Aerial Photography Basics
This page has various photographic points. These points are a set of rules, though not in context. Photography is an art, in which the rules set a framework of what tends to work and what doesn’t. But breaking them can make a picture, too. Understanding the rules help get a better picture. For this, you have to get to the stage you do some of these things instinctively, and that’s when you start to move away from the rules and become creative, in fact.
KAP isn’t easy, as well as all the normal photographic considerations, you need a rig, a kite, the right wind, a kite launch site, and a greater consideration for the safety of others – why important? It is important for the following points:
Low altitude photography can provide a unique perspective on the world. For example, the wide-angled view that every visitor gets of a castle from the south, with a limited view of what may lie inside.
From the kite, the layout of the various buildings of the castle within becomes more obvious. Here strong oblique sunshine highlights the ramparts, and the earth mound the castle sits on. This makes the castle stand-out of the foreground.
From an airplane, a further dimension can be seen with the castle’s protruding defensive position on a loop. Moreover, other places close to the castle can now be seen nestling behind.
However to get more of a living map than a photograph, the strategic position of the castle is demonstrated, however much of the impact of its dramatic location is lost as all relief disappears due to the height of the camera above ground. Additionally, unwanted elements in the picture become a distraction.
So KAP, aerial and satellite images can all play to their strengths, depending on the subject matter, though each of them has its own technical difficulties. However, if you can overcome them, you will be rewarded
KAP fills the low-altitude aerial photography niche, so you should play to the strength.
Places and Patience
When you start with KAP to take particular pictures, make sure they meet photogenic as well as practical rules.
We usually don’t see from the above, so what looks good from the air is something you have to learn. Sometimes the simplest objects can look spectacular, and spectacular objects can look uninteresting. Look at other people’s photo galleries and get some idea to translate them into ideas in your locality. It may be the mix of impossible angle, simple subject, and strong colour.
To photograph you need to decide the place first. Where will you launch the kite? What wind directions are at your favour? Check also if there are cables or power lines nearby. Get ready with the best kite to use for high angle or long reach.
Have enough patience! Wait for the right wind and weather, even the right time of the day for sun angles, before returning for the shoot.
Frame and Line
There are a number of basic rules about the framing of a picture. Most basic is the Golden Ratio (1:1.618), which is supposed to be the most pleasing to view. Generally landscape format is considered more soothing and portrait more tense.
The Rule of Thirds highlights where areas of interest or lines should be. Interest should lie on these lines, or be centered around the 4 intersections, or hot-spots. It is regarded as good practice to have the horizon, for example, on one of these lines.
For images with less strong horizontal and verticals you could try fitting the image to the blue lines on the right. Note the right angle of the two blue lines, and how it is close to a hot-spot on the Rule of Thirds which is also included on the diagram.
You can make symmetry, even if this symmetry is made up of logically unconnected parts of your picture. They do however help lead you between the different parts of the picture. You can keep the symmetry and try to echo the shape in the foreground, with the shape in the background. With KAP there is less of a concept of foreground and background, however the concept of echoing shapes from different parts of the image still applies.
Sun, Shade and Impossible Angles
The sun is the KAPers best friend. It emphasizes height through casting shadows, and offering shading on vertical surfaces. Try to ignore the better framing of the “sunny” shot, and note it’s improved contrast and the 3D property that the strong winter shadow gives it. Try to keep the whole shadow in the frame, and if possible use the morning or evening light for long shadows and richer colours as shown here. Don’t be afraid of shooting with the sun at 90o to the camera. With the more interesting angles directly into the sun it is difficult to control exposure. The use of gray graduated and polarising filters is even more unobtainable.
Make the most of what KAP does best. Occupy the space between conventional photography and high altitude aerial photography.
Remember that you shouldn’t cut shadows off the edge of the frame, though it is sometimes difficult to achieve.
Horizontal close-ups of this tower don’t work on their own. They could just be part of a bigger castle’s ramparts. Show enough of a building to set it in context and set the camera’s position in an unattainable space. If however you are working on a montage, then these shots can be used once the viewer has had the context set by other shots.
While talking about angles, a word about the horizon. Keeping it flat is difficult, but this can set all the differences. Although the horizon can be re-set in the computer, gross errors result in severe loss as the picture is cropped back to square. With the horizon in shot, try not to break it with an occasional tree or building unless they are on the horizon.
Even images without the horizon visible there are no excuses, try to keep verticals vertical, unless the content of the picture is abstract and there is no natural sense of “up”, e.g. the image is looking straight down.
Neat and Tidy
Try not to cut shadows off at the edge of the shot, try not to have intrusions into the frame, either. Keep the edges plain and simple. Keep the areas of interest within the frame. Keep no distraction.
Try to keep the shot tidy, so don’t leave things lying around
The photographer / kite flyer being in shot is sometimes a concern. But it isn’t an issue if the photographer adds some interest or scale, normally he or she is far enough away to just look like another person.
You happen to think you are in shot to look up as you take the picture while you are taking it. You may squint into the video downlink and appear as a hunched figure; however, there is normally enough time to look up as you press the shutter, and look down after the picture is taken. So the picture on the right breaks all the rules.