Never been so glad to crash

edited September 2013 in General
I had a neat opportunity to do KAP over a farm where they grow pumpkins for Halloween. And this year they did a corn maze. I can't post the pictures to Flickr until after their festival, though, because they're a dead giveaway for how to run the maze. Suffice it to say it was a chance I couldn't pass up.

Except that it's on the side of a mountain, downwind from a tree-lined highway, and the weather is never ever KAP friendly. But hey, I had to try.

Earlier in the week I put up a Nighthawk and a Gopro and gave it a try, but the pictures were blurry. (I also had to hand-over-hand the line to get the kite down. Too much tension for me to use my winder. On a Nighthawk. This should've been a hint.)

Today I went back and put up a Flow Form 16 and my DSLR rig. It worked... sort of... About an hour into the session the wind suddenly picked up (from the 25kt it was already blowing!) and the kite overpowered.

I tried very hard to tie it off to a fence post. I was wearing leather gloves, being careful, but when I tried to tie the three hitches to hook it to my carabiner, three of my fingers got caught in a loop of line. I did what I could to free them, but the wind kept picking up and I started to feel my knuckles bend sideways.

It's at times like these that I regret doing solo KAP. I regretted all sorts of other things, too, like leaving my knife in the car and not making a gamma hook the way I'd intended to after seeing Christian's post and talking about it with Henry Jebe. In a couple of minutes I went from thinking, "I can't wait to get home and see how these turned out!" to thinking, "I can still drive myself to the emergency room with a thumb and a pinkie on this hand."

To my utter delight I looked up just as my Flow Form went into its final dive. My rig landed hard, and the kite hit vent-first in a grassy field. I got my hand out of the line, ran to my rig to get it off the line, and ran to the Flow Form to get it off the line and pack it away.

I've never been so glad to crash my rig and kite.

To my surprise the camera survived fine. Even the lens, which I thought would be toast, still worked afterward. The rig didn't seem to take too much damage, either, except I'll need to install a new set of leg brackets. These are toast. And the Flow Form? It's a Flow Form. It was trying to re-launch even as I was taking it off the line.

My fingers work great, too, though it took a while for the feeling to return.

Tomorrow I'm going to the hardware store to get the stainless rod I need to make a gamma hook. My fingers are NEVER going to have that happen to them again.



  • Whoa, an exciting and educational story! Glad that you got your fingers saved.

    How much pull could your line take before snapping? More than the fingers I guess...

    Funny thing that knife... I always have it with me, and after a KAP session I think to myself: "Gee, I really should have it attached to my belt, rather than have it in my back bag...". Maybe today I will improve my routine.
  • edited September 2013
    I made my gamma hook from 1/4 stainless steel tubing. The type of stuff people use to transport compressed gas. A lot of labs have scraps and stuff that has been yanked off the wall when equipment changes. They also have tools for bending the stuff and end caps. It's a little flexible but your arm will fall off before it will straighten back out.

    I also have a carbon fiber "gauntlet" that I break out in high wind.

    Next up is a gamma gauntlet.

    Getting your ff16 to crash or pull off the wind is also a very useful technique ;).
  • Beautiful story, Tom. FF16 is able to strongly pull, I found personally a few weeks ago, on the seafront. You have probably thought about stratospool. In critical situations, there is more possibility of rescue. :O)

  • Yeah, this has me looking at my winder, too. I really don't like flying in those kinds of conditions, but I can see how I'm going to wind up flying in them again in the future.

    heharkon, I use #200 Dacron for almost all of my KAPing. I don't know which would've given first, line or fingers, but I didn't want to find out! The funny thing is ever since I took up sailing almost twenty years ago, I've made a point of not putting any part of my body through a loop of line. When hand-over-handing a kite down, I'll grab and twist, but never loop the line around my hand. In this case I was putting the half-hitches on my carabiner and the line slacked suddenly, slipped over my fingers, then went taut again. Which just goes to show that you can think you have the best technique in the world, but it's never 100%.

    And that's an argument for a redesign on my winder, if I've ever heard one!

    tgran, thanks for the info on the stainless tubing. I'm banging my forehead on the table! We've got that stuff all over the lab at work, including the scrap bin. DOH! And I've got caps in my shop at home (KAP rig leg caps should fit over 1/4" stainless tube). That's the next KAP shop project. Awesome.


    P.S. The owner of the property was happy enough with the photos that they don't need another set. THANK GOODNESS! I think I need to make a ventilated rokkaku with a storm bridle before I attempt that spot again.
  • That no-bodyparts-in-loops is good rule to have, I agree. I occasionally get my glove's finger tip (without the finger) caught in a loop somehow. Once I was considering sending the glove up in the air because if was so strongly attached. But I didn't have spares, so I had to untangle. :) Fortunately my routines have improved so much that it doesn't happen anymore...
  • What is a Gamma Hook and what does it do please. ( Photo please )

  • See for more on Gamma Hook. A search of this site could also be helpful.
  • edited October 2013
    A couple different versions:

    Pierre Lesage:


    Gamma Hook

    The French KAPer Becot is the originator. Mine works but I'm not sure it's better or worse than other designs.
  • I use a halo-type winder, and after I launch the kite and let out maybe 125 feet of line, it's time to attach the picavet, wind up the manual rotator, turn on the camera, set it to infinity manual focus, and start the script running. To keep the kite in place without having to actually fly it during this process, I've been using a method I saw in Scott Dunn's "pier" video where he uses a strap that goes around his waist with a carabiner on the end, and he snaps the carabiner on the line, then winds the line backwards around the halo, then back through the carabiner. Theoretically the line doesn't know whether it's coming or going, so it just stays put. Then he can mess with all the camera stuff.

