Sport and Design Drachen April / May 2007

Natural Talent: Kite Aerial Photography in the USA

Written by Wolfgang Bieck; English translation by Kurt Loeffler

Our aerial picture trip around the world by kite leads us, after a stop-over in the Old World, to the New World. Let us jump over the big pond after we have visited Asia and Europe to look at the third continent in our trip—North America.

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A couple of years ago Ralf Beutenagel told me about a young American who amazed “the old timers” of the KAP scene and left them standing there absolutely astonished with their mouths open. During the first international KAP conference in Pacific Grove, California in 2002 (KAPiCA / 02), Scott Haefner demonstrated his aerial photography in the so-called “360° Virtual Reality.” And after intensive research on the internet I understood the reason why even experienced aerial photographers had been speechless. At the same time I became truly fond of Haefner’s digital aerial picture technique. His pictures outshine almost everything that was technically possible earlier.

Incredible Variety

Scott Haefner is a professional photographer and web designer. A visit to his web site (http://scotthaefner.com/) should be obligatory for every KAP fan. Everyone who takes a look at Scott’s breathtaking images will inescapably start daydreaming looking at the blue of the Californian sky and the huge variety of images in the western United States Scott captured within only a few years.

Scott demonstrates the potential of Kite Aerial Photography in its seemingly unlimited variety through his tireless efforts—not only in the San Francisco Bay Region where he lives. With his exceptionally professional photographic view, he not only catches his motives, he re-discovers them using modern techniques. In January 2002, only a bit more than five years ago, Scott began taking aerial pictures using a kite. Despite this relatively short period of time, Scott has a large collection of very informatory aerial photographs. I particularly liked his 360° panorama of the St. Andreas Fault which you can admire on his web site. And which photographic image could emphasize the advantages of the aerial kite photography better than an image like this which documents one of the world-famous geological settings of the global continental drift.

Open-hearted

Like most KAP folks, Scott does not try to keep his formula of success only to himself. He mentions and names the equipment he uses to take pictures on his site. All I can say is: it’s your own fault if you do not check out his web site!

If you take a closer look and recall the KAP equipment of the past twenty years, you will be able to recognize the influence of many innovative aerial picture photographers on Scott Haefner’s picture collection. The transmitter case with belt bears the hallmarks of the imaginative and assiduous Dutchman Peter Bults. His Picavet mount traces back to Wolfgang Bieck’s original modifications. It was Sport & Design author Ralf Beutenagel who notably enhanced the opportunities for taking aerial pictures in low wind conditions with his Dopero and Maxi-Dopero kites—an achievement that should not be underestimated and the reason Scott uses the Maxi-Dopero in low wind conditions. Furthermore, he uses a screen modification on his Sutton Flowforms, which was developed by the French engineer Christian Becot to assure a safe KAP session. And like no one else, James Gentles has extrapolated the advantages of micro-electronics for aerial kite photography. Consequently, Scott uses the 18-gram “gentLED Auto” intervalometer for taking 360° panoramas and the 8-gram “gentLED” infrared trigger for activating the shutter on his Nikon coolpix 8400 rig.

Scott Haefner, the natural talent from the USA, exemplifies that like-minded Kite Aerial Photographers can use a worldwide network to explore the world from a bird’s eye view.

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