitting on the edge of Chinook doorways gazing down at the earth. This is where my interest in aerial photography really began to formulate.

    Eventually I moved away from the military and studied the pure sciences within an archaeological context. This lead to myself specialising in remote sensing, which I still perform today. I left the great learning centers to work as a field archaeologist to try and understand the practicality of the science I had learned in a field environment. One site was a small island in the mid-Atlantic. There were hundreds of slave graves that required removing prior to an airport run way being developed. I thought it would be an excellent idea to record the area from above using some sort of mobile aerial platform. After reading around I discovered the joy of KAP. I purchased all the relevant bits and bobs. The gear was stashed in my desk draw and instead of being sent to the sun for an extended holiday, I ended up on a survey across Shetland Isles for a month. The KAP kit did not see the light of day until I met John and Rosie Wells on their Ogilface site in West Lothian. They had their own KAP rig flying that day and I was instantly hooked and have not looked back.

    I have since imaged many professional archaeological sites that will only ever appear in some dusty old publication and the odd presentation. Most of the images have been shown to rival, if not trump professional aerial photographers, which I am proud of.

    Today I still use all of my tech gear, from quadcopters to radio controlled rigs, but I still prefer the simplicity of just flying a kite. I still love to run through the hundreds of images to just pick out that one 'money' shot that makes you think, ‘wow’ that is the one.
  • edited September 2012
  • edited September 2012
    {Here is the description I posted on Flickr.com for the image above...}

    "Page 143 from "The Penguin Book Of Kites" by David Pelham, ©1976. Purchased by me @ one of the museums in Washington, D.C., during a trip to there in 1980. I do not remember which museum, other than it was *not* the SMITHSONIAN AIR & SPACE {although I *did* visit A&S during that trip}.

    For **me**, the images & writing on this page are the "Genesis" of KAP {Kite Aerial Photography}."
  • That is in fact the very page that inspired me all those years ago CGKiteman.
  • My inspiration came some in the late 70's after purchasing an issue of "Kite Lines" magazine "ceased publishing in the 90's" which had an article about George Lawrence and his photo of San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906. That was my main driving influence for my own meager beginnings, thoughts of aerials of hunting areas and other activities that I engaged in at the time, some of which I can no longer do alone "or at all". Age is has been rearing it's ugly head, squashing some of my more strenuous activities (how did that happen?).

    35mm film for most of my earliest shots, then to some homemade cameras in larger format film, I will try to add a couple of photos of these cameras to my bit of flikr stuff. I have come to digital cameras (not without some kicking and screaming), knowing that you gotten your shot has it's advantages. Though I did buy one of the devices, I can't embrace the idea of autoKAP, "shot gunning" an area to get your shot doesn't do it for me like the gratification of judging your aim to get the desired shot.

    KAP has been the only way I have found that allows me to feel like I can fly like a bird. Let me tell you that as a kid, an umbrella off the porch roof didn't work for s***, nor did any other of my early flying "inventions".
  • edited September 2012
    @Puffin - Kewl beans!

    @Tom B - I thought I'd add some more info about my trip to D.C. for 'story fodder', if it is of any help {although I doubt it will be}:

    @Everyone Else: You can skip the rest.... ;~)°

    Myself and my friend Chris Ward went on a motorcycle 'road trip' from St. Petersburg, Florida to somewhere in Maryland - I don't remember where exactly - and while in Maryland we stayed with family friends of Chris's. We planned on going from there into D.C. and visiting the museums on the mall. We both rode our motorcycles on this trip, his a 400cc Honda, mine a 400cc Yamaha, and camped-out on the way up and the way back. {Chris and I both graduated from "St. Petersburg High School" the year before, 1979.}

    While we were in Maryland, we were walking through a shopping mall or a store and passed by the television 'display'. IIRC, we were there to buy some supplies or something for the trip. Some of the televisions were 'On', and there was a 'breaking news' story being broadcast. It might even have been Walter Cronkite on the screen, I do not remember. But there it was, a news story of a large ship that had hit the Sunshine Skyway bridge, which is just south of ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, had caused part of one span of the two-span bridge to collapse, AND there were fatalities. I went into 'panic mode' - easy to do when you are 19 years old - until I could get to a phone and call home. Turns no family or friends of myself or Chris were anywhere near the bridge when the accident happened.

