Issue 1: Visual Eyes

What is probably the thing we kiters do second to flying at a festival? No, not drink. We take pictures of course! The spectacular palette of colors at most kite events rivals the most beautiful rainbows and draws painters and photographers, both kiters and non-kiters. So you want to take incredible kite pictures but don’t think you or your camera can? BAH! Anyone can take great kite photos, no matter what camera they have. As an example, I’ll tell you a story my manager once related to me. One of her customers went out and took a panoramic (4″ x 10″ print) of a mountainscape. My manager thought it was beautiful and convinced this customer to enter it in the mall photo contest, sponsored by the local photographic society. The customer did, and the manager listened to all these professional photographers wonder what equipment was used. They rattled off names like Mamiya, Hasselblad, Nikon, etc…, any one of which could cost more than your entire kite collection. My manager grinned. What was this first prize print taken with? Disposable Kodak Panoramic, $12.99 at your local drug store.

The moral of the story holds true in all walks of hobbies. It’s not the price of your toys, but it’s how you use them. So it is here that I am going to make my blanket, protection statement:


This column will cover how to use what you have in new and creative ways in order to take great kite photos. So let’s get down to it.


This month we’ll cover the most basic part of this equation: the camera itself. All cameras fall into one of two categories, manual or automatic. Forget digital, SLR, point and shoot, bridge, APS, and all the other classifications for now. Either you are doing all the work, or the camera is. O course, each has it’s own pluses and minuses. Every coin has two sides.

Automatic cameras have been the blessing those of us with no patience had waited for for years. Now, they are probably the highest selling type of camera today. In fact, finding a camera without some automatic features is all but impossible today. These cameras allow us to take pictures without thinking about it. All we have to remember is where to point it and what button to press. So now anyone can take a picture, which is a major bonus. It also allows us to hand our camera to any bum off the street and say “Take my picture” and feel relatively safe that it will come out in focus, and under proper exposure. Automatic features are found on all major brands of cameras today, so they now come in Point and Shoot (P&S) and Single Lens Reflex (SLR) varieties. P&S is exactly what it says: point and shoot. The camera does all the thinking. These cameras are also relatively inexpensive. A good one will start at about $100. SLR cameras usually sport Automatic modes of operation, but can be switched to manual (explained below) modes. These are the most versatile of the bunch, but are more expensive, starting at around $300-$400 new.

Since most new cameras of any type have some automatic features, we’ll refer to the next grouping as manual mode and manual cameras. Manual mode requires more thinking and calculations on the part of the photographer. The person behind the camera controls all the functions, such as film speed, aperture opening, and shutter speed. Total manual mode is the most creative means of taking kite pictures, because altering one or more of these settings can produce a more creative picture. The downfall is that these cameras are not as easy and quick as P&S cameras, so they have a greater learning curve.

Of course, there is the mix of the two, which is usually only found on SLR cameras. These are priority settings. Think of these as a “semi-automatic” setting. The photographer has control of one of the two major settings, aperture or shutter speed. After setting the camera for one of these, the camera will do the rest of the work, compensating for the desired setting.

So, no matter what type of camera you have, it is possible to do wondrous things with it. If you think you need a new camera, or a replacement, next month we’ll look at terminology and features to look for in a new camera. Until then, keep flying and keep shooting.

Mike Woeller