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Reviews of Books On KAP

Updated October 2008

Books on KAP are somewhat hard to find. In fact books on kites in general are not available at my local bookstores, which otherwise have a good stock. Most of mine came from the Kite Lines Bookstore or the I would like to offer my reviews of these books as an aid to others trying to find or buy books on KAP. If anyone who reads this has some book I don't list, or has a review of their own, I'd be delighted to hear from them. Contact me at

Click on the images to see full-size pictures of the covers.

The Aerial Eye. Originally published four times a year from the fall of 1994 through the summer of 1999. 5½x8½". About 25 pages per issue, 18 issues.

The absolute best source of information on KAP is the The Aerial Eye. This now defunct periodical is still available from the magazine's editor, Brooks Leffler via email or on the web at or the KAPER site. Currently he sells a complete set of 18 issues on a CD-ROM in Adobe Acrobat format for $30.

This collection is just superb. The magazine was so good it appears to have drained the world-wide KAP user community of ideas in its day and run out of material! The images on the CD-ROM, while in color are very low resolution. The Acrobat format, is, well Acrobat, i.e. very annoying and clumsy. The original small print format may be awkward to print from Acrobat.

But it's worth putting up with Acrobat for this, and don't miss the complete index in the last issue!

(Oh, one final note, remember back in 1999 digital photography was in it's infancy. You'll find mostly film cameras here.)

Kite Aerial Photography by Mark Cottrell, 1987. 8½" x 11", 44 pages.

This spiral bound book has a single photo, the color photo pasted on to the front cover! The text consists of typewritten pages and hand-drawn diagrams showing a variety of camera rigs, most either pendulum types or types attached directly to the kite line. Guidelines are included for selecting and making various kites, cameras, films and control mechanisms.

What sets this book apart from the rest is Cottrell's very knowledgeable advice on a variety of very technical topics. For instance, this is the only book I've read which discusses what size objects camera lenses of varying focal lengths can resolve at different altitudes (e.g. a 12.5mm focal length lens can see a car at 2500 meters). He also discusses the advantages of the various camera formats, both smaller and larger than 35mm. There is also a good discussion of what kites fly best in what kinds of wind and how various camera rigs are affected.

Of course, it's age does show. There is no discussion of suspension rigs (like Picavet), there is only speculation about digital cameras and the level of detail on R/C servos is not really enough to be useful. However, after having read it you will have a good feel for what physical factors affect kite photography and what to expect.

This book is doubtless hard to find, but I got mine from the Kite Lines Bookstore.

Aerial Photography By Kite by Raoul Fosset, 1994, published by the Drachen Foundation. 8¼" x 11½", 13 pages, spiral bound. Price $5 US.

Fosset's little publication feels like a updated supplement to Cottrell's book. It focuses on more current practices and goes into more detail than Cottrell. My edition included a nice color-xerox photo on the front, while the rest of the content consists of black & white photos and drawings. Fosset covers two kites, Rokkaku and delta, a pendulum and simple suspension rig, R/C controlled pan and tilt mechanisms, and 35 mm cameras. The drawings are clear but this is not a step-by-step instruction book. The component brands are mostly European and the American readers will have to find locally available equivalents for things like Fischer Technik gears, a Robbe micro switch and a Graupner radio. It also includes a bibliography which is basically a superset of Cottrell's. Too bad so many of the books are in French, Dutch and Japanese!

This publication should be readily available. I got mine from It can also be purchased from the Drachen Foundation.

"Aerial Photographs Taken From a Kite" by G. de Beauffort and M. Dusariez, 1995, KAPWA Foundation Publishing. 8¼ x 5¾'", 142 pages.

This book appears to be the only published legacy of the KAPWA organization. Dusariez founded KAPWA in 1985 as an organization devoted solely to kite aerial photography. For eight years a magazine was published four times a year. The first 93 pages of this book consist of editted and organized reprints of material that appeared in the magazine.

This is a wonderful book, with sections devoted to all the subjects KAP'ers are interested in: Which kite? Which camera? How to trigger the shutter? The answers to these and many other practical questions are addressed with clearly written text and excellent illustrations. There are also a large number of black & white photos, printed beautifully. Of course, having been written over a decade ago there's no mention of digital photography. Also, the information on R/C control is somewhat incomplete.

The last forty pages of the book are a special treat: an English translation of Arthur Batut's 1890 text, La Photographie Aérienne par Cerf-Volant (Aerial Photography by Kite)". In it Arthur Batut (the father of kite aerial photography) describes step by step how to build a camera, build a kite, attach the camera, fly it, fire it and develop the film! Back then it was all do-it-yourself. The writing and the translation are excellent and this in-depth view of the early days is just fascinating. (Note: a picture of Batut's kite is on the cover of Serge Negre's book.)

If you have a chance, buy this book! I got mine from the Kite Lines Bookstore in Sept. 2001 and it's on the web at the

"Vu du ciel (Eye in the sky)" by Serge Negre, 1999, published by Société d'études et de Recherches Archéologiques et Historiques de Labruguière. 9½" x 8¼", 60 pages. US$ 19.95.

Batut's kite, from the cover
This beautiful little book is illustrated with color photos and drawings on almost every page. The text, in both French and English, describes the author's fascination with aerial photography and details on kites and a pendulum-type camera rig. Although few specifics are given, the razor sharp photos of his rig and the clear text show exactly how it all works together. The last half of the book is a collection of Negre's photos, including shots from his arctic expeditions and pictures of the town of Labruguiere. Labruguiere was the home of Arthur Batut, the father of kite photography.

