KAP | Flying With Matt
I got my rig done and had big plans to do some quicky videos, using the video feature of my Minolta G500, showing the rig movements. These got deferred as I worked on the house, had overseas guests, etc., but one day in early December it was comparatively warm (40F) with a nice breeze. I decided to send up the kite and use my Minolta G500's video feature (30 second snippets) to show what the rig movements look like from the air. This single episode of kite aerial photography encapsulated much of my flying experience, as outlined below.
- Untangle the Picavet First, I got the rig out. Though I'd carefully chain-knotted my Picavet lines, when I unpacked it, they got tangled. I spend half an hour fruitlessly trying to untangle Picavet lines, then gave up, cut them out, and re-strung it. I'm told the Picavet rig is named after a Frenchman who invented it in the 1800s; I personally think it is the French word for "tangled string".
- Launch the Kite My first inclination was to go somewhere new, fun and exciting, but, having squandered a bunch of scarce daylight fiddling with the Picavet, I instead went down to Como Park, my usual testing grounds, only about a mile from my house. I launched the kite, got it up a hundred feet or so, great!, and then watched the wind die and the kite fold up and waft gently to the ground. Grrrr! I recalled with envy the steady onshore breezes in California. The breeze returned, I tried again, and I got the kite up and worked it up into the steadier wind up high. It was about at this point I noticed I wasn't wearing a belt, to which I usually attach the kite once it's up and stable. Grrrr!
- Attach the Camera, Bang It Into The Ground Out in the middle of Como Park there's nothing to tie off to, so I screwed my dog auger into the ground and tied off to that. In a typical episode of camera rig attaching, I walked out twenty feet or so and attached the camera to the line while the kite pulled like a team of sled dogs. Then I walked back to the dog auger, untied the kite and got ready to watch my camera sail to the heavens. Of course, at this moment, the wind got light and variable and the kite pulled like a team of hamsters. The 30-second video from the rig as it slams repeatedly into the ground shows one of the less-glamorous episodes of KAP. Grrrr! You can see it at Como, We Have a Problem. This is about a 4.5-Meg video, so you may want to watch it at work with the high speed Internet. You may also want to consider putting legs on your rig (See Brooks Leffler's Kits and Bits page for some handy bits of gear including leg brackets, some of which I'm thinking about getting).
- Perform Heart-Stopping Acrobatics Sometimes the kite does wild and wacky things. This sequence, which doesn't tell you a lot about controlled rig movements, does show you the sort of stresses your rig may be subject to without notice; the kite suddenly zooms back and forth vigorously in the freshening breeze, causing the rig to go over the top of the line, twice. Yikes! I've only had this happen once before, and so was fortunate to have had the camera video recording at the moment this episode occurred. Keep this in mind when considering the structural strength of your rig. You can see this 3.5 Meg video at Hey, Watch This! (that's the phrase you never want to hear your pilot say). Understand that I have no control over what the rig does here (although I did try some useless and confusing control inputs). If the camera's mike were more sensitive it might have caught some choice words floating up on the wind! At the end of this video, the rig is aimed back down-line at me.
- Finally, some Controlled Rig Movements! As promised, I have a video showing the camera's view of rig movements from the air, what I set out to do in the first place. The pan and tilt movements are shown here. I have to say, it was illuminating to see how quickly these movements go, especially the near-instant tilt if you just jerk the tilt control stick from horizontal to vertical. If you used a video downlink (I don't) you'd already know this. It's also a good demonstration of the amount of movement the rig experiences even when it's not being slammed into the ground or flung over the top of the kite line. A fast shutter speed is useful to freeze action when you do want to take the picture. You can see the 3.6 Meg Somewhat Controlled Rig Motion Video and see what the camera sees.
- Bang Camera Into Ground Again, then Drag It A Bit Sorry, no video of this bit. The camera sank to the ground as I was getting done. I began to walk out to it as it lay in the grass. I wasn't holding on to the line. Suddenly the wind picked up. Now, if I'm holding the line, the camera lifts off the ground like you saw in the video above. If you're not holding the line, the rig gets dragged across the grass until you grab the line and make it stop. D'Oh! Got to pay attention to this stuff!
So, the kite takes a while to get off the ground, the camera gets banged into the grass, the rig gets flung around the line and, judging by the video, it looks like the camera is in a small boat during the Perfect Storm. Can you ever get a decent photo from all this?
Well, admittedly, I wasn't after memorable photos on this outing. This is a colorless time of year and I already have plenty of photos of Como Park, where I try out my kites and rigs. Also, if you can't tell, I still need lots of practice just in the routine handling of the kite and rig. However, I got a couple of mildly interesting photos. Take a look:
This is looking towards downtown Saint Paul from Como Park. The houses in the foreground are along Lexington Avenue just south of Horton. A couple of blocks behind them, in the neighbourhood, you can see Saint Andrew's Catholic Church. The tall building furthest left is an apartment building about a mile away, just west of Dale on Front Street. Downtown is the cluster of buildings further away, probably 2.5 miles. A the left end of that cluster is the white dome of the State Capitol building; off to the right of the cluster, all by itself, is the dome of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Paul. (Can't see all this stuff? Click on the picture on the left and the large version will come up) It helps, when the sun is low like this, to shoot where the sun is aiming rather than where it is shining from. Minolta G500, digital KAP rig, Sutton Flowform 16, 4 December 2004.
This is looking due east from Como Park. I only include this picture because it includes the tower at Maternity of Mary Catholic Church on Dale Street, one mile east. My kids went to the school there (Maternity of Mary/Saint Andrews, known as MMSA (it combined with the school from St. Andrews, the church visible in the first photo)) for three years, and Karla taught there for a year and a half. In the foreground of this photo you can see a bit of residual snow in the hill next to the bridge. That's Lexington Avenue and the bridge takes the road over a pedestrian and bike path. It used to be for the trolley tracks from the system in Saint Paul, but that was ripped up in the 1950s. In the middle distance you can see Como Lake and the houses along the east shore. It's a pleasant walk to go around the lake. Minolta G500, digital KAP rig, Sutton Flowform 16, 4 December 2004.
by Matthew Cole, Saint Paul, Minnesota