Kites trump drones for aerial-photography bliss


InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort

A camera strapped to a kite can be the perfect way to capture a stunning view. See more of Pierre Lesage's kite aerial photography photos in this gallery (with notes by Lesage).

KAP over the Colosseum in Rome with a Canon S95

This one is SOOC (straight out of the camera). Thanks to Jim Powers (alias Windwatcher), as well as Fany & Anthony (alias Nonsenz), for their previous Kaptures of the Colosseum in Rome. That really helped us to find out where we could take off for our KAP session this afternoon. (Google Earth was also very useful.) The weather was just beautiful, the light warm as Rome can be, the wind was light and strong enough for the only kite we had with us (Dan Leigh delta R8 Travel version) and for our dual-camera autoKAP rig equipped with a Canon S95 and GoPro HD. No authority to tell us not to fly a kite, KAP at its best. A great session we are happy to share.

KAP over Iguaçu Falls

We stayed in Iguaçu Falls for three days -- one day for a hike on the Brazilian side, one day for a hike on the Argentinean side and one day to hopefully KAP them. For the first two days the weather was just perfect: no clouds, beautiful light, a very pleasant temperature and humidity and ... no wind at all. The last day of our stay saw some clouds, wind and a very dull light, but at least we had some wind and KAPing the falls seemed possible, even if I knew that the results would not be the best. There is a very dense forest by the falls and the closest we could take off (according to Google Earth and scouting the neighborhood) was roughly 800 meters from the 'Garganta del Diablo' on the lawn of the Hotel das Cataratas. A bit far, but not much choice, and I thought that taking some height would be the solution. But of course we had to deal with the helicopters (which are supposed to fly at 500 meters or 1,600 feet) and Heidy was so stressed that the entire session only lasted 15 minutes. The wind was very unstable, the Fled was moving like the wipers on my car, the rig was jumping all over but nevertheless we managed to get half a dozen of almost "keepers." Time for a Caipirinha!

Extreme KAP Session on Faafaite Vaa

Faafaite Vaa is a traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe that can sometimes be chartered for private events. This was one our friend's (who is 99 percent blind) birthday and this charter was just a blast for him. Once out in the open ocean, we had a steady wind of 25 to 30 knots with very limited space to move.The sea conditions were pretty rough. We had to launch the kite from the back of the canoe but had to put a life jacket on (just in case). The PFK Nighthawk Delta was the ideal kite for the job and the dual-camera autokap rig (Ricoh GX 200 + GoProHD) was not that easy to launch as we had to protect it from seawater and while making sure everything was fine.

A kite above cloud Nine

A very warm "mahalo, mauruuru, merci" to Tom Benedict, who guided us through the telescopes of Mauna Kea Observatories and, more specifically, the Canada France Hawaii which hosts a world-class, 3.6-meter optical/infrared telescope. The summit of Mauna Kea is 4,200 meters high (almost as high as Mont Blanc ... .4,852 meters) and the sunset above the clouds is a fantastic show to watch; the moving shadow of the mountain on the clouds is an even more spectacular vision. Just a perfect setting for a crazy KAP session where oxygen is lacking and the least effort is huge but Tom, just in case, had an oxygen tank in the observatory as well as a pulsometer for heart beat and oxygen level in the blood. KAPing at 4,200 meters altitude is a very interesting experience; the air is not as dense as at sea level and despite a good 15-knots wind, the Dan Leigh Delta R8 was just enough to lift the autoKAP rig (RC rigs would not be allowed so as not to interfere with the radio telescopes). This was way too short. I can imagine a time-lapse of the sun going down over the clouds, a time-lapse of the growing shadow of Mauna Kea, another, higher KAP session looking straight down. Some good excuses to come back!

Sunrise on Raimiti seen from a kite with a Leica M9

This morning, Dec. 27, 2011, sunrise was at 5:12 a.m. and not a single cloud in the sky, Northeast trade winds blowing steadily at 20 knots, the ideal strength to lift the autoKAP rig and the Leica M9 with its 24 mm Elmarit lens. I was not totally satisfied with my previous sunrise with the Sony Nex 5 and thought the Leica M9 would give me the sharpness I was looking for. ISO 200, f4, 1/1500 sec. When looking at the original size, the difference is stunning. This session is one that probably gave me the most satisfaction since I started KAP a few years ago. Satisfaction with the light, the R8 flight, the subject, the ambiance, the pleasure and the results."

