I love looking down from high places, like tall buildings and airplanes. This lead me to putting my digital camera aloft using helium balloons. Oh yes I did! The first time was a learning experience and I can’t wait to do it again.
The helium balloons were the easy part. I bought several 36" balloons and a mess of regular birthday party sized ones and rented a tank of helium. I also got 500 feet of kite string.
Suspending the camera was the tricky part. Unlike most who do kite aerial photography (KAP), I wanted my shots to be looking straight down a la Google Maps satellite view. I didn’t want the camera peering across the landscape at an angle.
A little Googling turned me onto picavet rigs. A picavet cross is a marionette-like self-leveling contraption. This page has a great animation though in the end someone pointed out that I built mine flipped like a mirror image. The idea is that a kite string is never perfectly vertical because winds are pushing it to the side. The picavet compensates for all this.
I made my picavet out of the packing material from my G1 phone, old straps from my hiking gear junkpile, and misc hardware bits and pieces. Total out of pocket costs, less than ten dollars. A true ghettolicious effort.
Stringing a picavet is the key to making it work properly. I did it a couple times to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I did; mine was backwards though it still worked. Tip: picavets work when there’s weight in them. Empty, they can’t do their self-leveling dance.
Conclusion? It worked like a charm! Help from pals, in my case family members, was really helpful. Solo would have been much harder. I need to use bigger balloons next time, a reel to take up and let out string quickly, and time my launch when the winds are light at dawn or dusk. And I will do it again.
Shout-out to my sons, brother, and son-in-law, my homies The 728 Club, and Jeff McLean.