Monday, October 26, 2009

Animoto and Smugmug?

One of the new enhancements for SmugMug users is an integration with Animoto slideshows. I thought I would try one of their free 30 seconds spots and see how well it integrated into a blog post.

Busy Weekend: Fall Foliage Pics!

It was a very busy weekend, and was able to squeeze in 4 Kite Aerial Photography Sessions, and one photo shoot with my dog, in addition to going pheasant hunting, winterizing my boat, and working on a new website. The fall colors are good and starting to fade, so I knew that I needed to get out as much as possible.

There has been a lot progress since my last images of the new stadium in Paddock Lake for Westosha Central High School.

Wisconsin Fall Foliage:

The 2005 remake of the Amityville Horror was shot at the big house on the far shoreline of this picture.

And finally a stroll through the county park with my Weimaraner, Maximus. He reluctantly poses for me, but the end results are worth it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

m2 Photography Hosting WWKP Website

I have been involved in the Kite Aerial Photography community through the online KAP forum for about 10 months. Recently, one member came up with the idea to have a token, Basically an object, that is passed from photographer to photographer with the condition that the token is captured in the picture from a kite aerial photography rig. Eventually, someone created a banner, which became the token, and the first few people took pictures of it from the sky. I had the idea that we should have a way to track this token as it makes its way around the world. I offered to create a website portal for this task: was born.

I already have web hosting, but have been looking for something cheaper. I signed up for an account on, which is apparently 100% wind powered, which I thought was appropriate. I obtained the domain name, web hosting, and installed the Joomla portal. After tweaking and playing around with it for a day or so, we had a base site. Now the site is almost complete with some cool features. Google maps tracking of the token, and the other KAPr's locations. Integrated flickr module to show the pics that were uploaded to the WWKP Flickr group. And a blog for KAPr's to document their experiences with the token. As more people get involved, and more photographers have their day with the token, hopefully, there will be a lot more traffic on the site. Here are some screen shots of the new site:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

KAP: Wind Point Lighthouse

Got home from a weekend trip to Madison and still had some daylight left for some Kite Aerial Photography. I went up the the Wind Point Lighthouse in Racine, Wisconsin for some late afternoon shadows at the lighthouse with a spectacular Lake Michigan backdrop. I originally put of the Fled, but the wind was stronger above the tree line, and quickly replaced it with the Flow Form 16. Mike, the lighthouse keeper came out to see what I was doing, and ended up being my helper for the remainder of the session. The wind was really steady, ended up being one of the more rewarding sessions of the year. The lighthouse is 108 feet high, open once a month to the public on the first Sunday of each Summer month, and has been in operation since 1880.

Click here for more images from this session at the Wind Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Eye-Fi / Mi-Fi / CHDK / KAP: Part I - The Rig

I've had ideas of being able to come up with a Kite Aerial Photography rig that could send the pictures back down to the ground without having to have a miniature spycam. Unfortunately, all of the methods I've come up with in the past ended up adding too much weight to the rig to make it practical. Along comes the Eye-Fi pro wireless SD Memory card teamed with a Verizon Mi-Fi broadband internet card, and you have a mobile solution that could be used for KAP. By itself, the Eye-Fi card does not have enough range to be useful to KAP. Adding the battery powered Mi-Fi device, and you have a portable internet connection that you can send along with the KAP rig as it is lofted to the sky.

What is needed?

  • CHDK loaded on Eye-Fi SD Card
  • Canon Camera that allows loading CHDK firmware from the Play menu. (There are other sites that show you how to hack the Eye-Fi card with a utility knife to add the notch in the card necessary to lock the device for standard CHDK to work. My Canon SD900 Camera can load the CDHK firmware by starting the camera in the Play mode, pressing menu, and performing a firmware upate, and switching to Capture mode.)
  • Verizon Mi-Fi Device (Sprint Mi-Fi would also work)
  • Velco and a Rubber Band
  • KAP Rig (

I started by placing velcro on the back of the Mi-Fi card and on the rear plate of the Brooxes Basic KAP Kit.

In addition to the velcro, I have added a simple rubber band to ensure that the Mi-Fi device stays with the KAP rig.

With the Camera attached, you can see the Mi-Fi card fits snugly behind and should have excellent reception to the eye-fi card in the camera.

Here's another view from above of the entire rig, focusing on the Mi-Fi card attached behind the Canon SD900.

Now, I am in a unique position to have an additional Verizon broad band card built into my laptop. Now, most people probably don't have access to one, let alone 2 verizon broadband connections. I'm thinking that the Mi-Fi device is somewhat limited to distance, just like the Eye-fi card, but you might be able to send the kite up 100 feet and still be able to connect with it. My plan is to have my laptop on the ground create it's own internet connection and watch the pictures as they are uploaded from the secondary Mi-Fi card. Currently, I have them set to upload to my Smug-Mug account and a private Gallery. However, you could use Flickr, Gallery, Picassa, or a number of other online sites, and have an almost real-time KAP web cam. The upload speed on the Mi-Fi card is the limiting factor, and it's probably going to be a good idea to have the KAP script slow down, and only take pictures every 30 seconds or so.

I plan on testing this new KAP / CHDK / Eye-Fi / Mi-Fi / Wi-Fi setup the next time I go out to do KAP. The goal is to be able to see the pictures from the camera without having to bring the kite down and downloading the images off the Memory card.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

KAP @ Lunch Today

I've been waiting for a windy day to get out and do some Kite Aerial Photography. Unfortunately, it's gotten really cold in Southern Wisconsin / Northern Illinois, and everything is turning brown. Decided to try the Metra Station next to a park in Round Lake Beach during lunch. I heard the train coming, and tried to get in position to get a few shots as it went by.

