Kite Photography

Here are some pictures I took by flying a camera-carrying kite over Boston:

More at xkcd.com/kite.

I’m getting a larger kite and hope to make some higher flights. I can’t really plan when I’ll be out there since it depends on the weather, but if you’re nearby (I’m flying them from the MIT athletic field), free during afternoons, and like this kind of project, drop me an email (rmunroe@gmail.com) with “hooray kites!” as the subject and I’ll let the interested people know when I’ll be flying next.

131 thoughts on “Kite Photography

  1. would you like to get a better camera before you go flying again? i’d be glad to help out.

  2. That’s really neat, and I’m suprised it worked so well. You hear about these things but, well, at least for me, don’t ever see them happen. Maybe I’ll try something like this sometime.
    :-)

  3. eitje: That would be cool, though there’s a nonzero chance that it will crash and explode, so I’ve been sticking to fairly cheap cameras. It’s also kind of a pain to solder to the shutter button contacts. But if you have one you want to fly and you can get wires connected, I’d be happy to send it up!

  4. Crash and explode? I’d hope you’re not using gasoline-powered cameras :D

    Cool photo though, must be a good sized kite to carry even a camera up that high. Care to post a picture of that kite? Would be interesting to see just what kind of span it needs to stay aloft with the weight of the camera.

  5. Hmm, you may be able to use something like the

    “Zap Shot RF” (google it, if you like). Probably would want to beef up the transmitter, though.

    If you’re looking for other scenery, I’d suggest the North Shore beaches– there’s almost always a good breeze and it’s very pretty.

  6. Nathan: It’s actually not a huge kite — about 6′ from wingtip to wingtip, which doesn’t look particularly big. That’s enough to lift a half-kg camera in a good breeze just fine. But my main problem has become the several pounds of line I’m using, so I’ll be stepping up to a 12′ kite soon.

  7. What an absolutely amazing idea. I’m a photographer and I’m kind of embarrassed I haven’t thought of this myself.

    Totally going shopping this weekend for kite flying gear. :)

  8. … That prank is the most hilarious thing ever. I need to do that. Ahahaha.

    Also, amazing pictures. Good luck on the next try… and post your pictures!

  9. Purely awesome.
    Reminds me I need to get that old CVS “disposable” digital camcorder attached to a USB port.

  10. Is the kite-flying at all related to xkcd #240? (I know I’m going out on a limb, but the GPS coordinates are really close)

  11. You totally should get kite taken pictures taken of the meet up that’s going to happen because of xkcd #240. That would be cool to see.

  12. Some cameras have time lapse (also called an intervalometer) built into the camera itself. You’d be able to use the camera without any soldering or electrical fiddling at all.

    It’s usually a feature on higher end cameras, but there’s firmware hacking to enable it on some low end, cheap, Canon Powershot models. Bonus because some Powershots are lightweight (half the weight of the camera you’re using), run on AAs, and use SD cards

    PS – FAA regulates flights over 500 feet

  13. Wow, that’s an interesting aerial shot of the Stata Center! (It doesn’t look quite as horrifying from that angle…)

  14. awww nice! A friend and I were going to do the same thing in savannah from the beach! That is awesome though well done!

  15. wow, I’m really impressed by these. and the kite prank. that’s brilliant.

    So, since anything even remotely resembling technical jargon makes no sense to me, /how/ did you set this up? I’d love to try it. espechially if it can be done with less then 20$.

    and please keep posting these pictures.

  16. So apparently my friend Darrell Cain met you there and told you to move because he and MITSET were going to shoot a maser across the field.

    …That’s kind of awesome.

  17. Thoughts:

    1)You can get a “megadelta” which is 12′ across for about $120. These are seriously good lifters. In a strong breeze, you need 100 lb nylon to hold it. In a light (almost imperceptible) breeze, it will still fly fine, provided you give it a start by running.

    2)To get a larger kite down requires some strength. The easiest way is to have 2 people, and hook some sort of metal loop over the string; then just walk apart. Or, stall the kite by letting out 5m of slack, suddenly.

