ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Kite Aerial Photography

Updated on November 28, 2014

A Beginner's Guide to Kite Aerial Photography

Do-it-yourself low-level aerial photography!

Kite Aerial Photography (also referred to as KAP), provides a unique way to photograph the world from above at heights only limited to the length of your kite line. With the proper equipment and a nice breeze your camera will gently lift into the air for a smooth ride resulting in an array of fun, interesting and detailed photographs. KAP provides a low-cost alternative to conventional airplane and helicopter photography, also allowing for more low-level detail.

There are three basic components to Kite Aerial Photography:

  • The Kite
  • The Camera
  • A Rig that attaches the camera to the kite line, and activates the shutter

We'll take a look at all three components with links for more information and supplies.

A Brief History of Kite Aerial Photography

The first Kite Aerial Photograph dates back to France in 1888. Kites were then utilized for many different purposes including military reconnaissance, disaster assessment, scientific surveys, and more.

In 1906 photographer George Lawrence succeeded in suspending his 49 pound hand-built panoramic camera high into the air above San Francisco by using a connected chain of Conyne Kites flown from a ship in the San Francisco Bay. The result was an incredible photograph titled "San Francisco in Ruins" which provides the viewer with a unique perspective of the widespread destruction caused by the great San Francisco earthquake which occurred just weeks before.

By the 1930s the development of powered flight gradually brought an end to the golden age of Kite Aerial Photography. However, during the past few decades KAP has experienced a renaissance, especially with the development of high-quality, low-cost, and light-weight digital cameras.

Click on the link below the photo to see a larger version with zoom-in capability:

1906 Kite Aerial Photograph - San Francisco

1906 Kite Aerial Photograph - San Francisco
1906 Kite Aerial Photograph - San Francisco | Source

Best Kites for KAP

There are several different kite styles that work well for Kite Aerial Photography, providing a smooth lift and ride for your camera. Please note that different kites are better suited for different wind conditions as well.

The Flow Form Kite is preferred due to it's ease of deployment. Simply unfold the kite and the wind will lift it into the air. The Flow Form 16 is great for winds of 15 to 30 mph, whereas the larger Flowform 30 is a good choice for winds of 8 to 20 mph. Some people prefer to add a fuzzy tail for additional stability. You can usually find the Flow Form at either Amazon or Brooxes.com.

The Delta and the Delta Conyne Kite - great for low to medium winds. Kites with a wingspan of 9 1/2 feet, 10 feet, or 11 feet, are ideal for wind conditions of 5 to 20 mph.

The Rokkaku Kite is a six-sided kite based on a traditional Japanese design and a favorite for light wind situations. The 6' x 5' size if great for winds of 5 to 15 mph. The Giant Rokkako, 7.5' x 6' will develop a great pull in very light winds and should not be used in winds of 10 mph or greater. A streamer tail can be added for increased stability.

The Dopero Kite is another large kite, normally custom-made, but great for very low wind conditions of 4 to 12 mph. However, this kite requires more assembly time than the others.

Line and Accessories:

When purchasing a kite, you will also purchase the kite string, or line, and a spool (sometimes referred to as a hoop, or winder). The line is available in different strengths - be sure to purchase the correct line poundage indicated for your chosen kite. You can also choose the length of your line, normally 500' for 1000' along with the corresponding hoop size to hold your line. We use a 500' line and have found that to be more than enough.

An optional accessory is a snap swivel (the same poundage as your line). Secure the swivel to the end of the line on your spool by using a Double Lark's Head Knot (see downloadable diagram). This will create a fast and easy way to attach the line to your kite, which usually has a ring attached for this purpose. Gloves are another optional but recommended accessory, along with an anemometer to check wind speed.

And with any kite flying activity there are a few safety precautions to follow: Safe Kite Flying

Santa Barbara Breakwater KAP photo

A nice lightweight camera for KAP: - The GoPro Hero3 Camera for your kite photography

This little camera has become one of our favorites for KAP. It's very lightweight, so will easily lift into the air in lower wind conditions. The lens has a slight fisheye curve to it, allowing for a wider angle. You can program the camera for either photographs or video. The camera can be programmed to take photos at certain intervals, so no additional trigger mechanism or fancy rig is required - a simple and basic rig is all that's needed to attach the camera to the kite line. Use a Flow Form or Rokkaku kite (or your favorite KAP kite) and you're in business!

