What makes a good KAP spot?

edited April 2015 in Lessons Learned
This question has been troubling me since the Easter break. Folks want to know where to KAP. They see the pictures, they ask me. What should I say?

This struck me as an odd question: surely if you are a photographer you have an idea of what you want to photograph? Why would you have to ask?

I can't really recommend anywhere other than the safest places to fly a kite, especially if I don't know how much practice a flier has put in- safety means clear of roads, overhead lines, loose dogs, low flying aircraft, hospitals with an A&E dept not to mention trees, sunbathers and the like...it's a fraught decision!

When I fly I am happy to assume responsibility for the risk, but, unless some rigorous procedures are in place, I'm not prepared to be responsible for others. I like to fly alone, I have seen what can happen with crossed lines, it's easy to be distracted in a crowded sky and let your kite drift its line across mine and no amount of apology will replace my camera once its hit the dirt- so you won't see me at kite festivals that often. If I see another kite in the sky I move away.

It dawned on me slowly, my initial reaction was to think: what on earth drives people to fly a camera if they don't know what to photograph! Many kite photographers simply want to fly for fun, meet kite fliers and share the wonders of the process. Some of us place kite before camera: we are not all driven by the same photographic agenda. Flying a kite with the chance of an interesting photo as a bonus can be every bit as rewarding as waiting out the wind and cloud to loft high res glass.

So my answer is to suggest how you might go about finding your 'KAP spot':

Know how much cover you can expect. Landscape opens up beneath your kite, if you know your landscape and spend a little time with a map it's secrets are revealed, practice will tell you how the field of view opens out and how much of the ground below is caught by the camera- it's less than you think. A 'standard' camera at 60m AGL will catch 20mx30m looking straight down- that's not much-so visualizing the birds-eye view is less of the 'eye of God' and more of the eye of the sparrow, my favorite KAP shots centre on detail, pattern and texture, so thinking about light and height is important.

Time and place. KAP at noon will often produce 'flat' exposures, shooting under an overcast sky is a waste of time, pointing the camera at featureless meadow is less interesting ( to me ) than flying it over buildings or people. The monuments in the landscape are the echo of the lives of the past, these are the places that drive me to fly. Ask yourself the question: what am I doing here? and the answer might provoke thoughts of why the landscape is the way its is- the land is shaped by us-we are both of it and in it. How can the aerial photograph record the sense of place? Are there human scale features that reveal land use? Does land use create leading lines?

Choosing your site. Once you have an idea of your subject either from memory or research it needs to be assessed as a KAP target, you need to know it's possible to fly a kite there. Here in the UK there are many constraints, the Magic Map magic.defra.gov.uk/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fMagicMap.aspx will reveal if your chosen site is controlled airspace from the point of view of wildlife- if it's anything to do with the RSPB you can forget it.

If in doubt, head for the beach. Kite flying at the seaside is a very natural thing to do, often you will find a smooth flow and the coastline presents itself as a receding line from almost any viewpoint. Coastal flows are some of the nicest I have worked with. Don’t forget, the more interesting the tidal zone, the more likely it is to be a bird reserve (mudflats and estuaries are important habitats). It’s also worth remembering light aircraft pilots habitually fly along the coast at or below 600m AGL on just the kind of days (clear and bright with a light wind) you want to fly your kite.

Kites need space, the urban fliers are experts and they know their territory well, if you are at all uncertain of how a kite behaves you can assume you will need a wide open space downwind to launch and recover your kite. A football pitch is usually enough. Upwind trees can spoil your day as much as down wind ones...look for places with a clear fetch.

...and of course you need a fair wind!

So while I'm not going to point anyone at a particular spot, it would be nice to know how others go about finding their KAP spot.



  • Nice post Bill...lots of very useful information there for anyone...experienced or novice. My reason for asking for reccomendations was mainly down to only being up in Suffolk for a couple of years - and whilst doing lots of exploring it seemed apt to ask for some local knowledge, as I was also hoping to find some areas to KAP "on the spot" as a fellow kapper was coming to do some photography from as far away as we travelled when we moved up here from Cornwall. I am happy to mooch around Suffolk finding landscapes and sites to KAP, but was hoping to find a couple of reasonably straight forward ones for a specific session.

    I too like the feeling of finding new places and sites, and seem to constantly have my eyes open for new areas, with each new possibility getting a mental checklist of the points you make in your post above. I found it fantastic kapping with Sue, and she is a great companion with a great sense of humour and I cant wait to spend a full week with her in France....but I also have a tendancy to go it alone, fishing on the local river on on my own from a very early age, and travelling with my job on my own on a regular basis. I know what you mean when you have your own sense of place, and if I was asked for sites in devon (my home town) or Cornwall (home for the last ten years) I would be able to reel off a list of sites which I have always imagined viewing from the air.....because that's where I am from. I am slowly finding a sense of place in Suffolk....and thats the beauty of my job, and of KAP...I feel the connection is strong when you KAP somewhere...after all you have worked with all its elements, and it has allowed you the privilage of an aerial view! I went to four different sites today. Three planned and one that I found on the way past. Even had a cheeky KAP in Bury before heading to the pub!
  • edited April 2015
    Great to hear you have caught the bug...let's see the pics!

    While I don't fully agree WTD, one way to put it is like this:

    as ever the Duck is not far off the mark...there is no substitute for proximity.
  • I think there are as many subjects to KAP and strategies to KAP as there are KAPpers. Some love aerial views across cities from way up, some love the close-in sparrow's eye view. The kite and rig are merely tools to extend the photographer's viewpoint. KAPing in the UK, I have come to appreciate close and low and abstract shots. Those who fly where the height laws are freer like their vast aerial panoramas.

    What I have noticed over the years is that KAPpers do develop their own style and subject matter of choice. At the KAPixxx exhibits, I always reckoned I could pick out known KAPpers' works from lens choice, height, angle, lighting and subject type and treatment. Not always right but nonetheless interesting to see how we each developed a taste for a particular style that almost became a trademark.

    So in a particular location like a castle, each KAPper would choose a different approach. From the castle in the full context of its landscape, right down to the shadows of a queue of people waiting to get in at the ticket office. No right or wrong, just artists comfortable with their skills using their tools to deliver their characteristic work.

    Of course in the early days of KAPping it is all about exploring the new viewpoint. As time goes by preferred methods and visions take hold. But always there is that serendipity. The unexpected shadows, the interesting patterns. The picture that makes us go "wow!" That keeps us flying again and again.

  • edited April 2015
    I know what you mean re building your own style and spotting things that you might not have seen or been interested in before. I was kapping from Clare castle in Suffolk on Saturday, and whilst I was pleased with some of my landacape shots one of my favourites was in fact simply a straight down shot of a set of picnic benches and the way they had been laid out on the grass. An unintentional shot which just turned out well. The more I do the more I spot! Loving the sense of freedom you get from seeing things from the air!
  • Tim...can we see these shots of Clare anywhere?
  • You sure can, though they are just landscape and church ones from around 150ft up...as by the time I got there I was shooting straight into the sun when I was shooting back at the castle, so all the castle ones were rubbish!

    ....slight problem though - has anyone else been finding that photobucket says pics are uploaded only to not be able to find them in their library?

  • Tim: and the link is...?
  • See above...cant get photobucket to work at the moment and wondered if anyone else could help?
  • See above...cant get photobucket to work at the moment and wondered if anyone else could help?
  • See above...cant get photobucket to work at the moment and wondered if anyone else could help?
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