A New KAP Rig Above a High Plateau
Bloke (pronounced /'blo:keh/, not /bləʊk/) is a high karst plateau some 30 km south as the crow flies from Ljubljana, Slovenia. It's an enchanted and place, with lush meadows, deep forests, meandering streams and scattered small hamlets, where wildlife outnumber people: all the big beasts of Slovenia, the bear, the wolf and the lynx call Bloke a home, and herds of deer, packs of golden jackals and boars, and flock of various birds are more common than cars.
Bloke plateau from a kite
Being remote and beautiful and boasting pretty good wind conditions in general Bloke plateau is a frequent kite aerial photography destination of our club ... So when we got a new Rokker kite and a radio-controlled KAP rig from the inimitable Sandro Macchi - SMAC, we knew exactly where we will test them!
A Rokker by SMAC in action
A rokker is actualy a rather large vented rokkaku kite with a dynamic spreader that has a much greater wind speed range than a normal rokakku. Sandro's invention saves your hand from being crushed by a kite line when the wind picks up and goes beyond 25 km/h, while it still retains all of the rokkaku's characteristics in low wind conditions. We put the orange-black kite together and let it lift our Picavet rig while the new rig with all the small parts and batteries was being assembled ...
Bloščica stream from a Rokker. Incidentally this exact place is what a pack of Golden jackals calls a home!
The Rokker flew perfectly ... until it didn't. It was no fault of it or of Sandro: we put it together a bit clumsily and the spine rod was too short, so the kite started to behave funnily in a gusty, turbulent wind, so we rather brought it down before we lost it on its first flight - we've lost a kite to Bloke plateau before and we had zero intentions to lose another one. More testing and fine tuning is in order, in some nicer and safer place.
So we lifted the good old Spark rokkaku and put the finally assembled and working radio KAP rig on the line. After some practice we figured out how it turns and tilts, we got a feel of the remote controls, and up in the sky it went!
Top-down shot of the meanders of Borovniščica
The radio-controlled KAP rig is a really cool tool for kite aerial photography - you can point the camera with the remote controls exactly where you want and take only those shots that are good. A camera on a fixed Picavet shoots in one direction only, so you get a hundred or more photos that are all pretty much the same, and if you pointed it a bit off, you have hundreds of identical bad photos.
You need an action cam up there too, though, if you want to see where the camera is pointed at. A video feed from the action cam that looks in the same direction as the main camera is essential - for when the rig is a couple hundred meters up in the sky, you really can't see anything, especially not what the camera is shooting!
We did not have an action cam nor a video feed from the rig, so it was all shooting in the blind. We fiddled with the controls - straight down, oblique, horizontal - and we let the rig rotate automatically. The results? Better than expected!
With a radio-controlled KAP rig you can pull so much more from just one kite aerial photo session. With a static Picavet you are bound to pull down the kite, check the photos, point the camera in a different direction, lift the kite again, pull it down again ... while it's good for your health - pulling the kite down in a strong wind is a perfect cardio (and all KAPers are really muscular) - it's tedious and time consuming. Even without a video feed it works perfectly (perhaps even better, as it retains the mystery of "what did we catch this time" and you eagerly check the photos when the camera gets back down).
So ... big thanks to Sandro Macchi - no worries, we will fine-tune the Rokker, for it is a great KAP kite, and the new KAP rig will travel with us to all the beautiful places that need to be shot from the air!