Visual Arts » 2D

The Benefit of Mr. Kite

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It’s one thing to snap stunning landscapes from carefully staged and stable vantage points on the ground. It’s a whole other story composing pics while your camera sails through the air like a leaf on a breeze. But restlessness and ingenuity came together when Alex Farris decided to tether his iPhone case to a kite's string and set the phone's camera timer to capture images from on high.

“I was a slight bit bored, so I found a kite for $40 at REI, and in probably a bad decision, I made my first [aerial photography] flight with my phone,” he remembers.

Flying his kite downtown along the American Legion Mall, Alex Farris captured this bird's-eye view of Meridian and North streets near the Scottish Rite Cathedral.  - PHOTO BY ALEX FARRIS
  • Photo by Alex Farris
  • Flying his kite downtown along the American Legion Mall, Alex Farris captured this bird's-eye view of Meridian and North streets near the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

This gutsy move marked Farris’ first experience with kite aerial photography (KAP), further igniting his love for the unique art form. While the unconventional photography style remains a pastime and only part of his freelancing gigs, the 26-year-old med student grooves on his new venture of just a little more than three years.

If the wind cooperates, Farris hopes to demonstrate his techniques this coming Saturday as part of the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Spring Equinox celebration.

“I think a lot of what makes it compelling is just the simple fact that it’s a point of view that people hardly ever see,” he explains. “They would only see it if they’re flying on an airplane or helicopter, and it’s not something that’s accessible in everyday experience. So in that sense, it’s interesting in itself.”

The sky's the limit for Alex Farris, who incorporates kite-flying with photography to achieve his unique points of view. - PHOTO BY ALEX FARRIS
  • Photo by Alex Farris
  • The sky's the limit for Alex Farris, who incorporates kite-flying with photography to achieve his unique points of view.

Since that maiden flight, Farris has switched up to a GoPro Camera and durable mount designed for high-impact and high altitude photography. He’s also learned a great deal more about the art and nature of aerial photography, including the importance of patience. For example, he explains that oftentimes he may only come away with five great photos from a flight that captures 300 to 400 shots.

Additionally, Farris has gleaned a bit more knowledge about topography and meteorology. Simply put: For the best results, he needs to scout out flat land and schedule the shoots on days when wind conditions are just right before letting his camera fly. The sky's the limit, but so far he's focused on subject matter in his Hoosier state, Chicago and Tampa, Florida.

And despite all the things that could go wrong, Farris admits that some of the best images can occur when least expected. His favorite kite-flying capture was during a crash landing.

“I had turned the GoPro on, but it didn’t get very high, and it fell to the ground very quickly,” he says. “But it took a picture as it fell on the ground, so you can see the kite, you can see the sand on the beach flying up and you can see Lake Michigan. That one sticks out because it’s not a point of view that I was wanting to get, but I ended up liking what I saw.”

This Saturday (March 21) from 1 to 4 p.m., the Indianapolis Museum of Art will hold it’s annual Spring Equinox event, celebrating the change of season with a lineup of kite-themed activities throughout the museum’s campus. Included in the festivities will be kite-making lessons and a competition, performances from a stunt kite team, as well as a demonstration from Farris himself.

Kite aerial photographer Alex Farris snaps a silhouetted self-portrait on the sand. - PHOTO BY ALEX FARRIS
  • Photo by Alex Farris
  • Kite aerial photographer Alex Farris snaps a silhouetted self-portrait on the sand.

“If everything is perfect, the plan is to fly a GoPro with Wi-Fi capability so that it takes pictures every one or two seconds and then sends them immediately to a monitor on the ground,” Farris says.

Through his presentation, he hopes to expose more people to this unconventional photography method and encourage them to try it on their own.

To check out more of Farris’ kite aerial photography and other shutterbug skills, visit his website .

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