Kite Aerial Photography

Written by Steve Eisenhauer

Introduction to Kite Aerial Photography

A kite aerial photographer strives to see what his airborne camera is seeing. He seeks to become the camera’s lens, to sense the image pictured in the viewfinder.

Becoming one with an inanimate object is a universal concept. An archer seeks to become the arrow; as the arrow is aimed, and as it heads towards the target, after thousands of practice shots the archer and arrow become as one. Anyone skilled at typing knows that, eventually, the words being typed seem to appear on the page or computer screen; the physical act of typing letters disappears from consciousness.

Kite Aerial Photography Video

Getting the Best Shot

Striving for perfection is an ever-frustrating, incredibly rewarding quest for the unachievable. We can never see precisely what our camera is seeing, just as an archer never hits the center of the bull's eye every shot, and just as the typist occasionally types the wrong letter.

Striving, through repetition and concentration, opens the door for creativity. A kite aerial photographer can produce remarkable enlightening images; the archer can set new standards for accuracy; and the typist can piece words together into a fascinating article or book.

Kite aerial photography tests your kite flying and photography skills but, most importantly, it reveals your evolving view of the world. Those few photographs that you choose as "the best" expose your vision, goals, and desires.

After you're skilled in the mechanics of this craft, you'll bask for a while in the sheer enjoyment of playing with the wind while maneuvering your camera into position. Then, eventually, you'll look only at one or two photographs from each roll of film, not unlike a painter looking at a finished canvas.

The steps in the process, no matter how enjoyable or laborious, will fade away and what remains is the final product, your vision, the image you want other people to see and feel.


I shoot most aerial photographs on sunny days at a shutter speed of 1/2000th sec., at f/4.O, using ASA 100 slide film, rubber donuts above and below the camera cradle to minimize vibration, using a Canon Rebel 35mm SLR camera, 250 lb. test dacron line and a 10 to 14 ft. delta-box kite.

I occasionally use lens filters, change camera settings and kites as light and wind conditions vary, and alter my flying style depending on terrain and other environmental conditions.


Of all the concerns and challenges presented by kite aerial photography, aiming remains the primary determiner of success. Aiming at elevations below 200 feet is done by looking at the airborne camera and using radio controls to point it in the desired direction. Your controls are pre-set, which means you know by feel or by looking at the controls and the direction of the kite line how your camera is oriented.

At higher elevations, unless binoculars are used, your familiarity with the control levers determines aiming success. You can walk around, let out or take in line, or work the kite line to bring the kite and camera further overhead.

You can study topographic maps before each flight to better visualize the surroundings. But aiming is still more a sense than a science.

I often liken kite aerial photography to fly-fishing for trout. The wind is the stream, the photograph, the trout. But it is somehow bigger, more elevated and spiritual. Staring into the sky, wrestling the wind, pondering the earth, it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment, the hour, and the afternoon.

Unlike fly-fishing, where you can measure and weigh and count the number of fish caught, you can’t readily compare yourself with other kite aerial photographers, to see who is better or worse. The catch is more difficult to quantify, more personal.

You could compare and criticize different styles, and count the number of well-exposed photographs. But style and numbers mean little. What matters most is striving to get the results you want. In kite aerial photography, consistently getting close to your goal is good enough.

There's really no such thing as a perfect picture. As your aim gets better and your skills develop, your definition of a perfect picture just moves further away. Almost-perfect-pictures are like stepping stones; they form a path. Only you can decide if the path is meandering, covers difficult terrain, is uphill or down. The path is your own, and it has no end in your lifetime.

KAP Resources

Kite Aerial Photography: A guide to kite aerial photography including background, equipment, a discussion section, and a gallery of 2,000 aerial photographs.

Kite Aerial Photography by Scott Haefner: Extensive gallery including 360 degree bubble panoramas, plus information on equipment and technique.

Kite Aerial Photography E-Resources: The KAPER E-Zine features tutorials, stories, articles, and links to everything about KAP.

Kite Aerial Photography - The Internet Portal to KAP: Site includes news, discussion group, journal, classifieds and more.