Kiting Magazine Winter 2004

Flirting with Disaster

By Scott Haefner Kiting Magazine Cover

This summer I was vacationing in Kansas City, “the city of fountains” and I couldn’t resist the idea of hovering my camera above the fountains. They are an ideal KAP subject because they reveal intriguing shapes and patterns that you may not notice at ground level. Plus, the streams of shooting water look interesting when viewed from above. Kansas City has more fountains than any other city in the world, besides Rome, so I had plenty to choose from.

Despite my persistence, I had been unable to get my kite aloft at any of the city’s numerous fountains. On my next-to-last day in Kansas City, I got out of bed at 6:30 AM to KAP in the early morning light when shadows are longest and lighting is less harsh. Before heading out I checked the current wind map on I discovered moderate wind conditions—about ten MPH—that would be strong enough to lift my kite and camera. Finally!

Several tall buildings surround the fountain that I chose, which is near downtown. Shortly after I attached the camera to the kite, and just as it floated over the fountain, turbulence from the buildings caused the kite to rapidly lose altitude. As the camera fell out of the sky, I managed to narrowly avoid hitting the firefighter sculpture in the center of the fountain. Unfortunately, this meant that my camera landed in a two-foot deep pool of water. The camera and rig were submerged for three to four seconds before the wind lifted the kite, pulling the camera out of the water and back into the sky.

Water was literally pouring off the camera as I quickly reeled in the kite line to assess the damage. When I finally got my hands on the camera, it was dead and I heard a dreadful whining noise emanating from it. I found water in the memory card slot, the lens, and the battery compartment. Trying not to panic, I removed the battery and packed everything up before heading home.

In a desperate and slightly comical attempt to dry the camera out, I held it outside my car window as I drove down Interstate 35. It was still soaked when I returned home. So I promptly placed it in a conventional oven at the lowest setting, 140 degrees F, a technique I learned in an online discussion group. After “baking” it for two hours, I removed the camera and tested it—still dead. After two more hours, I tested it again. This time, it turned on and things seemed to be working; however, when I took a picture, the image was completely fogged, obscuring any details. I placed the camera back in the oven for another two hours. Finally, after baking for six hours, I removed the camera, placed the battery inside, and everything worked flawlessly. Amazing!

By the next day, the rig had also recovered, and I was out taking KAPictures again…of the same fountain, of course. This time I got the kite above the buildings before attaching the camera, and everything went smoothly. Three months later, I am still shooting pictures with my dunked and baked camera.

I suppose that every time I suspend my $800 Nikon Coolpix 5000 camera from a kite, I am flirting with disaster to some extent. Perhaps this is part of the excitement for me. Mostly though, it’s getting unique images that would be difficult, or impossible, to shoot any other way.

View the photos that accompanied this article in Kiting Magazine.

Share this page: