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Boat Wake, Irvine- Alan Mackie/197 aerial photography, 1999

2 February 2006

This was a grab shot. I was chatting to a potential customer with the kite and camera rig flying overhead. As we spoke there was the noise of an eejit on a jet-ski roaring up the river and I turned the camera rig and took this photo, using the video down-link to time it so that his wake neatly matched the shape of the riverbank.

From where I was standing I couldn’t see the river or the jet-ski.

It’s been published six times so far, but never in the UK, and is my most successful individual picture ever. The camera? All that techie stuff? Promise not to laugh? OK, Canon Sureshot, fully automatic settings, 100ISO Fuji negative. I was only using the Sureshot while my EOS was drying out after a trip to the Crinan Canal, but that’s another story entirely.

I got into aerial photography after a pal who’s a framer was working on some aerial photos of a factory in Irvine. It was pretty dire stuff; tilted horizons, fuzzy images, poor colour, the usual standard of images from a plane or helicopter. An hour later I was driving on the coast road and a seagull flew over me, dropping its legs into the wind to balance in the gusts. I immediately saw that as a camera under a kite. As I thought about it I’m pretty sure there were pound signs rolling round in my eyes, Bugs Bunny style.

OK, so it took me another five years of hard work to get it to actually work reliably, but I seem to have cracked it. All the kit is designed and built by myself, from the cutting and sewing of the various fabrics to the camera rigs and the electronics for the video feedback system. The kite? Sixteen foot plus wingspan, the camera sits under it controlled by radio and aimed by video. No guesswork required. The system is rock steady and often lets me go as low as 1/30th shutter speed with no trouble at all.

Alan Mackie is an Ayrshire-based specialist aerial photographer. He has been a photographer since 1975, and an EPUK member since 2005

See more work by Alan Mackie

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