    But I wonder how others do things at that point in the process, and whether the gamma hook described here is what most people actually use to anchor the kite while dealing with the picavet and camera.

  • edited October 2013
    Chris is right. Whenever you go into a windy situation with a strong pull expected, it is great to have a "gamma hook" snapped to your belt. These sure do make life easy and are simple to use.

    My rough looking variant has saved me, more than once:
    Just a counter clockwise twist or two, and pull away. No worries.

  • edited October 2013
    wayback -- I don't usually use the gamma hook unless the wind picks up with the FF16 on the line. It's a bit of a rescue tool for bringing the kite and rig down. I have enough kites available that I'm usually closer to slack line conditions and will use an 8 or carabiner or winder to work with the line.

    I now have a larger kite and I'll have to learn some new techniques for working off an anchor.
  • I use a strap with two carabiners. When the wind/kite mix is right and it's slack line flying, the strap is around my waist. If the wind picks up, it's a matter of seconds to pull the strap off of my waist, wrap it around a handy object (I tried to use a fence post in this case) and anchor.

    I typically anchor two ways. When I need both hands free for flying, I'll clip the line off to my winder with one of my carabiners, then clip the strap's carabiner to the winder. It's quick, easy, and doesn't involve line handling. The other way I'll anchor is one I got from Dave Wheeler: Put three half-hitches of line around the carabiner, and it's not going anywhere. The only catch is you apparently stand a chance of getting line around your fingers!

  • Tom,

    Careful with your fingers:


    I made a right mess of mine. The line trapped hand was the trigger for this. It took a few months but my pinkie began to curl...

  • CRIPES!!! Bill, I hope your hand is working again!

    Last night I made a pair of gamma hooks along the same lines as tgran's:

    Gamma Hook

    Which was not a minute too soon since the owner of the farm has asked for me to come out and do a third session with particular shots in mind. They're made from 1/4" stainless tubing for high pressure gas. I didn't have the proper tools for bending this stuff, so I used some round rod as a mandrel and just muscled it into shape. I haven't had a chance to test these in the field, and hope the wind is kind enough that I don't have to try it today.


    P.S. This was the prettier of the two. Lesson learned: When making stuff out of stiff metal tubing, pick the scrap tubing that hasn't already been bent into some other shape!

  • edited October 2013
    Nice work Tom.

    My hand was fixed up a year and a half ago, the trauma of trapping it in the kite line triggered Dupuytrens contracture and thanks to the miracle that is the NHS I had the required procedure. It runs in the family so I'd hastened the inevitable but I'm really careful handling line now. I use a 60 Kg dog collar:


    which will clip around most ( dog sized) things with one hand and take the load while I figure out what to do next. If it will hold a 60kg dog it will hold a kite ok. When it's not used as an anchor it takes my 9" halo nicely.

  • Well, I assume you guys with your fancy reels have it easier than us halo types in this regard.

    But please take a look at about 7:50 into this video of Scott Dunn:

    To be honest, I can't really tell what he's doing, but I worked something out for myself that involves winding backward, and it works ok, but sometimes it's a bit difficult to do if the kite is pulling hard. Also, I found out the hard way that if you hook the line through the carabiner opening the second time the wrong way, you aren't really wrapped around it. So if the line goes slack and the carabiner falls off the halo, the line simply drops out of the carabiner and off goes your halo across the ground. When that happened to me, I'm embarrassed to tell you how long I tried to figure out how my carabiner had come open and let the line out.

    Well, I wish Scott would do a video on exactly what he's doing, or maybe someone else that knows this method. It looks a lot more secure than what I do, but also more complicated.

    So I may give the gamma hook a try. I will say that Scott's method, once done, is convenient in that you don't have to set the halo down on the ground and then pick it up later. You're free to walk around if needed.

    However, I'm going to pass on trying to form loops and do hitches under load.
  • edited October 2013
    Whatever he's doing looks very complicated and would make it difficult to release or wind in line in a hurry, I think.

    The delta conynes are a good idea for KAP, probably, although I haven't used them. But you have the ability to fly one, two, or three, depending on the wind conditions. They are very easy to assemble and launch and provide stable flight, although that example doesn't look as stable as it should. Three together usually fly very well, as here:
  • Scott's method works well. I use that with a really small carabiner when using a hoop winder. (My big climbing carabiners tend to stress the sides of the halo winder since they're too wide.) This is how I secure my kite line on my winder when I'm done for the day, too, using the swivel clip at the end of the line.

