What makes a good KAP spot?

This question has been troubling me since the Easter break. Folks want to know where to KAP. They see the pictures,  they ask me. What should I say? This struck me as an odd question: surely if you are a photographer you have an idea of what you want to photograph? Why would you have to ask?what the duckI can’t really recommend anywhere other than the safest places to fly a kite, especially if I don’t know how much practice a flier has put in- safety means clear of roads, overhead lines, loose dogs, low flying aircraft, hospitals with an A&E dept not to mention trees, sunbathers and the like…it’s a fraught decision! When I fly I am happy to assume responsibility for the risk, but, unless some rigorous procedures are in place, I’m not prepared to be responsible for others. I like to fly alone, I have seen what can happen with crossed lines, it’s easy to be distracted in a crowded sky and let your kite drift its line across mine and no amount of apology will replace my camera once its hit the dirt- so you won’t see me at kite festivals that often. If I see another kite in the sky I move away.

It dawned on me slowly, my initial reaction was to think: what on earth drives people to fly a camera if they don’t know what to photograph! Many kite photographers simply want to fly for fun, meet kite fliers and share the wonders of the process. Some of us place kite before camera: we are not all driven by the same photographic agenda. Flying a kite with the chance of an interesting photo as a bonus can be every bit as rewarding as waiting out the wind and cloud to loft high res glass.

So my answer is to suggest how you might go about finding your ‘KAP spot’:

Know how much cover you can expect. Landscape opens up beneath your kite, if you know your landscape and spend a little time with a map it’s secrets are revealed, practice will tell you how the field of view opens out and how much of the ground below is caught by the camera- it’s less than you think. A ‘standard’ camera at 60m AGL will catch 20mx30m looking straight down- that’s not much-so visualizing the birds-eye view is less of the ‘eye of God’ and more of the eye of the sparrow, my favorite KAP shots centre on detail, pattern and texture, so thinking about light and height is important.

Time and place. KAP at noon will often produce ‘flat’ exposures, shooting under an overcast sky is a waste of time, pointing the camera at featureless meadow is less interesting ( to me ) than flying it over buildings or people. The monuments in the landscape are the echo of the lives of the past, these are the places that drive me to fly. Ask yourself the question: what am I doing here? and the answer might provoke thoughts of why the landscape is the way its is- the land is shaped by us-we are both of it and in it. How can the aerial photograph record the sense of place? Are there human scale features that reveal land use? Does land use create leading lines?

Choosing your site. Once you have an idea of your subject either from memory or research it needs to be assessed as a KAP target, you need to know it’s possible to fly a kite there. Here in the UK there are many constraints, the Magic Map magic.defra.gov.uk/Login.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fMagicMap.aspx will reveal if your chosen site is controlled airspace from the point of view of wildlife- if it’s anything to do with the RSPB you can forget it .

No kites by order

There are many places where you cannot fly a kite, kite bans are a standard byelaw in local nature reserve creation…and there are thousands of these.

_DSC0019Sometimes you have all the gear and no idea…

If in doubt, head for the beach. Kite flying at the seaside is a very natural thing to do, often you will find a smooth flow and the coastline presents itself as a receding line from almost any viewpoint. Coastal flows are some of the nicest I have worked with. Don’t forget, the more interesting the tidal zone , the more likely it is to be a bird reserve (mudflats and estuaries are important habitats). It’s also worth remembering light aircraft pilots habitually fly along the coast at or below  600m AGL on just the kind of days (clear and bright with a light wind) you want to fly your kite.

_DSC8306Kites need space, the urban fliers are experts and they know their territory well, if you are at all uncertain of how a kite behaves you can assume you will need a wide open space downwind to launch and recover your kite. A football pitch is usually enough. Upwind trees can spoil your day as much as down wind ones…look for places with a clear fetch.

…and of course you need a fair wind!


A local park (OK its not a great shot but the idea works if not the exposure…) can be just as rewarding as a world heritage site, you’ll never know unless you try. There is wonder in the view from above where ever you are!

So while I’m not going to point anyone at a particular spot, it would be nice to know how others go about finding their KAP spot.


About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
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1 Response to What makes a good KAP spot?

  1. Re-posted from KAP forum:

    I think there are as many subjects to KAP and strategies to KAP as there are KAPpers. Some love aerial views across cities from way up, some love the close-in sparrow’s eye view. The kite and rig are merely tools to extend the photographer’s viewpoint. KAPing in the UK, I have come to appreciate close and low and abstract shots. Those who fly where the height laws are freer like their vast aerial panoramas.

    What I have noticed over the years is that KAPpers do develop their own style and subject matter of choice. At the KAPixxx exhibits, I always reckoned I could pick out known KAPpers’ works from lens choice, height, angle, lighting and subject type and treatment. Not always right but nonetheless interesting to see how we each developed a taste for a particular style that almost became a trademark.

    So in a particular location like a castle, each KAPper would choose a different approach. From the castle in the full context of its landscape, right down to the shadows of a queue of people waiting to get in at the ticket office. No right or wrong, just artists comfortable with their skills using their tools to deliver their characteristic work.

    Of course in the early days of KAPping it is all about exploring the new viewpoint. As time goes by preferred methods and visions take hold. But always there is that serendipity. The unexpected shadows, the interesting patterns. The picture that makes us go “wow!” That keeps us flying again and again.



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