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Kites, camera, action
Ever thought of using a kite to click pictures? Probably not. It might seem right out of a James Bond movie, but French photographer Nicolas Chorier specialises in kite aerial photography. Based out of Puducherry, Chorier's firm, Kite's Eye View Private Limited, has so far taken several thousand aerial pictures of almost all major heritage sites, buildings and monuments in India and Uzbekistan. Interestingly, another French photographer, Arthur Batut, was the first to start experimenting with this technique, back in 1888 in Labruguière, a small village in Southern France. However, Chorier has used the latest advances in technology to elevate it to the level of art.
Name a major monument in the country and Chorier promptly produces a wide range of aerial images shot in unusual and astonishing angles. His list includes Taj Mahal, Jama Masjid, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai, the entire Union Territory of Puducherry and beaches in Kerala. Chorier has even completed a UNESCO commissioned project shooting the city of Luang Prabang in Laos along the banks of the Mekong River to survey erosion-related issues in 2004. He also undertook an aerial survey on Matto Grosso, third largest state in Brazil in 2001-02 for an agronomic research department.
The equipment, says the ace photographer, is simple enough to procure. All you need are specially-designed kites that carry cameras mounted on a small cradle to shoot breathtaking pictures of anything and everything under the sun. As for the technique, Chorier flies the kite to a desired height (about 100 feet) and when it starts gliding in the air he sends his camera (Canon 5D MarkII) mounted on a small cradle, up on the line, under the kite. The best part? Chorier operates the cradle with a remote control to move it in all possible directions. An air-to-ground video link sends images to a portable television screen strapped on his neck allowing him to pick amazing views. "The camera can be lifted up to 250 m. But low altitudes are often more interesting, " says Chorier adding, "The kites' precision and potential provide an exciting, cost effective and innovative solution for any type of aerial photography, from the ground or from a boat in motion, like tracking smoking vessels or wildlife. "
Not surprisingly, Chorier has always been passionate about kites and photography. "I started flying kites about 25 years ago and I practised photography as an amateur. It was only natural to combine the two (in 1996), " he explains. Slowly he developed interest in a wide range of disciplines including archaeology, architecture, agronomy, tourism, heritage and wildlife to name a few. "Each of these applications led me to devise tailor-made hardware and photography techniques, which I am constantly improving. Each new venture brings me into contact with dedicated and highly knowledgeable specialists, " he adds.
Besides being non-polluting and nonintrusive, working with kites also allows Chorier to remain stationary over a site for a few hours, thus enabling him to take many high-resolution pictures at different angles. "It is also easy to carry the aerial platform anywhere in the world, without any hassles. It fits in regular cases and can be operational in 10 minutes, " says Chorier, who has widely exhibited his works in France, Europe, USA, Malaysia and India. Perhaps why he likes this technique so much is because it needs few square inches of fabric, little technical know-how, simple equipment and a gentle breeze. "Moreover I really like the idea of using natural energy. I wouldn't feel the same if I was using helium or any other gas for a blimp or kerosene, " he adds.
Photography is not Chorier's only accomplishment, he has written a coffee-table book, Kite's Eye View, India in 2007, published by Roli Books. The book was a product of 12 years of intensive kite aerial photography covering all major landmarks in the country. As expected, 30, 000 copies of the book have been sold worldwide. (More details about his works are available on his website http:// www. nicopix. com. )
Clearly, with an eye for beauty and digital cameras, the soaring idea of kite-based aerial photography has morphed many flights of fantasy into an artful reality.
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