Additional images from this session can be found by clicking here.

I'm really hoping for some wind this weekend, as I'll be in Madison for the Badger game. it would be nice to get some aerial lake shots before the color is completely gone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Quarry Lake Park: 50 Years Later

My parents were in town visiting from South Carolina recently, and my dad wanted to take a trip to Racine to view some of his former hangouts while growing up. We visited the bar that my grandparents owned, which is now a corner beauty store, the house where my grandparents lived, and his former high school. However, the most nostalgic destination was the Racine Quarry where my dad use to swim and dive each summer. The quarry has been completely filled, about 20 feet up from where it was back in the day. I remember him telling me about this place when I was younger, and it was great to actually see. He told of how the quarry was closed because a girl was killed after a fight broke out between 2 guys, and a shard from a broken beer bottle accidentally severed her jugular vein. We visited the place where he used to dive off, and said that it was about 20 feet back then, and the cliffs across the lake were close to 40 feet up. He thinks that the water is at least 120 feet deep. The water wasn't as clear as he remembers, but I think that this is a popular scuba diving location in SE Wisconsin. I snapped a few pictures while we looked around the swim area that was new to him. My dog Max got some great exercise running around on the man-made beach. He mentioned that besides the water level and the new swim area, it looks exactly the same. I wonder if some of my childhood haunts will be that vivid to me, or will the memories fade over time. Hopefully, these images will help preserve the memories, or be able share them with his brother who also frequented the Quarry.

Frontpage on the Westosha Report

I made the decision to allow the Westosha Report to use my image for a small fee. It was well below market value, but knowing that it was for my home-town newspaper was hard to pass up. I had to remind my self that I was the one who contacted the newspaper with the aerial image in the first place. I doubt that I'll be doing that in the future knowing the return. Either way, The image did get a significant portion of the front page, and my biggest published image yet! Here is the image of the Paddock Lake Central High School stadium construction that they used.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rowdy, the Red Devil and Homecoming

I was lucky enough to go to the Bradford High School homecoming game as a guest of the Sportainment department as a guest photographer. I focused on the entertainment aspect of the game, and didn't spend really any time taking pictures of the game. Between the students, the mascot, the halftime presentations, cheerleaders, and dance team, there was plenty going on. The great thing about high school students at this game is that none were camera shy, and wanted me to take pictures of them. Here are a couple of Rowdy, the Red Devil mascot of Bradford High School.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kenosha Lighthouse Aerial (KAP)

Fall is finally starting to settle in in Wisconsin, and I got some wind in the forecast the past Sunday. I took my Dog Maximus and Grandpa Steve down to the beach near the Kenosha harbor and lighthouse for some exercise. While Steve wrangled the dog, I put up my FlowForm16 to do some Kite Aerial Photography. The wind was heading straight off-shore, which is perfect for capturing the lighthouse from the breakwater.

The Kenosha Lighthouse with Lake Michigan in the background is becoming one of my favorite places to kite, if I can just try and keep sand out of my lens housing.

Additional Aerial Images of the Kenosha Lighthouse, Beach, and Breakwater can be found here.

Selling Photos to the Media

I went out this past weekend and was able to do some Kite Aerial Photography of the new construction in Paddock Lake, Wisconsin of the new football stadium. This will be home to the Central High School Falcons. The images were good, as the workers were just starting to lay down the field turf. Here are a couple of examples:

I sent out a link to these images to the local papers, and one of them was interested in publishing the shot. Here is the dilemma for a new photographer: Take the money they offered even though it is way below market standards and get my name and image published. Or refuse to license the picture and demand market value. It is a pickle. This is the second time in the past month where I've had to make this type of decision, and I've gone opposite ways each time. So much for consistency. I suppose that the value in knowing that my images are requested in the first place is great, and I should be happy that I am getting exposure.

Look for my aerial shot of the stadium in an upcoming issue of The Westosha Report!

Additional Images from the Aerial session in Paddock Lake can be seen by clicking here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Joomla! - WWKP Portal

I've recently taken up a project to create a portal site for the KAP (Kite Aerial Photography) community to help track a photo token as it makes it's way around the globe. I've always recommended the DotNetNuke portal, as that is the one that I'm most familiar with. Recently, I helped a friend get a site off he ground using WikiMedia, and so many hosting providers are providing free installers for many of the free open source portals. I decided that I'd give Joomla! a try, as it has over 40,000 extensions that you can add to make the site better. Personally, I know how much I pay for my own hosting site and decided that migrating to another site would be cheaper.

The WikiMedia site, which is was loaded onto hosting. Not only was the price competitive, they claim to be 100% wind powered. Now, getting back to this site for the Kite Photography community, I thought it would be fitting to store the server using this same wind powered hosting. Eventually, I'll probably move my m2 Creative Design site to Joomla!, and over to FatCow to save some money.

I have another friend who would like to upgrade their site, and have a reservation booking system for their rental property, and Joomla! has a few modules that do just that. In less than a day, I had hosting, a new domain, and a Joomla! portal up and running. Users from the community are starting to register, and it looks to be a great fit. Here is a link to the new site:

Having experience with another portal solution can't hurt the M2 resume, and I hope to start making templates soon!