If I had to choose one kite above any other that I’ve flown as a camera lifter it would be this one: the Into The Wind Levitation 9′ Delta.
It needs one simple modification for KAP: the replacement of the spreader spar with a deep ferrule 2 piece 8mm carbon one. The only times it lets me down is at the slack end of Bft 2 when Mike Jones’s beautiful 8’Rokkaku does the job:
which needs a lot of sky to work in so I always give it more line ahead of the camera to keep things steady.
I have been adding content to the KAPwiki and I think answers to ‘what is the best kite for KAP?’ is probably the most wanted information. Wicherd has made a start but definitive advice on this is problematic. It’s possible to get good pictures from all manner of kites and one KAPers opinion is very different to another. I have my own preferences and, like all advice I give, I’m loath to make any recommendation I have not tried myself.
One thing is very clear: the relationship between KAPer and kite is personal, so here is how I see some KAP personalities expressed by the kites they fly:
Brooks Lefler clearly loves his trusty fled
Ramon Palares is a big fan of the Levi Levitation Light, and a big Rokkaku. I am indebted to him for his recommendation of this excellent kite.
Scott Dun keeps a loft full of kites but I see him as a Dopero man.
Christian Becot is a master of many kites but has made the Calomil his own
Hamish Fenton is a flowform flyer but takes to the skies with a mighty Cody when the fancy takes him
Simon Harbord loves his Dan Leigh delta
Ralf Beutnagel wouldn’t fly anything less than a 8m custom KAPfoil
And me? It’s easy to characterize others but self-examination reveals a common KAPer trait- we like options! Although we have our favorite kites we are always looking for a better option, the business of reliably lifting a camera by kite means, like a golfer with a choice of irons, KAPers take a set of kites into the field.
Flying an 800g rig over the last 3 years I have figured out what works best in Bft 2- an 8’Rokkaku by Jones Aerofoils, or if I can’t pack sticks, a CiM Lifter parafoil:
I use a light (150 DaN) line with the big lifter and keep it well away from anything over 7mph. The ITW Levitation excels in Bft 3 and 4. I have the option of a Didak Explorer 2.7 if I’m packing light. In winds over 10mph (Bft 3 ) the Explorer has enough pull to fly on a heavy 250DaN line up to about 20mph and then its over to the PFK Nighthawk for the blustery stuff. Having watched the ‘soft’ kites kites weave about I always fly with a 15cm drogue towed about 5m behind- the drogue slows spins and dampens the weaving tendency.
3m Rokkaku When I was lucky enough to fly with Clive Hollins I got use of this big custom made kite and as a Bft 2 lifter It can’t be beat. It has snapped its original fiberglass spars and now has carbon fibre replacements. It is much more stable and creates more lift than the Cim Lifter in the same wind.
DSLR KAP I’m tip-toeing my way towards kites that will lift a 1.5 Kg DSLR rig happily. This is a process of seeing if I can push my favorite kites into faster wind-speeds or shaving weight off proven set ups by reducing the weight of line I fly with. These tactics are risky as I’m in danger of flying an overblown kite or snapping flying line.
The idea of KAP balance is important to me- I like to walk the kite across the landscape I photograph. When Simon speaks of ‘KAP connection’ I know what he means: KAP is at its most pleasurable when the lift from the kite, the pull on the flier and the mass of the camera are in balance: if I find myself fighting with the kite on a razor tight line or if the lift is erratic the process can become something of a grim struggle between the desire to fly and natural forces.
So what are the basics of a good KAP kite then?
Size: in general large kites are more stable than small ones-I’d say 2m2 is a minimum except for the Bft 4/5 stuff where smaller sizes can work.
Static stability: a single line kite is better than a high speed stunter, kites designed for traction don’t work well as lifters. The flying angle is important, it’s often an advantage to be able to have the kite a long way down wind without gaining too much height, the ‘soft kites’ do this well.
Wind range: The kite neeeds to be able to fly and carry your camera in both lull and gust, not all kites fly in a wide range of wind speeds: if a kite will only lift a KAP rig at a critical wind speed and then be uncontrollable in anything above that it’s a not a good KAP kite! (see wise words from Tom Benedict below on this)
Durability: the repeated bending and flexing of kites can lead to snapped spars or ripped sails so those kites that are put before Bft 3 and 4 need to be well stitched!
Controlability, by this I mean ‘recoverabilty’, for example I know, with luck, I can escape from a spin with the flowforms but not an inversion of the parafoil. Another aspect of this is how manageable a kite is when hauling it down, big parafoils are not for me as they need industrial levels of anchor, flying line and arms of steel to get back on the ground!
Availability: very often the best kite for the job is the one you have to hand, adding a drogue or tail and changing the line weight can help an unpromising kite do better.
Now I hear the question…’So go on then Bill, enough of the chat, tell us which is best for a beginner to start their KAP adventure then?’
Well, so far I have to say, the easiest to fly in the gentlest winds is the Rokkaku, a 3m one might be a bit much for a beginner but a 2m one should do the trick. Failing that the Colours in Motion Lifter is a good light wind lifter provided you take the time to tune it, but once the KAP bug has bitten its very hard to pick just one kite!
The Hq Flowform 2.0 at £99 (on request) and the CiM Lifter is £105 from EMKay kites in the UK.
A 1.98m Rok is made by Premiere Kites- I’ve not flown it so I won’t recommend it!
So not a simple answer to the question but there a whole lot of fun to be had finding out the answer!
For continuity with the comment thread below I point out that a mainstay lifter for KAP has been the Sutton flowform which is a very reliable soft kite. I used the 2.7msq ’30’ model until it went out of production in Jan 2012. I have tested both the Didak Explorer 16 and the larger 27 model and they serve as good replacements: a bit less lift, a shallower flying angle than the Sutton but they are stable.