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.
The PLOTS visible/near-infrared camera tool was ready to fly on Thursday, but the Fled could not find enough wind. So I switched on the two cameras and the timer and walked around the field making photos every 10 seconds.
At midday on Sunday. With a north wind, we looked into the sun a lot that day.
There was good sun and enough wind to loft a camera on both Saturday and Sunday last weekend, and the apples were just starting to bloom. So I knocked on Barney Hodges’ back door and introduced myself. Barney bought a 200 acre dairy farm in 1974 and started planting apple trees. His son runs Sunrise Orchards now, and Barney seems quite content to be in his beautiful old farmhouse in Cornwall surrounded by thousands of apple trees that he planted. He graciously permitted me to fly a kite and take photos, and I did.
Grass fire along the Lemon Fair River, April 18, 2012. Photo by Preston Turner.
I thought I had finally done everything right. The Flowform 16 was flying steadily in a 15 mph breeze (with gusts to 20) and easily lofting the full KAP rig with Canon S95. My plan was to take vertical photos for combining into an orthophoto image of a hayfield that had been partly burned two days earlier by the farmer. Preston had posted some dramatic photos of the evening blaze advancing across the field, and the burn pattern looked impressive when I drove by the next day looking for way to get closer to it. On my return a day later, I avoided asking permission for farm road access, and just parked two miles away and walked along the Lemon Fair River. Because the good wind provided plenty of lift, I opted for the full KAP rig and radio control instead of just the camera pointed down and shooting every ten seconds. That gave me the option of also taking some oblique shots, and the 5:00 PM shadows of burr oaks and silver maples were already enticing on the new grass. Radio control also allowed me to release the shutter only when the rig was quiet between sways, and to take far fewer photos than the ten second intervalometer would have taken.
Ever since I backed the balloon mapping Kickstarter project, I have been thinking about what to do with the matched pair of visible and infra-red cameras I will receive next month. I’m intrigued by the idea of making NDVI images by combining information from the two cameras. NDVI maps of vegetation can reveal new ecological patterns, but I still have no idea what I might learn with this tool. I have also been thinking about how to deploy the cameras to take aerial photos. The level of my Kickstarter pledge entitles me to a kit with cameras and other things, but it is not yet clear what other things will be included. So when it was 50° a couple of weeks ago and tolerable to work in the garage, I started playing with a piece of one of the aluminum storm window frames that were thrown behind the shed. The goal was to make a cheap, lightweight, self-leveling rig to hold two cameras pointing in the same direction: down.
Most of the heat in my house is generated by a wood stove which burns three or four cords of wood a year. When the temperature stays below 20° F for a few days, I let the thermostat turn on the oil furnace for three hours in the morning to take the chill off, but I rarely use the furnace to heat the entire house all day long. I also have a propane space heater in one room that runs on most winter days. Propane is also used to heat water and for the kitchen range, and I use about 350 gallons per year.
The price I paid per gallon of propane compared to the average price paid in New England (data from www.eia.gov). CLICK TO ENLARGE.
I could see that the lens was still extended... I was the happy owner of 483 new aerial photos of Otter View Park. November 18, 2011
This time it was the dry umbels of Queen Anne’s lace that I was tossing into the air as I crossed the field. WeatherUnderground.com was reporting only 4-7 mph winds at the golf course, but WeatherSpark.com was predicting 10 mph winds from the west which could easily loft the camera over the marsh. This was the first sunny day in a month with a prediction of steady west winds, and it might be my last chance for above freezing weather and a shot at getting aerial photos of the entire cattail marsh at Otter View Park. So I was disappointed with the plummeting umbels, and soon out of breath from running upwind just to watch the Levitation Delta crash in the grass. On the second try, I ran 100 yards and got it just high enough to find a wind.
In honor of the opening of the new Crown Point Bridge across Lake Champlain (scheduled for Monday, November 7, 2011) I took my last free ferry ride and flew the Canon Powershot S95 over the Crown Point State Historic Site for three hours last week. The south wind was strong and steady at about 15 mph, but the Levitation Delta kite wandered a bit much to get good coverage for easy panorama stitching. I learned some new finesses of Microsoft ICE and was able to make some decent scenes with as many as 28 stitched photos, but could not construct a half-spherical panorama.
Fort St. Frédéric and the new Crown Point Bridge. See below for a link to the big view of this panorama.
The narrow lake at this place has made it a strategic location for millennia. The British built a small fort in 1690, and the French built an elaborate one in 1738 to control north-south traffic on the water route between Montreal and Albany, NY. The British chased away the French in 1759 and started a new fort, one of the largest they ever
It didn’t seem windy enough, so I plucked dried heads of orchard grass and tossed them into the air. The live feed at WeatherUnderground.com had been reporting 10-12 mph NW winds at the Ralph Myhre Golf Course a mile away, but the grass was falling almost straight down here. On a knoll in the center of the field I felt a breeze, so I took off my pack and assembled the nine foot Levitation Delta kite (with wind less than 15 mph, the Sutton Flow Form 16 would stay in the pack). The delta flew out of my hand and climbed easily to 100 feet. It was flying to the south, not to the east over the cattail marsh I wanted to photograph. Otter View Park in Middlebury is the focus of Galen’s community service project, and he has been describing the plant communities in that marsh. I would not be able to photograph much of it today unless the wind shifted.
I went over to the Adirondacks last Wednesday and came back with 1900 photos. Most of them were taken by my Gigapan imager, and half of those are duplicates that will never again see the light of day. Before I even got to New York, I took 126 handheld photos from the Lake Champlain ferry, 48 of which got stitched into the three-row panorama below of the new Crown Point Bridge, still under construction. Back on August 26, the day the central “network tied arch” was lifted into position, I came to repeat the gigapan I took of the old bridge. But the place was crawling with gawkers, and the men in hard hats would not let me get to the place from which the earlier panorama had been taken. So I left defeated. If you missed it too, you can relive the raising of the arch with the fully archived construction webcams, but you have to click through a lot of photos to get to 3:30 PM on August 26 when the action started.
Aspen seedlings and fireweed in a burned study plot.
While in Alaska in June I visited some mountain treeline study plots we established in 1998 to describe and monitor the population of white spruce at the transition between subalpine forest and alpine tundra. I searched the plots for new spruce seedlings and remeasured the ones that had been previously located and marked. A wildfire burned through some of the plots in 2004, and a new tree species has since established where the organic soil was consumed. Thousands of seedlings of quaking aspen now grow in the plots, and I recorded their number and height in subplots. These are healthy seedlings growing in the tundra where, prior to 2004, the only trees were a few stunted spruce. This invasion will be either a short-lived experiment that ends when the aspens try to grow taller than the winter snowpack, or the start of a novel treeline community. Monitoring these plots will eventually reveal how this plays out, so in the meantime counting and measuring a few things is considered to be science.