    Bill, I like the dog collar idea. It looks faster than what I'm doing with my strap.

    Hmmm! Maybe that would be fun to do: a whole assortment of ways to belay a kite line, all in one video.

  • NZflier, it's funny about the multiple kites. Scott ultimately concluded it was a bad idea. Having multiple kites flying in potentially different winds just meant there were multiple chances for something to go wrong. And if the far kite decided to dive, there was nothing you could do about it. So I think he gave up on the idea.
  • Ok, I had the chacnce to try these in the field yesterday. Same place as before, more amenable wind, but the owner wanted higher angle photographs. So I put up a rokkaku.

    This was iron bar flying at its worst. I couldn't wind down on my winder, and couldn't even hand-over-hand it onto the winder. So I let everything go as high as I could for the first pass. They wanted one all-encompassing shot of the corn maze. I got pretty close. Then came the fun part: bringing everything down for the low-altitude stuff.

    I tied my whole winder to the fence post this time. No messing around. Then I pulled out one of the gamma hooks I made. Shove the line between the two tines, rotate 90 degrees, and it's like having a carabiner clipped to the line. I walked out about 150', liked the new altitude of the camera, and anchored it there. To anchor I shoved the line to the bottom of the little loopy and twisted the hook opposite the direction of the twist in the metal. This created a tight wrap of line around the lower of the two cross-over points. I wasn't sure what would happen next (would it try to unwind?) But as soon as I let the hook take all the line tension, the loaded part of the line engaged one of the top tines and prevented any unwinding. I had to stare at it a while before I trusted it, but eventually I did. Unless all tension came off the line, there was no way for it to unwind. So I walked back to my winder, put the strap back around my waist, and just clipped the gamma hook off to the carabiner on the strap. I flew that way for the low-altitude part of the session.

    Ok, to be fair I clipped my winder off to the strap as well, anchored the free end of the line to a carabiner, and clipped THAT onto the strap as a backup. But it wasn't needed. The gamma hook was not letting go.

    I used the same procedure to bring the kite down at the end of the session. The gamma hooks worked like a champ. These are now my favorite KAP tools EVER. No more risk of a pinched finger.

    Sorry, no pictures. I started the session an hour and a half before sunset, so I had to move fast to catch the light. But the next time I go out I'll take copious pictures for David's site.

  • edited October 2013
    Ahh... lights just came on.

    I was wondering, "Why are these guys doing it the hard way?" Then, it dawned on me that you are clipping off the line, not retrieving it completely. Ohhh.

    My little handles (I use two) are strictly for bringing the kite completely down when overpowered, in a quick manner; grab-twist-pull, grab-twist-pull, where the line falls right to the ground at your feet in mere seconds (later reeled onto your spool). The line itself is put in an enclosed position between the bent wires and then the handle is twisted, similar to the regular gamma hook, but your hands are both occupied and do not leave the handles 'til all done. You start by holding the reel and one handle, then drop the reel and use the second handle for the duration of the exercise. Easier than it sounds. And only needed in tight spaces.

    Sorry I misunderstood the task.
  • edited October 2013
    OK, just one more idea...

    I found this hand clamp in my grandfather's barn. It was used back in the day to grasp and pull fencing wire and is really effective for amplifying the gripping power of your hands.

    So, perhaps a piece of hardwood can be split and fashioned to perform a similar function with kiteline:

    Seems like a really simple way to grab that line without causing injury to the KAPer...or the line. Hmmm.

  • The knives that kiteboarders use are also handy to have around. They are designed to be quick to use and hard to hurt yourself with. Here is an example:

  • The kids are finally going through the maze, so it's safe to post some pictures:

    The Whole Shebang

    Here's the venue. The wind comes in over the line of trees to the right and blows almost directly across the field. Everything downwind is cattle country, so my safety box was ginormous. (Thank goodness!)

    Half Maae 2

    The maze itself is seriously cool to walk through. The corn is close to 3m high, so you can't see over it. The first day I flew there, I was led deep into the maze to fly the camera. Flying a kite from inside a corn maze is a whole 'nuther kind of flying! I've done a couple of KAP sessions where I couldn't see the subject from where I was standing. But this was different.

    The people who run the place had asked me out strictly to photograph the maze, but there was a TON of other stuff to photograph. One that I still don't think I've done a good job with is the pumpkin harvest:


    As much as the main attraction is the corn maze, they are a farm that's been growing pumpkins as a crop, and the wash of colors was just too cool to pass up.

    I've only been able to do KAP over a working farm twice. The first time didn't work out as well as I liked (and is a spot I'd like to fly again if the owner is willing). Despite the killer wind at this spot, I was bound and determined to make the most of it. So I did some photography of normal farm stuff as well.

    Tractor 2

    So far it seems like they're pleased with the KAP I did. I hope there's a chance to go back and photograph the farm under less pressure and better wind conditions. Time will tell.

  • Very cool KAP, Tom! The perspective to the corn field is awesome, something won't realize at ground level at all. :)
  • Great photos of a very interesting subject!
  • Nice shots! :-)
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