Photography reaches new heights

Campus Times
November 7, 1997


by Katrina Hall
Staff Writer

Being able to capture a work-of-art photograph with the glimpse of an eye is intrinsic. But not being able to see through the viewfinder and having to guess when the moment is right before snapping the picture seems amateurish.

So why would Gary Colby, professor of photography and director of the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography, exhibit 46 color kite aerial photographs in the gallery now through the end of this semester?

"I was struck by the quality of Charles Benton's [professor of architect at UC Berkeley] Web site," said Colby. "Everything on the Web functions right and the photographs were very good. Overall, I was inspired by his designs."

Of the 46 kite aerial photographs displayed, one unique photo shows Benton laying on his back on a cracked cemented ground looking up with the remote control that controls the direction of the kite and the shutter of the camera in his left hand, titled "Self Portrait."

The photograph was taken from a remote controlled 35mm camera on a kite.

"What is difficult is the documentation of the social environment because it involves flying near or over people and their activities, a practice that requires both skill and caution," said Benton. "I am only beginning to take images in this latter category."

In the two years of taking photographs from kite-lofted cameras, Benton's photos have never been exhibited.

"I have been taking kite aerial photography for compositional purpose, mostly within an hour or so from my home in Berkeley, Calif.," said Benton.

Having been a photographer for more than 20 years and flying radio-controlled sailplanes for 10 years, kite aerial photography has changed Benton's perspective and takes on a whole new level.

Benton's technical approach behind kite aerial photography revolves around either a Yashica T4 point-and-shoot camera, a Yashica T4 Super point-and-shoot camera, or a Canon Rebel X single-lens-reflex camera, a rig and a kite. The rig is a two-axis radio-controlled cradle while the kite provides enough lift for the camera rig, but not so much that it is uncomfortable to fly.

"I appreciate kite aerial photography the most because it offers a continuing excuse to roam my fair state and spend time below a sweet-flying kite," said Benton.

Other photographs displayed in the gallery include landscapes, building structures, nature and objects.

Benton has also completed a project, combining kite photographs, ground-based photographs and computer-based photogrammetric techniques to develop three-dimensional computer models.

"Colleagues in computer science and I have recently been invited to show the resulting animated video at SIGGRAPH '97," said Benton.

"It is a disarmingly simple notion to attach a camera to a kite and thus displace it from the space we occupy to the space we cannot," said Benton. "However simple, the technique has opened interesting doors, doors to projects beyond my own discipline, to interesting people and to a new view of the world around me."

Benton's kite aerial photographs are on exhibit in the Carlson Gallery through Dec. 17. Admission is free.

The Web address is: and has more than 2,500 images on it.