How to KAP – Lesson #1 – Wind and Turbulence

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It’s all about stability! And to ensure a stable flight you need to know a few concepts about wind and turbulence!

Stable flight

As with any kind of photography your camera needs to be stable when taking pictures. Now, that’s what tripods are for! You know, fix your camera to a tripod, put it all on the ground so it’s stable, aim for your shot and … shoot!
Or when shooting handheld, you know the result will be the best when you hold the camera as stable as possible, even though modern technology can improve things quite a bit.

But how can you achieve that (required) stability when your camera is hanging from your flying line and bouncing all over the place up there? Actually, there are a lot of things you can do to improve stability so let’s start with taking a closer look at the most important one – the Wind!

The Wind

Even though you can fly kites indoors or outdoor in zero wind conditions, for Kite Aerial Photography you will need at least some wind so that your kite produces enough traction to lift your (rig and) camera off of the ground!

Dandelion
The Wind!

The wind…. it comes in an infinite number of variations, light, strong, smooth, choppy, from the east, or the north, or the south, or, yes, it’s an ever-changing substance and it definitely plays an important role when you’re out there with your KAP-gear on the field, the beach or wherever trying to fly your kite.

Sometimes you get lucky and your kite will stay like pinned to the sky in that glass-smooth onshore breeze. But on another day the wind is choppy, full of turbulence and will change its direction and speed all the time making stable flight impossible.

So reading the wind is a skill you should learn to master! And there are a few rules of thumb that will come in handy.

Where to fly?

First of all, you should look for good places to fly kites. You should look for large open areas well away from objects that might create turbulence. A beach with an onshore breeze coming in from the open sea is probably the perfect place for flying kites. No obstructions to the onshore winds mean a smooth wind with almost no changes to the wind speed or the direction.

Turbulence

But you don’t always have that perfect kite flying beach at your disposal, so you have to look elsewhere. Then you’ll need to look for open spaces, fields, parks or similar, and try to fly your kite away from objects that create turbulence. Look out for trees, buildings, power lines, hills or other things blocking the wind.

The turbulent flow distance of wind
The turbulent flow disctance of wind

If an object is 10 meters tall, the turbulent flow distance is 10 times as long. So in this scenario, you should stay at least 100 meters away from that object. But sometimes this is impossible so you need to learn how to deal with the situation. And thankfully there are quite a few things you can do to improve your kite’s flight!

(If you define yourself as a nerd and want to dig deep into this thematic, you should follow this link for a scientifically look at things!)

Wind Speed

You also need to pay attention to the wind speed. As a rule of thumb, the best wind speed for Kite Aerial Photography is – in my opinion – anywhere between 4 to 8 meters per second or 9mph to 18mph.

When the wind drops below 4m/sec (9mph) most kites won’t generate enough lift to keep your camera up into the air and when it picks up a bit and goes above 8’ish m/sec (18-20mph) many kites will pull so much that the situation might become uncomfortable or right out dangerous.

If you have the right kites for the conditions, you can of course do KAP in winds below 4’ish meters per second and above 8’ish meters per second, but you should not attempt this unless you have gained some experience and made the required precautions.

But the fun factor is definitely at its peak when the wind is blowing between 4 and 8 meters per second!

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