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Kite Aerial Photography
Learnings from building Rig02

Building a Kite Aerial Photography Rig is as much about trial and error and 
learning from mistakes as anything else, here are some of my thoughts:

So, after a season flying with Rig02, what have I learned? By February 2003 the rig worked enough to get out in the field and take pictures, but what needed improved once the real testing started - taking pictures!

Desensing

Try to keep the aerials as far apart as possible, and out of the picture!The main page for Rig02 alludes to a problem called desensing. This is where a radio receiver's performance is reduced by the presence of other signals, in this case the servo receiver's range was reduced from over 1Km to 150m by the close proximity of the TV downlink transmitter. There is a detailed page on EMC but initially I thought 150m was enough range. Once in the field I realised that this wasn't enough since it means that with the kite in the air it only took another issue (my body blocking the aerial, or the aerial falling on the ground) for the transmitted signal to be lost. Modifications to the transmitter and transmitter aerial significantly improved reception.

Make sure you have a robust and strong signal for the SERVOS at all times, this will put less strain on the rig, use less battery power, and make life easier.

Fiddly bits

I'm sure this fitted the last time... Picture credit: Tony Cowlin Setting the rig up on a bench or table indoors is easy - doing exactly the same thing on a windy kite field is a nightmare. Add an audience, a dog, or anything else and you have a problem. Even simple tasks like adding a glass fiber support for the aerial, or adjusting an elastic band to hold batteries, become unmanageable in the field.

Getting the rig ready for flight should involve as little "construction" as possible, time spent here makes all the difference in the field, and also should prevent little bits being left behind when you finish for the day.
Think about what bits are likely to cause problems and carry spares - batteries, elastic bands, snap swivels, etc etc

Weight

& p = lb & oz

I can't claim originality for this statement that I read somewhere on the web, but it's one of those sentiments you read and then it remains with you. In Scotland we have a reputation for being careful with money, so I feel I have the authority to use the saying - "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves". In imperial measurements:
Look after the ounces and the pounds will look after themselves
Think weight all the time, use plastic screws where possible, use minimal material, and don't add rigidity and strength where it's not needed. You will build a light rig.

Getting your kit to the field

TIP: Note the example photographs sheet in the lid of the case! A variation on having less fiddly bits. I acquired a large camera case with foam inserts. I then cut out slots for the rig, transmitter, batteries and stuff. I was really pleased with myself. However when I tried to use the case in the field the material was neatly packed but not in the order I needed it. Add a 15mph wind and I was chasing stuff over the field.

Be ultra organised, follow a routine, make sure the ground equipment, as well as the kite and Rig are "airworthy".

Did you notice the A4 sheet inside the case as the lid opened? A couple of laminated sheets of pictures I've taken and some business cards with my url - always have them handy for the bystander who is brave enough to ask what you're doing!

One last point, if flying alone I find it difficult to tidy the case away once the rig is airborn. It is a useful marker for when I return from my walk with the kite as to where the kite stake was left! I have also found that the electronic key-fob to unlock the car doesn't work once the SERVO transmitter is switched on so I can't lock it in the car anyway :-). This is all very well if there is no-one around, however the above case has been reported to the police by a "helpful" passer-by who thought it looked suspicious.

Plan your Photographs

Bamburgh Castle, Rule of Thirds, the Golden Ratio and the Golden SpiralDoing KAP doesn't mean you'll take good pictures, all the standard rules of photography still apply. Only it's worse. Because of the investment in getting the camera up and the kite back down you will easily spend over an hour on a shoot looking for just one shot.

Plan your photograph. Be aware of what you want before you launch the kite. Reconnoiter the site, and wait for the right wind and the right weather. Have locations for testing and locations for photography.

There's more on Photographic Technique in a separate document.

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