KAP in Blue Lagoon for shark and seagull feeding

The Blue Lagoon in the atoll of Rangiroa is about an hour by speedboat from the main village, and is a pristine and virgin spot on the west coast of the atoll. Baby sharks grow up in the shallow waters before joining the hundreds of adult blacktip sharks in deeper waters. Baby blacktip sharks are curious and always hungry; it was just pure magic to feed them and watch the seagulls fight with the sharks for food. It just took us a few minutes and some dead fish to attract both sharks and seagulls, time to position the kite, the camera and to take a few pictures. I was not too sure about having both the seagulls and sharks on the same picture but I suppose it was a good day.


Easter Island at sunrise

The sun was out by 7:40 a.m. and we only had a window of three minutes of perfect light. The kite was already up in the air and as soon as the sun rose over the ocean the rig was up above the Moais. It was interesting to see that a dozen other visitors had also made it for sunrise, but all of them were facing the sun, we were looking for the shadows!

December in Bora Bora

Kite aerial photography at the InterContinental Bora bora Resort and Thalasso Spa. Great weather and location, the ideal KAP conditions!

Stone fishing in Maupiti

Organized by the population of the island of Maupiti once every 10 years, this traditional fishing technique is a collective effort where the entire population of the island (1,200 people) participates. Over 200 boats and rafts circle the island’s lagoon, each throwing in the water a stone held on a string, to hopefully push the fish inside a 3 kilometer long vegetal net which will be brought back on the beach.This year, this “stone fishing” was the conclusion of a South Pacific UNESCO symposium on sustainable development and the fish were released except for one caught by French Senator Richard Tuheiava, born in Maupiti. Maupiti is an island 20 miles west of Bora Bora, French Polynesia.

AutoKAP in Paris from Le Jardin des Tuileries

View of the hotel Meurice, The RItz, The Opera and Montmartre.A very nice session, the wind was rather strong but unstable and I had more stress flying in Paris than over the lagoons !

KAP over Taro Fields in Areva, Rurutu, French Polynesia

Taro is a tropical plant grown primarily as a vegetable food for its edible corm, and secondarily as a leaf vegetable. It is considered a staple in oceanic cultures. It is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants. The name "taro" is from Tahitian or other Polynesian languages; the plant is also called kalo (from Hawaiian), gabi in The Philippines, dalo in Fiji, seppankizhangu in Tamil, Arvee in Hindi and Karkalo in Nepali.This KAP session was probably one of the most challenging we ever had. The taro field is located right behind a 100 meter high cliff protected from dominant winds but creating incredible venturi and vortex between the ground and 150 meters. "Clean air" is about 200 meters high and the whole challenge was to get the R8 delta up to this stable altitude before attaching the camera to the string.

AutoKAP from the SV:Star Flyer

The SV/Star Flyer set sails from the lagoon of Raiatea.A very intense KAP session, at the begining there was not enough wind to lift the camera but quicly the white storm in the background brought rain and Beaufort 5 winds and we only had a very short window of 5 minutes. Considering this is AutoKAP, I guess we were quite lucky !On this picture the storm is almost here !Thanks to the Star Flyer for a wonderful break and a special "merci" "mauruuru" to the Polish Captain who accepted that we launch our kite from his ship!!!

Rising Sun AutoKAP on Dune 45 in Sossusvlei, Namib Desert Namibia_b


Rising Sun AutoKAP on Dune 45 in Sossusvlei, Namib Desert Namibia

Dune 45 raises roughly 120 meters ( 400 feet) above the ground; It is one of the few dunes where the ascencion is authorized.At sunrise the colors are absolutely exceptional and a few visitors have already climbed the Dune to admire the sunrise from the summit.

InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa

This KAP shot was part of a week's assignment to entirely redesign the hotel's photo library.