GoPro HERO3: Silver Edition
GoPro HERO3: Silver Edition

Silver Edition $299

Photo Specs: 11MP

Wi-fi built in.

 
GoPro HERO3: White Edition - 131'/ 40m Waterproof Housing
GoPro HERO3: White Edition - 131'/ 40m Waterproof Housing

White Edition $199

Photo Specs: 5MP

Wi-fi built in.

 

Other cameras for Kite Aerial Photography

Quite a variety of cameras can be used for Kite Aerial Photography. Lightweight point-and-shoot cameras are popular for KAP. Models and prices will vary but their compact size will work well for light wind days. SLR Cameras also work very well for KAP. A larger rig is required to accommodate the larger SLR cameras, and is usually controlled from the ground via a remote control transmitter (most often used for model RC airplanes). Eventually, you may also want to use a camera that can accept a variety of lenses such as a super wide angle lens, or a fisheye lens for special effects. A camera with a remote control sensor is a good choice as you will have multiple options available that will trigger the shutter. However, it is not impossible to build a rig with a mechanical trigger that actually presses the shutter button via a remote control.

KAP Rigs

Rigs, sometimes called cradles, can vary in size and complexity and can be built to accommodate a range of cameras. The simplest design is a basic box style that holds the camera in a set position, with the camera set to take photographs at pre-determined intervals. The photographer positions the camera's angle manually prior to flight. The camera can be triggered by it's own internal program, or the shutter is triggered by either a battery-powered infrared LED or an intervalometer positioned in front of the camera's remote control sensor. More sophisticated rigs can pan and tilt your camera, take photos on comand by radio-control, and also transmit a live view to the photographer on the ground via a video downlink. The style of rig you choose is determined by the camera you're going to use, and by the amount of time, effort, and money you want to invest. Rigs, kits, and supplies are available online through Kite Aerial Photography specialty stores.

Unsuspecting donkey photographed from above!

Unsuspecting donkey photographed from above!
Unsuspecting donkey photographed from above!

Where to start...

Purchase a kit to build your own KAP rig!

A great place to start your KAP research is with Brooks Leffler: Brooxes.com.

Brooks has a variety of kits ready for purchase to create your own KAP rig! Brooxes KAP Kits

Another great site is KapShop.com for info, supplies, and kits.

James Gentles in the UK provides great KAP info and products: Gentles.info and Gentles.ltd.uk along with the very handy GentLED IR remote control!

Manfred at Kap-Man.de has assembled a very nice KAP site,

and provides a lot of great information to build your own KAP rig.

Complete KAP packages and fully assembled rigs with RC available at: CobraKite.com

More fun sites to visit:

Scott Haefner's Kite Aerial Photography is a must see - his photos are awesome! Scott also shares information about equipment and technique: ScottHaefner.com/kap

Another great KAP site: www.KAP.toadstone.com

Rob Huntley's site: RobHuntley.ca/Kite-Aerial-Photography

Visit MKary's site here: www.mkary.de

Visit Birdseye here: www.birdseye.be

View DuneHaven's KAP Photos.

Ben Peoples Project: Pittsburgh's Industrial History

Do you have a site that we should post here? Submit a comment below with your info!

Kite Aerial Photography Intro Video

You don't need a fancy expensive rig for KAP! - This rig, camera, and kite captured this nice Mission shot...

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This camera and this KAP rig...Lifted by this kite....Took this photo!
This camera and this KAP rig...
This camera and this KAP rig...
Lifted by this kite....
Lifted by this kite....
Took this photo!
Took this photo!

KAP Photograph of the Old Mission in Santa Barbara

Giclee Prints Available

Purchase a quality giclee print of the Old Mission in Santa Barbara, California.

Photographed using Kite Aerial Photography.

Visit PosterPatch.com for more info: Old Mission Santa Barbara Giclee Print

Have you heard about KAP before?

Are you familiar with Kite Aerial Photography?

See results

What do you think about KAP?

What do you think about Kite Aerial Photography?

See results

Clubs, Organizations, Forums and Directories

The American Kitefliers Association (AKA) - The AKA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public in the art, history, technology, and practice of building and flying kites. www.aka.kite.org

The Drachen Foundation is a non-profit corporation devoted to the increase and diffusion of knowledge about kites worldwide. www.drachen.org.

