Thursday, July 2, 2015

Finding truth through delight, let out a little more string in your kite

Two weeks ago I spent half a day flying a kite.

It is a pastime I am going to undertake on a more regular basis, as things have moved on significantly since the days of Peter Powell and his stunt kite which had the capacity to clear a Welsh beach with a single uncontrollable strafe as it sped sideways at many miles an hour, pointy end to the fore, a few feet from the floor.

It's quite the thing in some cultures, as a means of taking your ease. Others use a kite for fishing and a method of presenting a floating bait for big game fish far out at sea, while those seething with a significant mass of testosterone can see no other use for a kite than to have a fight.

Almost two years ago to the day I chucked up some guff, in which I got cross about the management of the lake that serves as an environmental experience for local town society (A Mobility Scooter ride to Eutrophia-1st July 20013)
I was subsequently contacted by someone called Cindy, who was undertaking studies in London, who too had a shared interest in photographs of algae. The difference being that she took her snaps from many metres up, while I took mine clinging to the handrail of a bridge as my quivering anger was interrupting camera focus.

Cindy is on the cusp of completing her PHD and flies kites to obtain her aerial images for fun in many locations. She sympathised with my opinion of the proliferation of the evil algae in this river system produced in poorly managed -line lakes and kindly offered to come and take some photos from the air. Principally to provide images of algae on the up but also as a means of succour to sooth my ire, as flying a kite really is a balm to a pulsing vein on the temple. Recent issues over foam are providing a reminder of the exasperating summer of 2013.

Two weeks ago the planets aligned conditions were ok and Cindy and Savina, a post grad student keen to get into aerial mapping, arrived by train with a bag full of bits of kite and several cameras. The premise is to fly a kite at a thousand feet with a camera suspended thirty feet or so below. Two sets of photos are taken, one with a normal camera, the second with the infrared filter removed as infrared images show the early onset of any algal blooms.

There is some very expensive equipment available for gathering this type of data, but Cindy has worked out a cheap and cost effective way of undertaking the operation. First a snap and shoot camera is taken apart and the infrared filter removed, this is then attached to a wooden frame with elastic bands and the camera set to continuous shoot mode. A final elastic band is then added that holds the shoot button down. The camera is pointed at the horizon to focus on infinity and the frame and camera is then attached to a complicated and well thought out series of strings and pulleys that serve as a gimbal. The Kite, which has been specially made and screams stealth, is then launched and when around thirty feet high the strings pulleys wooden frame are attached and then, to quote Yazz and the Plastic Population, the only way is up.

To one thousand feet,

which is really high,

and well above some helicopters and planes, and at this point I remembered that I was supposed to contact the civil aviation authority and nearby military base, but no matter, we were up and away now and at one thousand feet the kite is dot. Ten minutes of flying over a lake in a neighbouring valley filled the SD card and provided the local Kite and Buzzard population with a new point of interest.

Positioning the kite over the lake takes a bit of working out, in order to place the camera over the required subject and while the wind may be blowing in one direction at ground level it may be coming from a different direction once the kite rises above the sides of the valley.

Drones can also be used but are an expensive alternative and won't fly as high as a kite.
The images we obtained highlighted the genesis of an algal bloom that is currently enjoying the warm weather and low water, and well done to whoever has since put a screen on the outlet from the lake to prevent large lumps of gloop continually making their way into the river.

Good luck ladies with your studies and thanks very much for a fun and informative day, and I'm sold on the idea of pictures from the air as a means of presenting evidence of environmental impact on the aquatic habit, but whether it's a kite, a drone or those Hover shoes that Blue Peter promised us back in the day,

time will tell.

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