    Here's a news story, written in 2000, about the accident:


    About four months earlier - January 28, 1980 - the US Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn {a buoy tender} sank in almost the same place after colliding with a tanker, although there was no damage to the bridge. Here's a news story about that accident, also written in 2000:


    Outside of THAT one 'momentary panic', the trip was a fantastic experience.

    {BTW, the tanker the Blackthorn collided with was called "Capricorn". Capricorn is my zodiac sign. And roughly six years later, I joined the US Coast Guard, although I was in aviation for most of my Coastie career.}
  • My first kite was built by my father when I was 7. And I made graphics for that kite. I then built some kites myself -- some din't fly but some did. When I was a teenager someone gave me a book (in Polish) which title translated to english was "Playing with Kites". And in that book, besides many kite plans there were descriptions of various things to be lifted by a kite, and simple KAP setup was among them. A bit simlar to the picture mentioned by CGKiteman. That sparked the idea of making photos from above using a kite. Of course any camera was way too expensive for a 14 or 15 years old, esp during times when Iron Curtain was falling. But idea of lifting things by a kite sank in. In a few years with a few friends we constructed Universal Flying Platform i.e. a rhomboid box kite large enough to lift things. Kite was made from PE foil and alu tubing and was a bit heavy, so required quite a bit ow wind. The idea was not only to try take a camera aloft (by that time some old stocks of russian cameras could be held for something around 1 USD) but to make some pranks - especially making a UFO with blinkng lights and stuff. It was to meant to suddely raise (of course raised by a kite) from a field near a rarely used round where some drunken people tended to walk from time to time.

    Time passed and I had my own kid and she really liked all the stuff which flies -- that motivated me. So I recreated our Universal Flying Platform with better materials (ripstop and carbon tubes). Then made simple pendulum rig and started KAPing.

  • The Peter Powell kite is BACK:



    Like many I became a lifetime kite flier once I'd flown one of these, the power and control of the kite was, and is, incredible. From the moment I flew it I knew a kite was more than a toy- it was made from serious materials ( aluminium, PVC and thermo- plastic tube) this was a world away from the paper and wood with which we built our diamond kites at school!

    Caught up in the craze of the time David Pelham's book opened the door to a world of possibility and many kites were built and a few flown from the patterns within.

    Growing up the kite flying got a bit more serious (the kites got bigger) and I kept a kite with me on my travels, putting colours in the sky became a constant, contemplative joy to me. I will always be a teen from the '70s, the bell bottom flares, awful disco music and mullet haircut are long gone but I never tire of a line in the wind.

    By profession the aerial photograph is a tool for me and the discovery I can map from my kite is a revelation I'm still amazed by. The technologies of digital camera, dacron line, ripstop nylon and digital photogrammetry aligned and I now able to reap some reward for the hours of quiet pleasure the kite brings me.

    On occasion I am lucky to work with a pioneer of modern kite photogrammetry, Andreas Georgopoulus trusted his camera to the Dunford Flying Machine (flown, on waxed cotton line, by Don Dunford himself!) to prove the potential in 1982:

    Andrea Georgopoulos Low Altitude non metric photography using a kite ISPRS Commission V ISSN 02528231 1982

    ...and I am reminded of how far we have come, now the drones take up the task of low altitude photogrammetry but I for one will keep my place in the sky by the power of nature alone.

    I'm now thinking of how I can adapt the MK3 Powell kite for KAP...a train of 3 with tweaked bridles perhaps?

  • hi,
    for me the start near 1997 was a combination of factors:
    I was working in a company that had spent a relatively huge amount of money for few pictures from the sky, taken from an aircraft
    I was making my own kites since years
    a model shop was very near my house (a basic 2 channel radio, 2 servos, one compact Olympus,...)
    we were making vacations in Toscana at seaside in Follonica,... and I thoght it could be nice to offer to our friends some pictures of their house as seen from the sky

    my feeling is that would be nice to see somehow as a bird can see flying in the sky

    I do not have many chances of doing KAP, so my trials hve been sometimes stopped and restarted by the occasions of vacations, of WIND available

    I continue because I would like to be THERE, where the camera can arrive , to look down and feel the landscape

    SMAC, an old boy born 1953, from ITALY near Milan
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