Drachenforum - die freundliche Community: www.drachenforum.net

DMOZ.org Directory of Kite Aerial Photography sites Kite Aerial Photography at DMOZ.org

Kite Aerial Photography Guestbook

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Steve999 4 years ago

      This approach so much fun..anyone who hasn't tried this kind of photography is missing out on some really good opportunities to take great pics and enjoy themselves at the same time. Thanks for a really enjoyable lens.

    • profile image

      purelightphoto 4 years ago

      Great looking Lens! Cool tips this is helpful for photography addicts like me, Thanks!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image

      hntrssthmpsn 4 years ago

      Super cool!!! I'd never head of kite aerial photography. What a wild technique. Love, love, LOVE the "unsuspecting donkey"!

    • internetsuc6 profile image

      internetsuc6 4 years ago

      This is really a great wy to make photo's

    • profile image

      Bubbajuju 4 years ago

      The 1906 Kite Aerial Photograph is sooo cool. What a cool concept that I just stumbled upon (this lens). I like it!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 5 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I'd never ever heard of kite aerial photography before. What amazing pictures. I'd love to try it but I haven't flown a kite since I was a child.

    • AstroGremlin profile image

      AstroGremlin 5 years ago

      Been a kite flyer for many years but never tried KAP. Super cool! I'm thinking of trying videoing using my iPhone.

    • MayaIxchel profile image

      MayaIxchel 5 years ago

      Wow! Really interesting way to photograph. It gives a new perspective on perhaps common sights. I think I will have to give it a try soon. Greetings from 'the land of eternal spring'!

    • magictricksdotcom profile image

      magictricksdotcom 5 years ago

      Never heard of this before, but your excellent lens has inspired me to try this technique. It's gonna take some guts to put my camera in the air!

    • Water2U profile image

      Water2U 5 years ago

      Great Lens! You open my eyes.

    • lunagaze profile image

      lunagaze 5 years ago

      those pictures are awesome though this sounds dangerous for a camera

    • RCGraphicsDesign profile image

      RCGraphicsDesign 5 years ago

      What a fantastic lens. I also have never read anything on the subject. Really great.

    • profile image

      djroll 5 years ago

      I've never heard of kite aerial photography. I enjoy photography and kite flying so I must try this. Great page of information. Thanks!

    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 5 years ago

      I never heard of kite photography previously, it sounds like a low cost and great way to get aerial shots.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Congrats on making the home page! Great work!

    • DANCING COWGIRL profile image

      Dancing Cowgirl Design 5 years ago from Texas

      This sounds pretty cool. i would probably have lost of pictures of trees since that's usually where my kites end up. hahaha Congrats on making the Squidoo front page.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thanks for sharing this information.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens.

    • profile image

      seosmm 5 years ago

      What a great idea. We used to do this as kids and launch cameras in our model rockets. Cool photos. Nice lens!

    • profile image

      momilp 5 years ago

      What a cool hobby! I truly enjoyed reading this lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • SquidooMBA profile image

      SquidooMBA 5 years ago

      This sounds really cool. I had never heard of this before but now I am interested in it. Keep up the great work!

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 5 years ago

      This is amazing, but I'm not skilled enough to launch my camera without disastrous consequences! LOL! My cousin, however, who is a professional photographer, owns a special truck with an amazing lift so that he can take beautiful photographs from high in the air.

      Congratulations on making the front page!

    • GaelicForge profile image

      GaelicForge 5 years ago

      I always enjoy new perspectives on everyday life- this is right up my alley!

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 5 years ago

      Sounds like fun. I'm not a kite flier but I'm thinking this would work with RC airplanes...

    • davies86 profile image

      davies86 5 years ago

      thanks for sharing this lens. a great idea

    • Johanna Eisler profile image

      Johanna Eisler 5 years ago

      This scares me to death. I am, by nature, a coward, and I just know I would do it wrong and destroy my camera. I have a cousin who is a professional photographer. He does amazing shots from above using a special lift on the back of his special truck. I stick to the ground - fear of heights. I'll keep taking pictures of people and flowers and things attached to the ground, thank you. :)

    • tstandiford profile image

      tstandiford 5 years ago

      Oh the things you find on Squidoo. Incredible!

    • profile image

      Environbee 5 years ago

      Love the lens - what a great idea Kite Photography is.

    • nbrandt123 profile image

      nbrandt123 5 years ago

      awesome! this is another unique photography. A must try! *****

    • adamfrench profile image

      adamfrench 5 years ago

      Thumbs up, great lens

    • BrahmM profile image

      BrahmM 5 years ago

      Great lens! Bookmarking this for later study, could be a great project for me!

