Because I’ve been writing the Google Earth Blog (GEB) for the past 4+ years, I’m determined to make the Tahina Expedition a showcase example of using Google Earth to share our experiences. I’ve written about thousands of uses of Google Earth and shared them with about 6 million readers world-wide per year. Now I hope to show folks I can practice what I’ve learned. Today I’ll share one of the more interesting projects I have planned.
One of the things I proposed for our Google partnership, was to provide them with some aerial photos. Aerial photos of very unique locations at very high resolution. One way I plan to do that is to fly kites and take straight-down shots just like you see in Google Earth. Only much higher resolution than what you typically see.
There’s actually a popular hobby called Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) for taking some truly unique photos by flying a camera with a kite. One Google Earth developer I wrote about on GEB, because of his work with the USGS (he wrote the Earthquake monitoring tool), is actually one of the best-known KAP people out there. Visit Scott Haefner’s site here to learn more about KAP and see some amazing photos. Scott was helpful in introducing me to KAP and directing me to someone to build my system.
My system was built by Brooks Leffler (see his web site). It includes a custom camera carrying rig (which can rotate altitude and azimuth), remote control panel, and a shutter control to take pictures. He also can build devices to let you view your shots from the ground. Brooks also sold me several kites for different wind conditions, winders, and string.
First KAP Attempts
On Thursday, the weather looked perfect to make my first attempt of aerial photos of Joyner Marina (where we keep Tahina right now). This is hard to believe, but I’ve been so busy for the past several weeks, I had not even opened the boxes for the kite camera equipment which arrived nearly four weeks earlier! It’s really sad when a gadget geek like me can’t even open the box when it arrives. As soon as I got to Tahina, I tore open the boxes. I carefully looked over the manual, and began setting up the equipment. Brooks even supplied me with batteries, so it was actually good to go. It only took me a few minutes to set up and experiment with the controls and take my first shots on the ground.
I grabbed the kite and asked someone to help me set up. (NOTE: I had previously practiced flying the kite – see photos here). There was a small crowd of folks watching me set up and asking what I was doing. Unfortunately, we never got far off the ground. The wind was dying. I even went back to the boat and got the bigger – lighter air – kite. But, the wind continued to die and we only got a few test shots. (See the slideshow below).
The next day, the winds were much better. With some help from Sue – the Joyner Marina dockmaster – I soon had the kite flying and the camera up in the air. Unfortunately, I again learned a valuable lesson: make sure you put the lens at the widest setting for aerial photos! Later in the day, I got the widest lens I have (a 10-20 mm wide-angle), and flew the kite even higher. I at last got some of the kinds of shots I was hoping for.
Below is a slideshow (I encourage you to choose View larger slideshow) with photos of the equipment, our first attempts, and several much better shots after I got some experience. I will also show later how some of the photos will look in Google Earth. But, I’m hoping to get Google to process some of these images and put them in Google Earth itself. Back in 2006, I worked with Google to take some aerial photos (from a plane) and you can view that in Google Earth still today. Anyway, it was a lot of fun – and hard work – flying the kite and learning the “ropes”. I look forward to delivering many similar photos to Google, as part of our partnership, over the next five years in all kinds of exotic locations.