Flirting with the Angel

We studied maps, tides, weather forecasts as we wanted to shoot a vertical wide angle image right above the Angel on top of the Mont St Michel.The Angel (Michel Angel) raises at 157 meters (520 feet), and the idea was to bring the kite and camera right above it. This was my first VHF radio assisted autoKAP session... with Heidy radio-guiding me on the other side of the Mont. (almost as efficient as a video link!)The Ricoh GX 200 was attached 100 meters (300 feet) below the Dan Leigh Delta R8 to get some “clean” air, most of the shots were made from 15 to 50 meters (50 to 150 feet) above the angel and I had close to 400 meters (1300 feet) of line out. Thanks to Emmanuel (alias Maneke) for his assistance!

KAP on Sydney Opera House 2008 – Act III… Oct 25, 2008

A warm THANK YOU to Pat, the security officer on duty this afternoon. Pat already gave me clearance back in February and again was very nice to authorize me another KAP session over the Opera House.I originally wanted to shoot right on top of the buiding but the shape and the architecture created too much turbulence.

ZERO wind AutoKAP in Auyuituiq Park, Bafin Island

A zero wind autoKAP in Coronation Fjord, in Auyuituiq Park, Bafin Island.The only wind available in the Fjord was the relative wind equivalent to the speed of the ship ( 10 knots, ideal for the fled).

KAP at Venus Point - Tahiti July 05, 2008

Traditionnal Polynesian sailing outrigger canoe regatta at Venus Point, Tahiti.

Maitai Dream Fakarava, Tuamotu Archipelago Aug 11, 2007

Fakarava is the second largest Atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago, an hours flight North Est of Tahiti. Population of 473 and only one hotel the Maitai Dream.The french painter Matisse was inspired by Fakarava in 1932 when he discovered the incredible palette of "blues".


Stone fishing, an Xtreme KAP session…

Stone fishing is a traditional technique in French Polynesia, but traditions are fading away. (We were fortunate enough to participate in 2009 for the last one that was organized on the island of Maupiti).To close the mayor’s congress, the city hall of the island of Taha’a organized a stone fishing ceremony on August 03, 2012. The weather forecast looked good (15-20 knots of south east wind); space was available on Air Tahiti, as well as at the Hawaiki nui, a local hotel. A few phone calls to find a boat to take us to the ceremony and here we are, Heidy & I, for an Xtreme KAP session. Certainly one of the most challenging we ever had.Here is how this special fishing technique works. A fish trap is build on the beach by the lagoon. From this trap a 60ft long and 5ft wide canal which ends in a giant funnel where more than 100 boats will “push” schools of fish that hundreds of fisherman will guide by throwing stones hung on a rope in the water. By the time they get to the funnel, fishermen jump into the water and “push” the fish in the canal towards the beach fish trap where the local authorities will have the opportunity to harpoon the first fish that show up. (The others will be released… the fish not the officials.)

Towed KAP session In Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

No wind for this KAP session, we just had to tow the kite at the desired speed from the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser. Lots of fun, but a bit acrobatic to launch and retrieve the rig and camera without crashing.Altitude of the Salar is 3800 meters above sea level and the air is not as dense. Average speed of the car was 40 Km/h and we had to drive around twice to frame these shots in AutoKAP without video downlink.

KAP Over Laguna Verde, Bolivia

KAP Over Laguna Verde, Bolivia

50 shades of Blue…and Green !

Kite Aerial Photography on a desert atoll somewhere in the South Pacific.

KAP on Tarmac

Short 06-24 private runway on an atoll in the south Pacific.

Go fly a kite. Marketing exec Pierre Lesage finds the practice relaxing after a busy week overseeing operations at eight hotels. It’s also perfect for shooting photos.

“Since the drones came out a few years ago, kite aerial photography lost interest for a few photographers that are just looking for photographic results,” says Lesage. “I am also looking for results but I need that poetic aspect of doing it with a kite, and as long as there is wind I never have problem with batteries.”

Quadcopters are a thrill but flying kites is the zen alternative — and the photographic results are postcard perfect. It’s a way to mix tinkering with fresh air and can be as easy as picking up a prefab rig or as complicated as diving into the world of schematics and solder.