Winter is coming to the Northern hemisphere.
Days are shorter. Nights are longer.
Daylight savings time has moved on too.
Darkness now greets me after work….complicating…..kite flying…..and taking pictures from the sky (Kite Aerial Photography (KAP)).
The light was interesting with the last echoes of the sunset fading fast and the city lights starting to turn on. Nearby athletic field lighting providing patches of bright light surrounded by darkness.
I located a small patch of open ground near one of the athletic fields and near an experimental wind mill. The wind was blowing 3-5 mph near the ground…..but the nearby experimental windmill on top of a tall tower gave me hope of better wind high above.
The cool easy breeze was blowing out of the South with just enough energy to encourage a 10 foot Rokkaku into the sky as the sun was setting over the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.
A few minutes later the BKT 10 foot Rokkaku was finding its way into the darken skies above gently lifting the light weight Dyneema 150 lbs kite line in search of stronger wind. The big Rokkaku flexed its carbon frame as the now stronger 10+ mph wind pressed against its sails.
Next up – the auto KAP rig fitted with a Sony A6000 camera.
Taking pictures in the dark….from a kite in the air ….can be a challenge….turning what you learned from taking daytime Kite Aerial Photography on its ear.
Start with the light….not enough photons…and what few you have are fading quickly as the sun completes its exit from the day.
The challenge …how to suck down enough photons to get a decent picture…in the dark…from a KAP rig on a kite line bouncing around like a piñata.
Experiment, experiment, experiment and after many failures…a few successes….
High shutter speeds are out. So are high f stops.
High ISO settings with low noise are your friend. Shutter speeds in the range of 1/30 or 1/50 of second are needed to scoop enough light from the sky. Wide open f stops are also needed to maximize light hitting the sensor.
Focus can also be problematic in low light or fully dark conditions. Auto focus fails in many cases. Tricky focus assist that are built into cameras…only work for 10-20 feet….thus useless for night KAP.
Choices, choices… trade offs….experiments….
Night KAP camera settings:
- Shutter 1/50 second
- Auto ISO
- F stop – wide open F 2.8
- Focus – manual
Still need more light…..the athletic fields…provide a splash of light to help illuminate the surrounding space. Lights from cars and trucks passing by on a nearby Interstate highway provide additional photos to add to the composure.
The results proved acceptable with usable images in about 50 % of the shots taken. This is down from approximately 95% sharp images in daylight KAP. The slow shutter speed is the main factor contributing to soft images.
Even got the moon and a planet captured from the kite.
I have experimented with very slow shutter speeds (1/2 second, 1 full second). The percent of soft images jumps up quickly with on one in a hundred shots producing sharp images.
Enjoy a few pictures below and in this flickr album