    3)Use an R/C servo to avoid modifying the camera.

    4)Cheap film cameras (£30) will give much better results than cheap digital cameras, and will give a much shorter exposure.

  18. I know several people who work on compact, high-power, color-controllable LED lights. If kites can lift a camera. . . I bet we could build a pretty freakin’ cool UFO.

  19. Those pictures are awe inspiring.

    And, uh, at the risk of sounding like a fool, would someone explain the “Mussolini made trains run on Thyme” joke?

  20. Justin: Thyme rhymes with Time.

    One of the objects in that fourth picture looks just like the space ship from that old Disney movie “Flight of the Navigator” in its high speed mode. Pretty sweet if you ask me. Check it out: http://dave.zfx.com/nav.html

  21. Justin, in case Rogers explanation wasn’t that helpful:
    Mussolini made Italy think that he was responsible for making the train system dependable- he “made it run on time”- so that he would appear to have done something productive for the country and they would like him better. I don’t think he really did anything though, i think he just took credit for it.

  22. ….so xkcd makes the pun that he made it run on thyme, a spice.

    i live for these jokes :]

  23. gaa you are probably right outside my dorm window and I’M NOT THERE TO SEE IT!!!
    if you keep doing this during the year im pretty sure youll get invited in for study breaks

  24. RE: Blake’s LED Kite-UFO

    Awesome idea, which I would love to get a laugh out of. Though, this is Boston we’re talking about. Remember the mooninites?

    Also, I’d like to second the idea of flying from the north shore beaches. I live on the north shore, and would *LOVE* to see some of these shot from the air – especially Crane Beach in Ipswich, or Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

  25. My Life and I enjoyed your pictures very much. We now keep a kite in the back of the car for when we’re out and about and there’s a breeze. It’s a good way to break up a long trip. Keep posting the pictures!

    The idea of putting LED lights on your kite is interesting. You could get free advertising for xkcd if, say, 12′ of LEDs that spelled out “xkcd” were on the kite.

    Or do you not wish to attract attention?

  26. What a great concept, kite photography. Since I really cannot tell what camera you’re using (and I’m surprised that no one has mentioned this, so maybe I’m crazy–although I am a professional photographer), what settings are you using on the camera? If it has settings related to exposure (and perhaps you already did this, so pardon the repetition) you probably want to set it o shutter-priority (or equivalent) and give yourself 1/500th or faster.On a bright day you should be fine. If the camera doesn’t have settings, Richard’s suggestion about a flim camera would be good regarding exposure, but with the number of photos limited to the size of a roll… you wouldn’t be able to get the kite very high before it ran out. I, myself, would probably invest in a digital camera with shutter-priority available. If you can really get a firmware hack for some of the cheaper Canon Powershots, they would be ideal (with the auto picture function). Alright, sorry to be long-winded. If you really want to discuss it, write me. :) And keep up the good work.

  27. that is so fantastic!!! what a great idea… if i could spare even $30 i would try it! but i’m wicked po’

    haha, again, i’m so glad you’re in boston!

  28. I’ve been trying to figure out where to go fly my kite! Thanks for posting the location!

  29. So is this going to be some kite club then?

    Because you know that the first rule of kite club is that you don’t talk about the kite club, right?

  30. Don’t make the kite too large, you might shut the whole city down under the fear of Kite Terrorists.

  31. I have to say, it’s pretty awesome that you took a picture of my dorm with your kite. (You can see it in the picture w/ the boathouse).

    I wish I were staying at MIT for the summer… =/

    P.S. That prank? Absolutely ingenious… I definitely need to try it sometime… XD

  32. eep- that makes me dizzy.

    You know what’d be really cool: a picture of your fotokite taking a picture of *another fotokite* taking a picture of your fotokite…

  33. Completely unrelated to this post, but I’ve just read the latest strip and 8ft is definitely not a record. I’ve managed over 10ft before. I also thought I was the only person in the world who did this…

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