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World Wide KAP Week - Part 2: Belle Isle

Friday, May 6, 2011:
Sunset Over Detroit From Above Belle Isle [2770L-Crop]
After getting home from work, the wind reports were looking good, so I decided to head back out to do some KAP. By this time, however, I only had a short while before sunset, so I decided to go somewhere close and familiar: I went to the island park of Belle Isle in the Detroit River where I have done lots of kiting and KAPping. I decided to return to the Nancy Brown Peace Carillon Tower where I have KAPped before (click here).

I set the tilt of the camera in the KAP rig at a steep angle to try to get different views than I had in previous KAPs here. I had hoped to get some shots of the carillon tower, then walk over and get some pictures of the nearby Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory that would be closer than a previous KAP of it .

Racing against a setting sun, I hastily set up my Rok kite and long-line launched it. I didn't wait as long as I usually do to make sure the kite is stable before attaching the KAP rig to the kite line. After a series of letting line out and reeling in, I got the rig up in the air. However, as with my episode at the Brewster Projects, I couldn't get the altitude I wanted. I assumed (correctly) that I was just getting shots of the ground and the base of the tower. I struggled with it a while before facing the fact that I would have to bring the kite down and adjust the bridle.

I reeled the rig in and landed it on the ground. I turned off power to the "peanut" so the pan servo wouldn't continue turning which can result in the picavet lines getting tangled in the gears. I set down my reel and then brought the kite down, pulling in line hand-over-hand and piling it on the ground. After moving the tow-point down about an inch or so, I walked the kite out for another long-line launch. The kite went back up very easily. However, the sun was now on the horizon and was no longer shining on the tower or the conservatory. Unable to get the shots I wanted, I adjusted the tilt of the camera to a few degrees below horizontal before sending the rig back up in order to get some sunset shots.

After the camera was far up in the sky, a police officer drove up. I was about 100 to 150 feet from the parking lot where he was, so we couldn't easily converse. I gave him a tip of my cap and went about my business of flying my kite. He watched for a little bit, then drove away.

After a few rotations of the pan axis, the sun was pretty much gone below the skyline of the city, so it was time to bring it in. However, the kite was now pulling very hard making it quite difficult to reel in. Therefore, I pulled a dog stake from my gear bag, screwed it into the ground, anchored the line to it, clipped a carabiner on the line and proceeded to walk the kite down. The kite and rig were up quite high, so I had to stop, pull the line back to the stake, re-anchor and walk down some more before getting to the camera rig. I removed the rig from the kite line, stowed it away in my bag, pulled the line back to the stake, re-anchored again and walked down the rest of the line to the kite. I quickly packed up the kite, reeled in the rest of the line, pulled up the dog stake, threw everything in the car and I was out of there. It wasn't a great KAP session, but not a bad way to spend an evening when my significant-other was busy with something else.

Click here to view my set of photos from that evening at
Or click here to browse the set of photos on a black background here at
Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory and Botanical Garden

World Wide KAP Week - Part 1: Brewster-Douglass Projects

Saturday, April 30, 2011:
Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects
After eating and shopping in Detroit's Eastern Market, I drove by the old, abandoned ruins of the Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects on the opposite side of the freeway, eying it up for doing my Kite Aerial Photography (KAP). I circled around the complex, then parked and waited, looking for signs of activity that might indicate trouble. Once satisfied, I got out my gear, trudged across the uneven ground towards the remaining high-rise towers of the complex and started setting up my Rokkaku kite. While doing so, a couple of men with tools entered one of the towers and a little later, after my kite was in the air, I heard pounding as they were removing materials for scavenging. I kept glancing over to that tower to see if they would come out and approach me, however, I think scavengers want to keep as low a profile as possible.

The damp, uneven ground meant that I had to be careful of my footing as I moved around. The ground seemed like a few hundred vehicles had driven around on it while it was soft and, over the years, that has probably been the case. There was also a wet, muddy area I had to avoid when bringing down my rig and kite. Trees down-wind from me threatened to snag my kite and my KAP rig, but I managed to avoid them.

This was my longest single KAP session to date at over an hour of air time. I wasn't getting the altitude I wanted at first, so I brought the kite down, adjusted the bridle tow-point and sent it and the KAP rig back up. It worked, I got more lift from the kite, got the rig up higher and most of the shots that I have posted to Flickr were taken after the adjustment.

This also was probably my riskiest KAP in terms of the chance to get mugged, being in a rather isolated, derelict area. The freeway service drive that runs past there gets little traffic. KAPping in such circumstances is somewhat scary because you're a sitting duck when you have a kite in the air.

My Sony NEX-5 hasn't come back from repairs yet, so I'm still using my Canon A630 on a CHDK intervalometer in a hybrid auto-KAP rig using the Gentles clickPAN-IR ("peanut") for my NEX-5 to rotate it and with the tilt angle fixed.

Click here to view my set of photos from that day at
Or click here to browse the set of photos on a black background here at

Eastern Market Kite Aerial Photography

Sunday, April 10, 2011:
Eastern Market Aerial
It was a beautiful, breezy day, so I had to get out for some Kite Aerial Photography (KAP). I went to Eastern Market (which is the location of Detroit's Farmer's Market on Saturdays). I struggled against turbulent ground wind to get my Flowform kite airborne. A passerby--Johnny--took an interest in what I was doing and came over to talk to me (and ask for money to get something to eat). He offered to help me launch the kite. After several attempts, I was about ready to give up on the location. However, Johnny was eager to see the kite aloft, so I tried one more time and was finally able to coax it up above the ground turbulence.

