Be Your Own Google Earth

Of all the projects I saw on display this weekend, the one I'm most anxious to try myself is kite aerial photography. Cris Benton, one of the masters of the field, was on hand to show off his numerous kite rigs. Before taking up kites, Cris was a photographer first and a radio-controlled-airplane enthusiast second. His two hobbies came together quite nicely, inspiring him to fit his cameras with some RC controllers and take them aloft on kites. His current workhorse is a thing of beauty:

A Canon digital point-and-shoot is nestled in an ultralight wood-and-aluminum frame. The whole thing is fitted with servos allowing Cris to control the angle of the camera from the ground and squeeze the shutter when the moment is right via radio control.

The process goes like this: Cris first gets his kite flying smoothly in the air. Once satisfied with the conditions, he ties on his rig's lines to the main kite string and sends it farther up; an ingenious system of four pulleys keeps the rig (and the camera) parallel to the ground using the rig's own weight. The output can be truly stunning:

Salt ponds in Fremont, California, from Cris's Flickr stream. Check it out for more amazing shots.

Cris's current shooter is pretty tricked out, but you can make a much simpler version out of a disposable camera and some Popsicle sticks (you can see part of the instructions here on the Make site). —John Mahoney