St. Mary’s Lake with the Mini Dopero Kite

Today marked the first kite aerial photography flight of the Mini Dopero kite since it turned one year old. (Its maiden flight was 6/21/2020, but the new Rokker has been getting all the action lately.) The Mini Dopero is the first “real” kite I built with ripstop fabric and a sewing machine, and since then it has had the most KAP flights of any of my kites: 13 sessions total since my first attempt last August. Indeed, this kite has been the workhorse of this first year, though that is changing now since the Rokker has a more useful wind range. Still, this is cause for celebration!

The Mini Dopero continuing to fly after the KAP session was done

St. Mary’s River State Park has been on my list to revisit, since I’ve only done KAP there in the winter without any green on the ground and trees, and I’ve upgraded my camera since then too. The wind was perfectly aligned with the long direction of the flying field I use at the park. When I got there, I was expecting another Rokker session, but after seeing how much the tops of the trees were moving, there seemed to be plenty of wind for the Mini Dopero. The Rokker probably could have handled it too, but I was eager for a change of pace anyway.

I quickly set up the kite and let it fly, initially without the drogue, still not convinced about the strength of the wind. However, after a few minutes, the wind wasn’t dying down at all, so I decided to add the drogue. The Mini Dopero likes to fly at a high angle and also wanders around the sky quite a bit when there are gusts, so a nice big drogue is a good idea if the wind is strong enough to support the extra weight and drag. Soon after attaching the drogue, the kite was back up in the air and flying again. I love it when launching is easy!

As usual, I let the kite fly for about five minutes with the line wrapped around a dog stake to make sure it was trimmed and flying well on its own. Then I attached my KAP rig, which consists of the excellent and small Sony RX0 camera, set up to take a picture and rotate automatically every five seconds until it takes 400 pictures total. If you’re new to this site or kite aerial photography in general, check out my KAP How-To video, which shows how it’s done.

Since I was standing right next to a hiking trail, I got some nice comments from passersby as I flew. One thing I love above KAP is that pretty much everyone enjoys seeing the big colorful kites flying and is interested in the camera rig hanging from the line. It’s a great conversation starter for an introvert like me!

The rig came down during a big lull in the wind and captured this unintentional KAP selfie

The kite was flying on a few hundred feet of line with the rig already taking pictures when a huge lull in the wind arrived. It started gradually, and I thought I’d just have to reel in some line to wait it out, but pretty soon it became clear that it was coming down! The lift of the kite and light weight of the rig means that it’s not even close to a free-fall even if the wind dies completely, but nonetheless reeling in the line with the winder was too slow, so I had to drop it and pull it in by hand. Thankfully, I remembered to wear gloves this time. When the rig got close, it captured the really nice but unintentional KAP selfie above. ๐Ÿ™‚ Just about the time the rig touched down, I was thinking I’d have to start again, possibly with the other kite, when suddenly the wind picked back up again. We were back in business!

The rest of the flight was actually a bit nerve-wracking at times. There were no more big lulls, but there were big thermals. Something about the combination of this kite and how it was trimmed at the time, plus the weight of the KAP rig dangling from the line, made it want to just glide coming out of thermals. Perhaps a lower tow point would have helped avoid that. Combined with its tendency to fly around to the left or right when the wind changes (at least in comparison to the Rokker, which likes to just park itself in one place), a couple of these thermal exits resulted in the kite gliding and then starting to dive towards the trees on the sides of the field. Thankfully, pulling just a little bit of tension into the line caused the kite to recover with plenty of space, but it did get my heart rate up a bit. Things could have been worse without the drogue, which is why I pretty much always use it with this kite now.

My favorite pictures from the session are in the gallery above (also here and here). The clouds gave a really dramatic look to these pictures, and the lake is quite scenic, especially from the air. Normally I prefer the higher altitude shots, but this time I think I actually like the first and last ones best, which are lower. The last one in particular stood out to me, since the waves, clouds, and shade together with the boat seem to tell the story of a ride on the lake with a storm looming. (Never mind that no storm was actually coming. It’s art, so it doesn’t have to be true.) ๐Ÿ™‚ As usual, the little Sony RX0 camera delivered great image quality for all of these shots. The only downside was that the wind direction caused the string to be in some of them. In some ways I don’t mind that, since it’s a great way to immediately tell that a picture was taken with a kite rather than a drone, but when it’s close to the center of the frame, it can be a little distracting.

It was another great KAP session. I had a lot of fun flying the Mini Dopero again, and I didn’t lose or break anything! Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope you enjoyed the photos. If you like what you see, feel free to subscribe, share, comment, or email me. Or, even better, try out KAP yourself!

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