Aerial (kite) photography at Zagora in 2013

Hugh Thomas setting up the camera rig.
Hugh Thomas setting up the camera rig.

This year the project is employing aerial photography – using a kite to fly a camera overhead – to record the changes in the site. This was the idea of Hugh Thomas, one of the trench supervisors this year and a 2012 Zagora team member, and his archaeological colleague, Adam Carr, who is new to the project this year.

Hugh researched and put together the setup – a kite with attachable camera rig on which is mounted a compact digital camera. Hugh added software to the camera’s SIM card which makes the camera take a shot every four seconds once he turns the camera on and sets it to Auto.

Adam Carr preparing the kite for takeoff
Adam Carr preparing the kite for takeoff.

Hugh and Adam had practice runs in Sydney to perfect their technique. Hugh told me that Adam was a natural when it came to launching the kite.

Fairly specific wind conditions are required for the kite to be stable enough to hold the camera steady enough to get good shots. Wind speed needs to be around Beaufort 3-4. Any lower and the kite won’t lift off and support the camera. Any stronger and the camera could thrash about. Also, if wind speed is too low or too high, there is a likelihood that Hugh and Adam won’t be able to control the kite sufficiently to protect the camera from crashing to the ground.

The kite about to take off from Adam's hand
The kite about to take off from Adam’s hand.

On Friday 27 September when I photographed their efforts, after a slow start as we waited for sufficient wind speed to safely launch the camera, everything went perfectly, as the following photographs show:

The kite is launched
The kite is launched.
The kite is airborne
The kite is airborne.
Higher....
Higher….
Adam Carr (left) and Hugh Thomas took it in turns to control the kite
Adam (left) and Hugh took it in turns to control the kite.
Hugh (left) and Adam observe the kite, waiting for suitable conditions when they can safely mount the camera onto the kite
Hugh (left) and Adam observe the kite, waiting for suitable conditions when they can safely mount the camera onto the kite.
The camera in the rig
The camera in the rig.
Hugh mounting the camera rig onto the kite string while Adam controls the kite
Hugh mounting the camera rig onto the kite string while Adam controls the kite.
The camera rig starts to take off
The camera rig starts to take off. You can see the lens pointing down.
The camera is on its way....
The camera is on its way….
The camera with the kite beyond
The camera with the kite a small speck above and beyond.
Hugh controlling the kite. The camera is a speck just above Hugh's head
Hugh controlling the kite. The camera is a tiny speck just above Hugh’s head.
Adam controlling the kite
Adam controlling the kite.
Adam Carr bringing the kite down
Adam starting to bring the kite and camera down.
Adam bringing the kite in
The camera is almost back down.
Hugh disengaging the camera rig while Adam controls the kite
Hugh disengaging the camera rig while Adam controls the kite.
Adam and Hugh bring the kite down
Adam and Hugh bring the kite down.
A picture perfect landing
A picture perfect landing.
A great team effort and a perfect end to a perfect flight
The kite lands safely – to fly again another day.
A great team effort and a perfect end to a perfect flight
A fine Zagora team effort.

All photographs by Irma Havlicek; © Powerhouse Museum

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17 thoughts on “Aerial (kite) photography at Zagora in 2013”

  1. Nice story – a great idea to use this system and it saves on helicopter costs! – although waiting for a suitable wind speed at Zagora must be like waiting for Christmas! Will any of the photo’s taken by the kite system be put up on here?

    • Hi Malcolm. It sure is the economical way of getting aerial photos. There is a bit of waiting involved in getting wind speeds of between Beaufort 3 and 4 but Hugh and Adam have heaps of other archaeological work to do when they are not doing aerial photography. There are some processes we need to go through before we may show the aerial photos. It may take some time but we will show the photos when we can.

    • Thanks, Lynne, I’m so glad you like the photos. There are some processes we need to go through before we may show the aerial photos but we’ll show them when we can.

    • They looked into other methods of aerial photography but chose the kite because it was likely to produce the best results in the high wind conditions at Zagora.

  2. Nice to see Jon Ashmore’s (Kite-Power Queensland) KAP Rig being used internationally !!!.
    Let us know if you’re keen on checking out the new prototype that will be r/c controllable using micro servo’s; allowing for pan and tilt.

    Well done boys.

    • Thanks – I’m replying from Syros (on our weekend off in the middle of the dig). I’ll pass on your message when I see Adam, probably tonight. Cheers.

  3. I like the Cyberdyne Systems shirt, it makes you wonder if a T800 will suddenly appear. What camera did you use to film with? A GoPro is always our choice of camera and some enterprising people used a few STORM Drone 6’s with them.
    I like the way you set up the kite and got it to fly.How did land it without smashing it?Cricket catch?

    • They used a compact Canon camera PowerShot (I think it’s the S110). Hugh and Adam practised flying the kite in Sydney before coming to Andros. They read the wind superbly well, and wait for optimum conditions to launch and land the kite. They also work really cooperatively as a team. The day I photographed the kite photography, Adam launched and landed the kite – and made it look effortless (which I’m sure it isn’t).

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