The wind was quite gusty, even up high, so I waited a while to see if it would be stable enough for the camera. Up to this point, I hadn't said anything to Johnny about a camera. When I was feeling confident enough with the kite, I said, "Now comes the fun part." "What's the fun part?" asked Johnny. "Putting a camera up there," I replied. "How ya gonna do that?" So I proceeded to show him.

With Johnny's help, I got my KAP rig on the kite line, the camera in the rig and then the whole thing aloft. All was going well, but then I had some scary moments when gusts of wind played havoc with the kite, so I brought it back in after a few minutes of aerial photography.

Johnny was flabergasted by the whole experience. I can't even count how many times he said, "You have made my day!" Thank you, Johnny, for your help and I'm glad I was able to brighten your day.

Click here to view my set of photos from that day at
Or click here to browse the set of photos on a black background here at

Birthday Trip to Mexico

March 25-28, 2011:
Scarlet Macaw Parrot [50D-4458]
My sweetheart gave me a surprise birthday present of a trip to Mexico. I found out on the evening of Thursday, March 24th. The next morning, we were on a direct flight to Cancun, Mexico. We stayed at a resort just North of Playa Del Carmen, about 70km/43 miles South of Cancun on the Caribbean Sea.

Saturday morning, we went into the town of Playa Del Carmen and wandered around the shopping district. We found this nice little shop that sells locally-made clothing, mostly cotton, linen, etc. I bought a cool shirt and my honey bought a nice summer dress.

We knew we wanted to visit some Mayan ruins, however, if we were to go to Chichen Itza (which is one of the most popular sites for Mayan ruins and which my partner kept referring to as "It's a Chicken"), it would have taken a whole day. We only had three days there, so on Saturday afternoon, we went to the ruins at Tulum, which is about 60km South of Playa Del Carmen. It was very interesting and provided great photo ops.
Mayan Ruins at Tulum

On Sunday afternoon, we were sitting on the balcony of our hotel room, when we heard a rustling in the trees. We then saw a monkey climbing and swinging amongst the branches. He grabbed some fruit from the tree and had himself a little meal. I grabbed my camera and began snapping shots. He disappeared into the branches and then another, larger monkey appeared and he also ate some fruit from the trees. The little one came back before they both swung away and left us delighted to have seen them.
Spider Monkey

Photographic lesson learned from this experience: Don't rely on auto-focus. The auto-focus usually focused on the branches and leaves that were closer to us rather than on the monkeys.

We got up very early Monday morning--before having to get ready to leave Mexico for home--in order to go down to the beach to catch the sunrise over the Caribbean Sea. Cloud cover on the horizon, however, made it rather disappointing. I tried to make the photographic most of what I had with which to work.
Sunrise Over the Caribbean

Sunrise Over the Caribbean

That afternoon/evening, we returned home to Michigan and 30-some degree temperatures--a rather unpleasant reality check after having days in the 80s and nights in the 70s.

Click here to view my set of photos from our trip at
Or click here to browse the set of photos on a black background here at

Trumbull KAP

Sunday, March 20, 2011:
Trumbull and Merrick Aerial Photo
My new Sony NEX-5 camera was damaged rattling around in my KAP bag (the LCD screen cracked), so it was back to the Canon A630 for this Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) outing. I used the GentLED 'Peanut' for my NEX-5 to rotate the pan axis of the KAP rig and ran an intervalometer script on the A630 to fire the the shutter at intervals. Both of the lithium-ion batteries that I usually use to power the RC receiver and the servos on the rig are currently not taking a charge, so I had to set the tilt angle of the rig to a fixed position, making this an auto-KAP session.

For this set of photos, I went to a field next to the Wayne State University Matthei Atheletic Complex. I did KAP from this area last summer, however, this time I had a couple of specific targets in mind: The Woodbridge Pub (which has hosted Exposure Detroit exhibits recently) and the park across the street from it.

While the KAP rig was on the kite line, I had some lulls in the wind that required reeling in line until the wind picked up again. In the end, I got two rotational passes at my targets before a sustained lull made me decide to call it quits for the day. Turned out to be good timing, because it started raining just as I got back to my vehicle with my equipment.

The results were rather disappointing. Most of the shots were blurry to some extent (the one shot that perfectly framed the Woodbridge Pub was very blurry). It was an overcast day, so I set the camera to aperture-priority with the aperture wide open (f/2.8). However, I should have manually set the ISO speed to a high value but didn't think of it. Another problem is that the GentLED turning the rig isn't synched with the intervalometer firing the shutter, so some shots could have been blurred if they happened at the same time.

Click here to view my set of photos from that day at
Or click here to browse the set of photos on a black background here at

Larry Smith and Friends Boppin' At Bert's

Friday, October 1, 2010:
Larry Smith
I decided to get out to Bert's Marketplace Jazz Club for the first time in a very long time. Prior to going, I checked some internet listings to see what was going on there. However, when I got there, it was a different band than the one listed. I was pleasantly surprised to see Larry Smith and Friends on the stage. Bebop alto saxophonist Larry Smith had been a mainstay at Bert's throughout the 80s and 90s.

There was a stool available at the bar conveniently located across from the bandstand. I took up position there and after listening a little, I broke out the camera and began snapping shots.

I spoke to Larry briefly between sets. He said that he had suffered a couple of strokes a few years back and that he had to relearn how to play the sax. From how he sounded on this night, he is doing quite well with that.

Click here to view my set of photos from that night at
Or click here to browse the set of photos on a black background here at