KAP and Kayaking in Buffalo, NY

I’m on vacation visiting family this week in Buffalo, NY. Of course I brought my KAP stuff, as I don’t get too many chances to travel and do KAP in places other than Southern Maryland. I brought along my trusty Rokker kite, which has become my KAP workhorse since I built it earlier this year. One nice benefit for travel is that all the spars are made up of three pieces with a max length of 32.5 inches, which lets the kite pack into a small size.

I was fortunate to have a several days with good weather for KAP during the trip. The only question was, where to KAP? One idea that had been running through my mind was to try it at Niagara Falls. It’s been done before; however, having grown up in the area, I know there are lots of helicopter tours of the Falls, which made me nervous about flying a kite there. Plus, for the spot I had in mind on the US side, it would be best with an east wind, which is not very common around here. So I decided to give up on that idea and try a couple others, and maybe I’ll try for Niagara Falls at some point in the future.

The first place was the park at the town hall in the town where I grew up, in Pendleton, NY. This location is home to a very large and striking green water tower, which is probably the only thing that could be considered a landmark in the whole town. Anyway, it would make for good practice shooting a specific subject and probably result in nice pictures that a lot of my childhood friends would be interested to see.

The flight was smooth and easy, which I’ve come to expect with the exceptionally stable Rokker kite. I got the camera up in the air with the KAP rig and walked around to different sides of the tower while bringing the camera to different heights. I did have to avoid the flying on one side of the tower due to the presence of the road and power lines. As it turned out, I overestimated the height of the tower or maybe underestimated the altitude of the camera, because most of the pictures didn’t have the tower in them at all! Nevertheless, I still got plenty of good ones, as you can see below. Believe it or not, the hazy skies in these pictures were due to wildfires on the west coast, clear across the country. Still, light was good enough to get some clear images of the water tower.

Rokker with KAP rig over Pendleton, NY

After the flight, I posted some of these pictures on Facebook. Soon I had a message from an old high school friend who is now working with a company on securing a grant to improve the park, including the gravel parking lot, historical society building, and playground. His company ended up using some of my aerial photos as part of the proposal. It was cool to have some of my work put to good use.

Next, I wanted to photograph something that would be a little more iconic of the Buffalo, NY area. Niagara Falls were out, but there is a nice and fairly new waterfront area in downtown Buffalo that seemed to have plenty of room for kite flying, at least according to the satellite imagery on Google maps. The next day happened to have good winds for flying a kite, so I headed over. I had never been to the waterfront area, so I was also interested to see it. Sure enough, there was a nice large open field on the Outer Harbor where I could fly my kite. Unfortunately, the haze was even worse that day, so must of the shots came out with very little contrast or color, and, of course, very little limited visibility. The best one is below, along with a cool shot of the rig and kite that I took. Despite the haze, it confirmed that this was a good location for KAP with a nice view of downtown Buffalo.

We had plenty of things scheduled with family for the week, so I didn’t know if I would get another chance to KAP there again without the haze. My dad was taking off work a couple days later, and a cold front had passed through and cleared out the haze, so I suggested going down to the Outer Harbor to kayak together, and I could also try KAPing there again. (He hadn’t been to the new waterfront area either, and we both like to kayak, but KAP was definitely a strong ulterior motive.) 🙂 The kayak ride was nice albeit a little choppy and busy with plenty of motorboats around. We even saw some exciting birds: an immature Bald Eagle and a Peregrine Falcon. Here are a few photos from the kayak ride, which I took with my Sony RX0 camera, the same one I use for KAP. (Its small size, excellent image quality, and the fact that it’s waterproof make it great for KAP and kayak trips alike.)

Next, it was time for another KAP attempt. The wind was very smooth, albeit moderate and tending towards the upper end of the Rokker’s wind range. I adjusted the tow point on the kite’s bridle about two inches forward of the default location, and this setting worked great. The kite pulled plenty hard enough to lift the camera, but it was still not hard to reel in, and it remained extremely stable throughout the flight. I had learned a couple things from my flight in the haze a couple days earlier: I wanted to get the camera at least a few hundred feet in the air and walk it close to the water to get just the river and waterfront in the foreground, avoiding the ugly grain silos that were visible in the pictures from the other day (in the lower right hand corner of the KAP photo above). The result was as good as I could have hoped for, which you can see as the first image below and also the cover image at the top of this post. The other angles were nice too, showing the Buffalo Skyway, Outer Harbor, and Niagara River. If you view the second image at 100%, you can even make out the mist and buildings from Niagara Falls to the north, so in a way I did KAP the Falls after all! 🙂

I hope you enjoyed the story and photos. I definitely had fun doing KAP in and around Buffalo, NY. Feel free to leave a like, comment, or subscribe if you enjoy reading about kite aerial photography.

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