    • WaynesWorld LM profile image

      WaynesWorld LM 5 years ago

      Definitely looks like a fun way to spend an afternoon.

    • jays23 lm profile image

      jays23 lm 5 years ago

      I saw a wedding once that used an aerial photography but it was not from a kite but from remote controlled toy and the pictures taken were the best shots I have seen among all the wedding photos.Making use of the kite is something else. You're combining 2 hobbies! Great idea!

    • mistyblue75605 lm profile image

      mistyblue75605 lm 5 years ago

      Still interesting lens. Had never thought of this before and had to stop back by for a visit.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What an interesting idea, love that shot of the donkey.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 5 years ago

      Wow. This takes kite flying to a whole new level!

    • DesignedbyLisa LM profile image

      DesignedbyLisa LM 5 years ago

      That is so cool!

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Never heard of it before. Very interesting photos. Congrats on LOTD.

    • deyanis profile image

      deyanis 5 years ago from Oz

      wow, what a clever idea. Never heard about Kite Aerial Photography before, but after seeing the pictures; I should give it a try too. Congrats on LotD!

    • profile image

      einer3 5 years ago

      I've never heard of KAP! The photos are amazing!!

    • Kysaan LM profile image

      Kysaan LM 5 years ago

      Great photos, and what a fantastic concept.

    • bonusprint lm profile image

      bonusprint lm 5 years ago

      Great idea

    • profile image

      WeirdStuff 5 years ago

      Very interesting,it would never come to my mind to mount camera on kite!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A great idea to take photos from kite's height, well live and learn.

      Congrats on LOTD

    • mythphile profile image

      Ellen Brundige 5 years ago from California

      I keep being tempted to try this, but I'm scared off by the cost. I really envy those doing it -- it looks like so much fun!

      Great lens on a fun hobby.

    • CreativeExpress profile image

      CreativeExpress 5 years ago

      This is a great lens! I had no idea they make cameras specifically for kites, but I should have known:)!

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      Wow ... this is great. We have a friend who wants to try something similar with a mini remote helicopter. The shots are fabulous, and I especially enjoyed the 1906 bay area photograph. Congratulations on LOTD.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Really cool idea, I'm sure you could get some amazing shots. I never thought of this, but I'll keep it in the back of my head. Congrats on LOTD!

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 5 years ago

      This is so cool! Blessing this lens! Congrats on LOTD!

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 5 years ago

      What a cool idea! It seems like a great DIY way to get areal shots. Nice Lens.

    • GabStar profile image

      GabStar 5 years ago

      Awesome photos, looks like a fun pastime. Congrats on LOTD :-)

    • youthministry profile image

      Paul Turner 5 years ago from Birmingham, Al.

      Super lens. Next time someone tells me to go fly a kite, I think I will and take pictures too :)

    • profile image

      NC Shepherd 5 years ago

      Amazing! I'd never heard of KAP before. Congrats on LOTD.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 5 years ago from California

      Neat lens. The photos are amazing. The one with the donkey's shadow is really cool as is the 1906 one. Congrats on LOD. Well deserved. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • profile image

      jonessc 5 years ago

      Those are some great shoots!! But I thinik I'd be worried about my camera being smashed to bits when the kite came screaming to the ground! :)

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 5 years ago

      Wow, beautiful shots. What a great hobby, congrats on LOTD and purple star.

    • profile image

      kelli320 5 years ago

      Really informative. Great photos.

    • fugeecat lm profile image

      fugeecat lm 5 years ago

      i've never heard of kite photography before. the pictures are great.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! great subject and interesting to boot!

    • RawBill1 profile image

      Bill 5 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

      Awesome! I had no idea that kite photography existed! I had always assumed that all aerial photos I saw were from planes on helicopters. This is a much cheaper option! Well done on a great lens and congrats on LOTD!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 5 years ago from Australia

      I'd need a really tough camera with my kite-flying ability ;-) But I love the results. Well done.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 5 years ago

      Unique interesting lens. Congrats on your LOTD! Blessed by a Squid Angel :)

    • profile image

      JennySui 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD! nice lens.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      How very interesting!! Love this lens...blessed.

    • profile image

      DonMiguelito 5 years ago

      Nice lens :)

    • profile image

      AnnaleeBlysse 5 years ago

      Sure looks like a fun hobby! Congrats on LOTD choice.