If the book has a failing, it is that the reader is left yearning for more details about Batut, since the author mentions having met his great granddaughter and being inspired upon finding Batut's kite in the attic!

Available from the Kite Lines Bookstore and the

Photographie Aérienne Avec Cerf-Volant by Christian Becot, 1995, published by C. Becot, 108 Rue Médéric, 50110, Tourlaville, France. 8¼" x 11½", 52 pages. Color cover with B&W illustrations throughout. In French.

This book by regular Aerial Eye contributor Christian Becot looks like it would be very interesting... if I could read French! He compares Picavet vs. pendulum rigs, as well as explaining both mechanical and electronic shutter-release techniques. There are also many drawings of kites and variety of interesting stabilization devices I haven't seen before. He also introduces an alternative suspension to Picavet, by G. Lawrence.

Despite the hand-drawn diagrams, I believe that if you read French there would be sufficient information here to build some of these novel devices. I hope that Christian will come out with an English language edition of this book. Available from the Kite Lines Bookstore and the

Airborne Camera, by Beaumont Newhall, 1969, published by Hastings House Publishers, NY., 8½x10", 144 pages, many B&W photos.

This book differs from the other books on this page in that it is not exclusively about Kite Aerial Photography, and it is long out of print. The author, Beaumont Newhall, director at the George Eastman House from 1958-1971, has written other works about the history of photography, but this book appears to be a labor of love. He gives a detailed history of photography from the air, first by balloon, then from kites, rockets, pigeons and finally aircraft and spacecraft. What sets this book apart from other general histories is that he includes copious photographs and drawings from those very early years. The first 48 pages describe aerial photography prior to airplanes, with photos on virtually every page. Despite only having five pages on kites, he covers Batut, Eddy and George Lawrence including facts I haven't seen elsewhere. Pages 49-64 cover the early days of photography from airplanes, which I also found interesting. He describes many applications for aerial photography (such as aerchaeology) which are within the reach of modern KAP'ers. The last half of the book covers photography from space, via both satellite and manned spacecraft. Much of this last material is dated enough to be obsolete, but not yet old enough to be interesting.

This book may be found by searching used bookstores on the internet on sites such as ABE Books, a worldwide consortium of private booksellers. If you find it, it will cost less than the new books, I can assure you!

Labruguiere, birthplace of kite aerophotography, Arthur Batut 1846-1918 by Danielle Autha, Serge Negre, Geoffroy de Beauffort, Raoul Fosset. 1988, published by Midi France Communication. 6¾" x 9¼". 155 pages. Price $14.95. Text in both French and English.

This is a difficult book to review. While there is much to like about the book, it also has flaws. The good news first, this book has a wealth of early KAP photos not to be found elsewhere. In fact there are 27 aerial photos by Arthur Batut (and his friends), and 27 more of street scenes in Labruguiere, where Batut lived and worked. The authors obtained a wealth of information on Arthur Batut and his pioneering kite photography from descendents living in the town, and from material collected for a museum dedicated to him. The book is rounded out by seven modern color KAP photos and six more modern B&W photos. There are also eight photos of Batut's equipment and four more of modern rigs.

The bad news is that the English translation is very rough, and sometimes you're not quite sure what it means. The last sixty pages of the book are devoted to Batut's own book, La Photographie Aérienne par Cerf-Volant. A far better translation of Batut's book can be found in the KAPWA publication above.

Fotograferende Vliegers, by Nop Velthuizen and Gerard Van Der Loo. 1988, published by Elmar, 7" x 8¾". 120 pages, hardback. Price $8.95. Heavily illustrated in B&W. Text in Dutch.

There have been several times in my life when I have wished I spoke Dutch. This is one of them! The full translated title of this book is "Picture-taking kites; overview of aerial photography, history and today's kite with camera-systems", and it does not lie. This book covers a lot of territory.

As near as I can count it has 118 black & white drawings and photos. There are 30 images related to balloon, rocket and pigeon aerial photography in the first few chapters. The following section on Batut and his contemporaries has 22 images. 16 images are devoted to non-European KAP, plus 10 more to show various modern day scientific applications of KAP.

Modern KAP techinques are tackled in the next few chapters, with sections on camera rigs, triggering methods, and R/C control. This particular area seems a little superficial, with no mention of Picavet rigs, just pendulum hung film cameras. A nice chapter on kite selection follows, a topic often glossed over in other KAP books.

The last pages interest me the most of all. Using photos and scale drawings of windmills the authors give various geometric formulas for determining altitude, field of view, etc.

Despite it's small format and foreign language, I think this book deserves study even by non-Dutch speakers. A little time with a dictionary would reveal much about the diagrams and images. And those of you who speak Dutch have it made!

Hanging by a Thread, by Craig Wilson. 2006. Published by Itchy Cat Press. 8½ x 10½". 131 pages, paperback. Price $23. (Available from Amazon)

Sub-titled "A Kite's View of Wisconsin" this book has more than 140 pictures of the lakes, rivers and cities of Wisconsin. There are stunning pictures of sailboats in the summer, iceboats in the winter, majestic buildings, college marching bands, etc. Each picture has a caption in English, Spanish, German, and what appears to be Chinese. Interspersed with the pictures are brief essays in English describing how he got some of the photos. There are precious few details on his camera-rig, but otherwise this book is awesome.