Back in March we were visiting the beautiful San Blas islands off the coast of Panama. The San Blas are an archipelago of several hundred small islands which are managed by the Kuna Indians who live there. They are also a delightful place to visit by sailboat. You can read many blog posts about our visit there starting here.
While we were visiting these beautiful tropical islands, I was determined to take kite aerial photos of at least one island. I chose a popular island with the sailors called BBQ Island – because on Mondays they have a BBQ or pot-luck get together in the evenings. Our friend David Tryse came with me to help me with the kite. I have a special rig that hangs from the kite string below the kite to hold the camera. There is also a remote control that lets me control the orientation of the camera.
My primary objective is to take straight-down photos just like you see in Google Earth. For several years, I’ve run the Google Earth Blog – so I have a lot of experience with the program. Before we left on our sailing adventures, I made arrangements to provide Google with aerial photography using the kite so they could put the imagery in Google Earth. So, after taking the photos, they are processed and made part of the base imagery you see in Google Earth.
You can see how the kite aerial imagery for BBQ island was taken in this slideshow of photos. As you can see, it was not a simple prospect because we had to keep the string from getting tangled in the palm trees. I had to get way out in the water to get the kite over the island. We even used the dinghy to take the end of the string out further to get the whole island.
It turns out Google had no high-resolution imagery for the San Blas. So, when you look at most of the islands all you see is a blurry area with no details. But, now (Google just released the imagery in Google Earth last week) when you zoom into the location of BBQ Island (lat/lon: 9.591, -78.67), you see this little dot of high resolution imagery. As you zoom in close you can suddenly see ultra-high resolution detail including palm trees, our little dinghy, and even coconuts on the ground! Check it out right here:
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In addition to the help from David, I’d like to thank Stewart Long who did a lot of work to stitch together and process the photos before they were delivered to Google. Stewart is now involved with Grass Roots Mapping, which is documenting the big oil spill with balloon and kite photography. You can see another example of kite aerial photos taken by the Tahina Expedition of Petite Tabac.
Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to thank Google for supporting our efforts to bring interesting high resolution aerial imagery into Google Earth and sharing it with the world!