Randall Munroe (xkcd)

These are photos from my earlier kite-flying experiments, with cheap cameras and such. The page with current photos is here.

Earlier flights/updates from Virginia, 2005 and earlier:
I flew Tom's huge awesome kite. It will be perfect. Unfortunately, I used my nice camera, and I thought I had all the bases covered, but . . . long story short, I might be in the market for a new camera. But I have plans to go higher. Much higher. (The reason it might be broken is that a string somehow worked its way free from a keychain connecter thing. From then on I used several in parallel, but the damage may already be done).

Today I gathered Donny and Tom, a kite, my gsmart mini-3 digital camera (weighs about as much as a pair of nail clippers. no flash or screen, but only $80. www.thinkgeek.com), and a whole lot of string, and went out to the field behind James River for a trial run of my idea.

We tied the camera so it hung under the kite, told it to start recording video, and then sent the kite up. We let it get up about 80 meters, I think, before bringing it back down to see if it had worked. The video was, as expected, just a mess of frames as the camera spun and bounced. But I went through the video and pulled out the non-blurry frames.

(This isn't the best way to do it. It's not that hard to rig up an old digital camera to take pictures once every X seconds -- I later found a page that shows you how to do it. But this was before I knew anyone else did this, so I was blazing my own trail.)

(Other kite note: I later played a pretty fun prank on the York River freshmen.)

Anyway, here are the pictures. They are the coolest I've ever taken.

Pictures from 2/11/2005 flight (#4):

Pictures from 3/19/2004 flight (#3):

Looking southeast over the CNU campus

The wilderness to the north

Pictures from 3/14/2004 flight (#2):

Lower shot of the north. Sometimes I stand there and imagine what it looks like to rise into the air and cross above the treeline. Well, this is it.

Santoro Hall and the main campus entrance

Looking east over the campus. Freeman Center, visitor parking, etc.

Pictures from 3/12/2004 flight (#1):

James River and Santoro Hall

The tennis courts behind James River. Harris Teeter's off through those trees.

That's Gosnold Hall in the center, JR and Santoro on the left.

Hi, some people in the field we were standing in.

A low shot of the new Potomac dorms being built behind the student center.

James River, Santoro, and in the distance those white buildings are CNU Apartments. I think.

A high shot of the construction on Potomac hall.

Potomac Hall. Look at the horizon. That's York West on the left and the tail of the kite hanging down the middle of the pictre. The camera is pointed south-ish.

A skewed shot of that building next to James River. Ratcliffe, is it? Plus some other places. The bustling west end of west campus.

There's the track where Tom was flying a kite instead of practicing

The stands at the track.

The student center in middle with the center of campus off in the distance.

A parking lot. Amazing!

The last frame of the video.

The trial run being marvelously successful, I am going to send it up maybe three or four times higher next time. For the next flight, I'm going to just affix the camera to the kite itself, so it always points back down in our general direction and doesn't wobble. The video should be good, though the kite might vibrate badly. Harris Teeter is selling six-foot nylon kites; I'll go get one later. Next time there's a decent wind, I'll do it again. Possibly tomorow morning.

After we got the camera back, we sent the kite back up without the camera to go as high as it could, then tied it off and had dinner. Donny and I walked around campus trying to pick out the tiny kite against the sky. Eventually we went back, and as we started to reel it in and stuff, the kite fell into a lower layer of air moving west. The string got caught on the tree pictured above, and one of Tom's track friends named Mike went up to try to get the string (dumb). Meanwhile Tom and I threw another string over the string and did clever things and got control of the kite again. And while they were all trying to help Mike figure out how to not die, I stupidly looped the string under my foot a couple times while I tried to do something, and lost it. So the kite flew away, probably to strangle animals in the river.

Statistics (for the non-camera flight):

Amount of string: 600m (1,900 ft)
Approximate highest altitude of kite: 400m (1,300 ft)
(Note from older, wiser self several years later: this estimate was very much on the optimistic side of reality)
Height of the Empire State Building: 381m (1,250 ft)

I win.