    • profile image

      ThomasJ4 LM 5 years ago

      Very interesting method that us worthy of lens of the day!

    • profile image

      cmontijo 5 years ago

      This is something that I would like to start doing in a future, it would be very entertaining.

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 5 years ago

      This looks so very interesting, and to think that you found a photo from 1906. I sent a link to my brother who just might find this hobby of interest. I have a helmet cam that my husband uses to video his car races and I am thinking I could try attaching it to a kite and see what I can see. Congrats on LOTD. Well deserved. I would never have seen your lens if it had not gotten that award.

    • HeartBroken62 profile image

      HeartBroken62 5 years ago

      I like to play with photography...not a pro by any means, but this is fascinating. Gives a whole different outlook on playing with photography...hmmm. I love things that are unusual and different. Great lens. Look forward to coming back and learning more as I have the time. Congratulations on LOTD.

    • MrWidemouth profile image

      MrWidemouth 5 years ago

      Great idea. I will definitely be forwarding this article. Cheers!

    • MamaKris profile image

      Kristin 5 years ago from Long Beach, CA

      That is so cool! Congrats on LOTD!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lens of The Day, well done!

    • profile image

      NidhiRajat 5 years ago

      I just loved it!!!!

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

      This is really fascinating...never really knew about KAP. Great lens too! Congrats on LOTD!

    • OOPSY LM profile image

      OOPSY LM 5 years ago

      Great lens! Congrats on getting LOTD!

    • ijbgraphics profile image

      ijbgraphics 5 years ago

      love this

    • Dragon 40 profile image

      Ken McVay 5 years ago from Nanaimo, British Columbia

      Awesome work - thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      333ideas 5 years ago

      Oh wow! What an interesting way to get cool arial pictures. The pictures on your page are awesome! Visit me at www.squidoo.com/anything-to-save-a-buck

    • lucy439br profile image

      lucy439br 5 years ago

      Really good lens!

    • klopcic profile image

      klopcic 5 years ago

      Really amazing thing - kite aerial photography! And great lens also - the right pick for lens of the day! Congratulations about that!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This is very cool!

    • CoeGurl profile image

      CoeGurl 5 years ago from USA

      Fascinating! Also wondering if you have invasion of privacy issues. Great lens!

    • Stephen Lewis profile image

      Stephen Lewis 5 years ago

      Amazing! Never heard of KAP. You can teach an old dog new tricks! Do you ever have invasion of privacy complaints? Well done! Thanks.

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 5 years ago

      I had never heard of KAP. What a wonderful and unique hobby that produces some breathtaking photos!

    • profile image

      Pete Schultz 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD, it's very interesting and the photos are quite a different perspective. Nicely done.

    • profile image

      shopperonna 5 years ago

      that is pretty neat! i am still sort of worried about my cam falling to the ground and crashing- but i guess it is worth the thrill of it all.

    • Andrew Douse profile image

      Andrew Douse 5 years ago

      Wow, very interesting, and another thing to add to my "i could try that sometimr" list!

    • profile image

      Gatortail2 5 years ago

      Bottom line what is the very the very lowest starting cost? Can any squiddoo members answer my question.

    • profile image

      NetShed.com 5 years ago

      What a neat idea. I never heard of that before, but do want to try it out now.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      How interesting! I never knew of this hobby and now I'm way interested. Great LoTD!

    • IWS LM profile image

      IWS LM 5 years ago

      Congrats on LOTD!!

    • BLouw profile image

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      I opened this lens on a whim but ended up reading it from start to finish. I wouldn't have thought I was interested in kite photography, but I am now!

    • profile image

      writer_villa 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens!

    • Barb McCoy profile image

      Barb McCoy 5 years ago

      Really wonderful lens....love the concept of aerial photos. The Make video on YouTube was fantastic!

    • profile image

      lalaart 5 years ago

      if only hexacopters were cheaper. nice lens

    • pramodbisht profile image

      pramodbisht 5 years ago

      nice lens congrats on LOTD :)

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      What a fun hobby. The results are amazing. Congratulations on LOTD! Great lens.

    • profile image

      JeremyAce 5 years ago

      Didn't even knew people did this, so was definitely an interesting read for me. I'll have to check some of these photos when I'm on lunch later now. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wow! What an awesome lens! I need to see if I can do this from the Blue Ridge Parkway here in North Carolina. Bookmarking this lens! You deserve LotD!