St. Mary’s River State Park

St. Mary’s River State Park is a beautiful area in Southern Maryland whose main feature is St. Mary’s Lake. There is a 7-mile walking trail around the lake, boat docks, places to fish, a playground, etc. I had visited the park several years before when I first moved to Southern Maryland, but now kite aerial photography was giving me a good reason to go back.

I had also gone to the park earlier in the week in hopes of flying but was stymied by a lack of wind (you know, that thing that kites need to fly). Since there was a $3 fee to enter, I didn’t want to let that go totally to waste, so I walked around and took some pictures. Here are a couple of them. Notice the reflections on the glass-smooth water in the second one — a sure sign of very little wind! One very beneficial outcome of that trip was that I located a very good flying site: a wide-open field about 300 feet wide and 700 feet long at the southeast end of the lake. This would be a perfect place to fly a kite.

The next Saturday, the wind was pretty calm most of the day but seemed to pick up suddenly in the early afternoon. After getting the go-ahead from the boss (my wife 🙂 ), I quickly packed up my kite stuff and hurried over to the park again. In my haste, I forgot to bring gloves, which I realized during the drive, but I decided not to go back for them. It turned out that I got lucky and didn’t need them because the wind was quite light, but generally speaking it’s not a good idea to not wear them when flying a big kite.

During the drive, I tried to judge the wind by looking at the tops of the trees, and it wasn’t looking too promising. The gentle-to-moderate wind I had observed at home was no longer apparent at all. When I arrived at the gate, I made the choice to go in, fully knowing I might be wasting my $3. The hike to the field didn’t do much to improve my outlook. Only rarely did I see the tops of some trees moving. It was looking like another disappointing attempt, but at this point I was definitely going to at least try.

If anything was going to fly, it would be the big Barn Door kite. I set it up as quickly as I could at the field, which is still about a ten-minute endeavor. Despite my misgivings, in the open field there was definitely a noticeable light breeze. Surprisingly, it remained steady enough to get the kite into the air with no running needed. I let out the line as quickly as I could while periodically pausing to let the kite pull up to a higher angle, knowing full well that a light breeze can quickly disappear. The best bet is to get the kite well above the treetops as quickly as possible where the wind is generally less likely to suddenly vanish. With the PowerShot S100 pointed towards the north, the rig was soon attached and on its way up. That’s a relief!

The picture above from about a hundred feet up gives a nice view of the flying field, the northeast end of the lake, and some hikers passing by. Since it was a very nice day by winter standards, the park was recently reopened, and it was a weekend, there was plenty of traffic. I got some comments, mainly from kids (as usually is the case), and had some brief socially-distanced discussions about the kite. No doubt the big blue and yellow kite could be seen from quite some distance.

The flight turned out to be just perfect for the Barn Door kite. I don’t think the wind ever got much higher than the light range. That allowed the kite to fly at a high line angle; it didn’t get pulled down at all as it tends to in stronger winds. There wasn’t a lot of pull on the line, but it was still plenty to lift my 300-gram picavet rig. To introduce a little bit of variety into the shots, I walked back and forth along the width of the flying field. Some variability in the wind direction provided views of both ends of the lake, and also some looking down towards me.

Actually, with the wind so light and the camera nominally pointed towards the kite line, many of the shots ended up focusing on the line rather than the landscape. I haven’t really had that problem much before. In the gusty breezes typically encountered, the camera normally moves around enough that the line doesn’t end up directly in the center of the frame too often, even when the camera is nominally pointed towards it. Next time, I may try manually focusing the camera to infinity if the camera is pointed that way. Nonetheless, there were still plenty of good shots out of the 400 taken. Having some focused on the line actually made it easier to narrow down the “keepers.” Some of my favorites are posted below. They really show off the serenity of the lake and the beauty of the surrounding area.

After 30 minutes of flying, the breeze had died down to just about nothing on the ground. The images above are in chronological order, revealing that the lake was taking on an increasingly mirror-like appearance as the wind died down. If you view the last one full-size, you should even be able to make out circular ripples surrounding the boat in the lower-left corner. As is often the case, there was still a breeze at altitude, but I sensed that this too was starting to decrease. Once below 200 feet, the wind definitely dropped off. By the time the rig was down to ground level, the kite had lost all lift, so there was no way to detach the rig from the line with it still flying, and I was left just tugging on the line as the kite descended to make sure it stayed clear of the trees. It looks like my timing was just right, because I definitely wouldn’t have been able to launch again at that point. I packed up and went home with that sense of satisfaction that only a relaxing kite flying session can bring. Not bad for the first one of the new year!

You can see all my aerial photos from St. Mary’s River State Park at this page. Thanks for reading!

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