The Nuts and Bolts of Kite Aerial Photography

On our second date, my soon-to-be husband, Ben, showed me the film Jean De Sud by Yves Gelinas, featuring a man sailing solo around the world...
Author:
Updated:
Original:

On our second date, my soon-to-be husband, Ben, showed me the film Jean De Sud by Yves Gelinas, featuring a man sailing solo around the world. For 120 minutes I watched him do the silly things people only do when they are alone: swim naked, perform a rain dance, talk to himself—all things that, in the years since, I’m proud to say I’ve done while sailing solo as well!

It was also Yves who introduced me to kite aerial photography (KAP), as his film culminates in the launching of a kite-borne camera. As it climbed higher and higher, Yves and his Alberg 30 got smaller and smaller—until he looked like a dot on a toy boat.

A few years later, Ben and I set sail for Newfoundland to make a film, and we brought along a kite aerial photography rig. As amateur KAPers, Ben and I kept our rig simple, with just a kite, camera, bridle and sledgehammer. KAPing, we discovered, is easy to master, fun to practice, and is a brilliant way to shoot unique footage of a sailboat. In short, it’s worth trying on your boat, especially if you love to chronicle your sailing adventures through blogs, videos or posts of any sort. The footage you’ll get of your boat under sail will leave your friends and followers in awe.

We chose a colorful delta kite with an 11ft wingspan, which I named Songbird. A delta is great for light-wind flying, yet also performs well in stronger winds. A single-line kite is necessary for the beginning KAPer, because they require less skill to fly. Songbird was cumbersome to launch, because she was a foot wider than our boat. Once past the wind generator, boom gallows and mainsail, she flew best in about 15 knots of wind.

When it came time to select a camera, we didn’t need to look very hard. Small cameras are becoming more rugged and have fine picture quality. We were pleased with our GoPro because it is small and light and can shoot video or photos. Best of all, the waterproof case provides protection against crash landings when the wind dies.

The camera can be attached directly to the kite, but will be steadier and remain level if it is hung below. We chose a Picavet suspension system for our camera mount. Once the kite was launched and at least 30 feet above the top of our mast, we attached the system to the kite string at two points. The cord then passes several times through blocks on the camera mount and the kite string attachment points allowing the mount to always hang in a level position. Be careful when you order your Picavet system. Ask for pulleys, not blocks, because not all KAPers are sailors.

A sledgehammer was an integral part of our rig. Yes, you read that right! Shifty winds will cause the camera to swing. In strong winds, to get smooth footage, we found that a 3lb sledgehammer provided just the right amount of weight for stabilization. We simply lashed the hammer to the base of the GoPro and let it fly.

We first tried kite aerial photography hoping to obtain great footage of our boat under sail, but our focus changed. Now we launch Songbird for the pure joy of flying and retrieving the kite, and of laughing at the silly things captured on film. You can see our first attempt at simplequestionmovie.com/kite.

Photos courtesy of One Simple Question

Related

01A-LEAD-Finished-table

DIY: A Better Saloon Table

The original saloon table in my Down East 45 schooner was a single heavy sheet of 3/4in laminated plywood, 27in wide by 57in long. It was supported on two substantial aluminum pedestals locking into a set of large round collars screwed to the sole. There were two annoying ...read more

02b-screen-shot

Salty Dawgs Recognized by CCA

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) has long been the go-to organization for high value, affordable rallies, but when Covid forced the sudden closure of borders in the Caribbean, it pivoted to organizing the Homeward Bound Flotilla. Its experience organizing rallies came ...read more

FB-BHM-1024

SAIL Black History Month Series: James Forten

James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia to free Black parents Thomas and Margaret Forten. Forten attended a Quaker school as a young child, then went to work with his father who was a sailmaker. His father died when he was still young, and Forten worked ...read more

sailme-app_ SAIL

5 Ways Sail.me Helps You Monetize Your Boat

Ready to earn some extra funds by renting out your boat or yacht? Sail.me is an interactive service that allows you to monetize your boat in a secure, safe, and easy way. A user-friendly app and website will help you manage reservations, add-ons, and set customized routes to ...read more

VendeePromo

2020-21 Vendée Timeline

As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which ...read more

valleytrunk3

BVI Chartering in the Pandemic

The week before I flew out to the British Virgin Islands for a bareboat charter, I was having a few second thoughts. The islands had broken out of their Covid-enforced tourism hiatus in December, but the conditions of entry seemed a little stringent: a negative Covid test within ...read more

01-LEAD-windfarm

Sailing Amid Offshore Wind Farms

Here in Europe, the general feeling about green energy from offshore wind turbines has moved on after an initial surge of general skepticism. Concerns raised over cost, threats to seabirds, wind interference and the rest have to some extent been answered, and it’s hard to argue ...read more

LunaRossaPrada

VIDEO: Luna Rossa Wins the Prada Cup

The show has gone on despite last week's Covid panic in Auckland, and the "underdog" Italians are victorious. After being bested by INEOS Team UK in the round robin section, they seemed to have an uphill battle ahead of them going into the finals. However, the Italians have been ...read more