What do you mean you don’t want to read yet another post about how we packed our panniers, cycled down the coast, found a beautiful little grass-topped rock, set up our bivvy bags, ate dinner while watching the setting sun, and then spent a blissful night under the stars? Well, luckily for you, even though that’s exactly what we did, this week’s post is going to take a different perspective on our overnight micro-adventure.
If you have recently watched any adventurers on YouTube for inspiration; people like Ed Pratt, Ryan Van Duzer, or the Beard Brothers, then you may have noticed that to make a video stand out it can be useful to use some well placed aerial footage. Drones have become so accessible as consumer products over recent years that it is now possible to get footage and photos that previously would have required hiring an aircraft and a professional film crew.
The problem for me is that I am really not keen on the idea of buying any more electronic gadgets, full of heavy and rare-earth metals, and possibly made using questionable manufacturing ethics in some country that can’t cope with the toxic waste that is generated on my behalf, just so that I can occasionally get a few nice photos to post to Instagram. As well as that, it would be one more device to keep charged up on the road, would take up precious pannier space, and I’d more than likely only go and crash it into the sea or smash it into a tree on the second or third flight. But then again, just think of those beautiful photos… a birds eye view of us cycling through a snow dusted mountain pass, or over a rickety wooden footbridge on a forest trail surrounded by fiery autumnal orange and red tree canopies.
That was my thought process two years ago when I spent a sleepless night trying to figure out how I could combine my Gopro camera with my single line kite. Without even realising that it existed I was about to be sucked into the outskirts of the world of Kite Aerial Photography (KAP to those that do it lots and are a bit too short on time to say or type the full name). That day I set out to build a Picavet mount – an ingenious design, invented over 100 years ago, that is basically a rigid cross shape strung up in such a way that it will always remain horizontal no matter what angle your kite string is at.
Picavet Mount – Attempt 1 (2018)
My first attempt was made out of two scraps of wood and some galvanised wire that I found in the shed. I built this prototype with impatient eagerness and to my amazement, after a few test flights and some tweaks, it worked so well that I took it away with me on a couple of cycle trips. My main issue with it wasn’t related to its performance in the air but was the fact that as it was such an awkward shape, and couldn’t be dismantled, it was a real pain to get it in and out of my panniers. In fact it was such a total faff to get out each time that I only used it for maybe two shots on those trips. If this contraption is going to be given some of my valuable baggage space in future it would need to be convenient enough that I would actually feel inclined to use it. I knew that I would have to build a collapsible version before we head off our our world trip.
So, two weeks ago, that’s what I did. This time I used an old fiberglass sail batten which I rescued from being sent to the tip, a block of scrap wood, 4 fishing swivels, and a wingnut and bolt that I had in a jam jar of random things in the shed. Because there is a bit of flex in the fiberglass I decided to make the arms longer than in the first version as an attempt to give the mount some shock absorption during bumpy flights.
Picavet Mount – Attempt 2 (2020)
I had planned to send it up for its test flight during our fort adventure last week but storm Alex had other plans and we had to delay take-off until yesterday. The conditions could not have been better; a light westerly breeze, scattered cloud, beautiful location, delicious vegetable soup with crusty bread, ocean views… oh wait… I’m not supposed to be talking about all that.
As much as version 1 had surpassed my expectations two years ago, so too did version 2, by a long way. It was effortless and smooth. A combination of a few little changes to the design, and also a change of kite, meant that the footage and the photos were exactly what we were looking for. I have a couple of modifications I plan on making, one of which is to shorten each arm by an inch as the front one is visible on photos when the camera is set at a shallow angle, I also need to make a better way to attach the mount to the kite line so that it doesn’t restrict the run of the stabilising strings.
We are really pleased with this first flight so you can expect to see some aerial shots in our future posts! Also, incase you are actually interested; we finished off our little overnighter with a nice cooked breakfast on the wood stove, and a litter picking walk (including a few hundred horrible cigarette butts in a nearby carpark that some ignorant people seem to think would make good fish food). We’ve come home full of ideas of places that we want to try to photograph from above… Watch this space!
You can see more of our aerial photos as we add them on this page: Kite Aerial Photography