I had an assignment for National Geographic magazine on Easter Island. I took a lot of equipment to do a lot of different things, but the most difficult task was flying a kite with a camera attached to make photographs over the Moai that define this place.
Easter Island is a small remote Island off the coast of Chile. We got permission from a brigadier general of the Chilean Navy to use the one security plane to do an overall aerial of the island. But, to get in closer, I needed a helicopter-- to get one I would have to bring it 2300 miles on a barge over open ocean.
I knew this would be too expensive, so I decided to fly a camera on a kite.
The first step was to find someone who could help me learn the basics of kite flying.
At home, in Oregon, I had set up a remote transmitter that would fire the camera.
Then I took the device to the beach for a test.
The camera was attached with a motorized gimbal to the kite that is basically a remote-controlled tilting device that moves the camera up and down to compose the photograph.
A kite expert in Oregon set me up with a kite that was larger and more stable…
He told me in the right winds, this kite could move a car.
So after some difficulties making the connections and getting the camera to pan, we successfully got a camera up in the air with steady winds.
I knew there would be problems but the test was somewhat successful and anyway, I would have to leave –I was out of time to play around with this stuff.
After two days of travel to get to the island I drove around for my first tour to see the sights, and my big surprise was that my trusty Rapa Nui assistant that had been emailing me in English, had been using a translator … and he didn’t know a word of English.
So although it wasn’t planned this way I ended up having a crew. We enlisted help from my assistant’s twin brother and girlfriend… this made for some interesting communication mixing Rapa Nui, Spanish, English and Dutch.
And in the end it took help from every one of them to help me do this photograph.
So after trying a variety of trigger devices, I finally wired a small computer to the camera and hung it on the string as well. Then that computer transmitted down to my iPad so I could see the framing.
But it was a frustrating experience because there was a lag, and by the time I hit the release button on the ipad the camera was in a completely different location so it was still just …serendipity…whether it worked or not.