KiteCam Disaster Fund Appeal
The most expensive photos I've ever taken
The KiteCam Disaster Fund has currently raised £115.66 (target is £300) since 15th June 2004 (woo!)
There is nearly enough money in the pot to get a replacement camera now. You are all so generous :)
The Day I Broke My Camera
One sunny day, a friend of mine had this crazy idea of sending a camera up on my kite to take some aerial photos. He was unwilling to use his camera, so I foolishly used my own. The end result was that I broke my digital camera worth over £300. If you're thinking of trying something similar, this story may make you think about planning it a bit better than we did.
The kite we used was a Flexifoil Super 10. This has a parachute-like appearance and has a span of 10ft. It would have no trouble lifting most cameras, although if it gets too windy, it pulls very hard and it's difficult to stand still.
My camera is (was?) a Casio EX-Z3. This is a very small and light digital camera that seemed suitable for airborne photography. It is capable of taking a sequence of three photos after a ten second delay, which gives plenty of time for the kite to get into its highest position from a standing launch. Andy was kindly responsible for pressing the shutter button and launching the kite while I held the control lines. It was also his idea to do this in the first place. Perhaps I shouldn't have listened to him!
Protecting the Camera
Obviously, my main concern was that I'd paid over £300 for the camera and I didn't want to break it. I put on my Blue Peter hat and cunningly crafted a fine blend of bubblewrap, toilet roll and parcel tape. The idea was that even if the camera fell from a great height, the camera would be safe. Maybe I should have used more bubblewrap...
Testing the Camera Protection
I slotted the camera into its impromptu bubblewrap casing and it looked like it felt at home. Elastic bands and some string kept it from falling out. I tested it out by throwing it around the room while it counted down from ten and took some photos. The lens was able to get a good, unobscured view courtesy of my patented Toilet Roll/Bubblewrap Hybrid Lens Protection System (TM). (That's a joke, by the way, in case someone else has already patented it...)
We were getting excited, because the wind looked a lot better than it had the day before. There seemed to be enough, but not too much. It was a very hot day! Towards the end of the aerial photography session, the wind died down a bit and it became increasingly difficult to fly.
The First Flight!
The first flight was quite successful, but in the bright sun it was difficult to see how well the photos had come out. The only way of attaching the camera to the Flexifoil was to suspend it on a 10ft piece of string between each end of the carbon fibre leading edge spar, so I was a bit worried about how "steady" the camera would be during flight. It did seem to wobble about quite a bit (particularly when I performed a few loops) but it was a lovely bright day, so the exposure time was pretty short.
Taking More Photos
The bubblewrap casing seemed to be doing a good job of protecting the camera. None of the landings had been particularly heavy so far, so we sent the kite up a few more times to take some more photos. The next photo shows Eliot College at the University of Kent. The pointy building in the distance is the Electronics lab. You can also see The Venue, Keynes College and Beckett Court in this photo.
Taking Even More Photos
It was a bit of a gamble taking the photos. Some of them were just bits of grass and most were taken at weird angles. But we carried on taking a few more before moving on to taking some short video clips.
Pushing the Envelope
While we were trying to take the video clips, the wind had died down to a level that made it almost impossible to control the kite. However, every now and then, a gust of wind would come along that made it possible to launch the kite and camera combo. During one particularly gusty session, the wind seemed to totally disappear and the kite ended up facing towards the ground. With no tension in the control lines, it headed towards the ground at a growing pace...
Surveying the Damage
The Flexifoil hit the ground hard. The camera hit the ground even harder. Really hard. I suspected that the impact was perhaps a little too much for the bubblewrap casing to withstand. The first observation was that the lens system was damaged, as the dust cover was half open. Closer inspection revealed that the lens casing had cracked. It had clearly taken some impact! To remove the camera from the bubblewrap casing, it needed to be turned off to make the lens retract. This did not happen. "Uh-oh," I thought to myself.
The Final Flight Revisited
Not everything was lost. The memory card on the camera survived the impact and all of the photos and video clips remained intact. These are quite possibly the most expensive photos I've ever taken. Here's an AVI video of the very last flight my camera made. Unfortunately, it was limited to 30 seconds in duration, so you don't get to see the actual impact. I did a number of loops, so be prepared to get dizzy :)
Please Help Me Buy a New Camera :)
I am currently without a working camera. I miss being able to take photos. I hope you enjoyed seeing the last photos I ever took. Please donate to my camera fund at the top of this page and I will be eternally grateful! I promise not to do anything stupid like this again. Thank you.
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Copyright Paul Mutton 2001-2010