Unexpected Panorama

KAP over the Kame terrace from Petri's field
Note the Henry's Handle hanging from the belt. The kite line is cleated to that while I attach the Picavet and run through the pre-launch checklist.
The huge kame terraces in my town support a dry-tolerant forest of oaks, beech, and red maple, and as the new leaves emerge it is easier to tell the species apart at a distance. So I have been hoping to fly a kite over the terraces in early May and see if the trees delineated the terraces. The wind was gusty today, but it was supposed to calm down a bit in the afternoon, so I hiked up the hill and launched the nine foot Levitation delta. It was after 6:00 PM when I first triggered the S95 with the Futaba transmitter, and the light was wonderful even if the wind was not. It mostly cooperated until it slowed down enough to send me running upwind barely fast enough to keep the line out of the trees. But I had 900 feet of line out for a while and the camera was well out of the clearing were it could see the tree tops as I never had.

I was hoping for a few nice oblique shots that showed the kame terraces from a new angle and maybe showed how vegetation was responding to geomorphology. So I blindly twiddled the joysticks and imagined that the camera was pointing everywhere it had to. The rig never stayed in the same place long enough to make a complete rotation even at one tilt angle, so I did not expect to be able to stitch more than 5 to 10 photos into a little panorama.

When the wind speed dropped quickly through 8 mph, I had to reel things in. Below 200 feet, the wind had lost its verve, and the descent accelerated quicker than I could handle gracefully. I ran down the hill to pull everything back over the field and the rig landed softly, but two hundred feet away. To save it from getting dragged by the kite I rushed up the hill. In the rush, the trim control of the pan joystick moved causing the Picavet cross to start spinning slowly which caused the Picavet line, kite line, and some goldenrod stems to get wound up. By the time I got there it was jammed solid and the servo motor was screeching. I didn’t even know what the sound was at first, but managed to switch it off before it burned out. Then I noticed that the kite was showing some independence and making a landing all by itself, and not in the field. Line came in hand over fist as fast as I could and the tree it landed in was right at the edge of the field, and I happily watched it slide most of the way to the ground.

I sat in the low sunlight for ten minutes untangling the picavet and then headed home, apparently with no damaged gear. Flying over trees is a challenge, and beating the odds is fun. That was a really fun flight.

The Microsoft ICE project files I saved after dinner all start with number of photos it stitched together on that attempt. The sequence is 6, 7, 10, 17, 19, 29, 30, 31, 35, and 37. That last increment filled the nadir in the half-sphere. So far, making half-spherical panoramas is the best result of kite photography. Mine always seem to have some rather unsightly stitching errors near the horizon, but I find swooping around in them at Photosynth.net to be a pleasant and revealing experience. I did not expect to have such a nice result at any moment today right up until the one when ICE returned the result below from 37 photos.

So what do you think? Do different tree species grow on kame terraces?

See the panorama full screen here.

Notes: Canon Powershot S95, RAW, ISO 80, shutter speed priority at 1/640 second, most shots without sky were at f/2, focus on infinity, widest focal length (28mm eq.), jpegs made in Adobe Lightroom 3. All stitched images got increased exposure, saturation, vibrance, and clarity in Lightroom.

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