Saturday, 27 August 2016

Brindister from the air

Finally managed to fly my kite and use the GoPro. Just enough wind to keep both kite and camera up in the air. Here's the link to the film I shot:
Again it needs a good edit.....
Here are a few shots I grabbed from the screen
I'm on the hill in Brindister so there's the occasional glimpse of the voe. I like the way the kite strings float in and out of view, and the sound of the wind as the kite 'swooshes' through the sky.


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

More kite flying practice - sort of

J Kerr, flying with the Fulmars. Photo taken by Prof Steve Poole
Yesterday I learned that you can't fly kites in a fog... but that Fulmars can fly in anything. 

Went over the Sandness and walked along the headland looking for a suitably open space where I would terrify the sheep. Arrived at Scaaga, an area below Sandness hill and set out my kite. Then spent about half an hour trying to launch...finally managed a few turns in the sky before it came down too many times and I gave up. Long enough to attract a couple of passing and very interested Fulmars though.  

Fog is not good - it suppresses any air currents and certainly has a similar affect on sea. Still, it looks quite dramatic with the cliffs disappearing as the fog drifts across them. 
Banks Head, fog and Fulmars Photo by Prof Steve Poole

So I packed off and stomped off to draw ( can do that in any weather). I sat on the edge of this dramatic bit of coastline, watched Fulmars taunting me by flying close and wheeling overhead, and listened to the singing of the seals somewhere below me.
Photo by Prof Steve Poole
Managed a couple of drawings which turned into part drawing - part watery mess, and then sat trying to dry out a very soggy sketch book, which in a fog takes some doing. 
Sketchbook - Sandness 1

Sketchbook - Sandness 2

Sketchbook - Sandness 3

Will load my attempts to film the Fulmars (if it's any good) at some point... if I can work out how to get the film off the GoPro and onto my computer.

Fact of the day: Did you know you can catch fog.......
Large nets are used to 'catch' the fog, with tiny 1mm openings accumulating the tiny water droplets which drip off into a gutter which collects the water.
An average size fog catcher of 40m3 can capture up to 66 litres of water a day, plentiful enough to supply a brewery which creates 24,000 litres a year of its signature beer Atrapaniebla (meaning "Fog Catcher")

Monday, 22 August 2016

Shetland - summer 2016 - Brindister Voe

I've been back in Shetland since mid July and busy working in my studio making paintings for two forthcoming exhibitions - one in a group show of the Sea at the Kilmorak Gallery in Inverness-shire
And the other one is my solo show at Cadogan Contemporary in November... more on this at a later date.

I've also been out drawing - walking along the Brindister Voe - which we see as part of our back garden. Occasionally a fishing boat chugs along on the far side or even more rarely a kayak glides past, but most of the time there's no-one else around apart from the sea birds and the seals, and the occasional glimpse of an otter. 
Evening, Brindister Voe   
The light changes constantly, cloud passes swiftly, mist drifts in and across the hills.
Water-proof paper and charcoal/pastel and water
Thought I'd experiment with waterproof paper; using charcoal and pastel - the surface didn't seem to want to take this until I poured water over the surface and this happened.
Face of Neeans, Neeans Neep, Brindister
Thought I'd attempt a neat drawing (the artist Karen Wallis' influence - she was staying with us for a few days) but not sure that the word 'neat' is in my vocabulary when it comes to drawing. Enjoyed drawing the Fulmars wheeling around over the cliff.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Eshaness Sea

If you are on Shetland then you really have to go up to the north end of the main island to Eshaness, where you can pretty much guarantee that the sea is going to be wild. 

It's a favourite place of mine to go and walk along the dark purple andesite cliffs made of layer upon layer of  lava and volcanic ash; to watch the waves and feel the wind, and particularly to draw and paint, although I have to find places out of the wind to sit so my boards and paper don't disappear over the edge.

Leaning out over the high granite rocks to watch the sea rolling and crashing far below is fantastic, but not for the faint-hearted, nor anyone suffering from vertigo. 
Drawing on the edge... photo by Prof Steve Poole

I took some photos and experimented with film but just used my phone as it was all I had with me and hand-held it as I lay on the edge of the cliffs filming the sea swirling below me.  

Here's a link to the film:    Eshaness Sea 
Have attempted to edit the film using iMovie, but as I'm not very sure how to do this please forgive the quality of the edit. I am not a film-maker and can only improve... I need a few lessons in how to do... etc... as I will be using a GoPro attached to a kite when I'm in the Arctic in October and will need to edited the footage.

I also made several drawings in my sketch book...

J Kerr Eshaness Cliffs 1
J Kerr Eshaness Cliffs 2
J Kerr  Eshaness Cliffs 3

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Kite flying practice in Shetland

I'm currently in Shetland, and in preparation for the Arctic trip which is fast approaching, I've been experimenting with kite flying - which has been challenging with 50-55mph wind some days, rain and mist on others, and then no wind at all. However managed to go up the hill behind the house in Brindister and catch the breeze a couple of days ago... 
And she's up...
...with the clouds
Felt quite exhilarating to be flying out on the hills above the voe. Had to be careful of snagging the strings on rocks as I'm still not good at landing without a bit of a crash, especially when there are those sudden gusts of wind and I lose control. 

Also attracted the attention of a passing Arctic Tern, who clearly had not encountered a kite before and came back several times to check it out.. but thought better of tackling.

Thanks to Steve Poole for taking the photographs for me (and sorry that you twisted your ankle in the process and that I laughed!)

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Kite and camera trials

 So finally get to fly my own kite... a 1.5m flexifoil (the 2m kites pull me over when the wind gets them going).

Assisted by the family

I didn't crash the kite and wasn't pulled over and sent headlong across the beach by the wind and strength of the kite at all! Must be getting better. I can even hold the kite fairly still while it's up.
This time to film we used a GoPro (thanks Tom Poole-Kerr) which is a lot lighter weight for the kite to carry, and the results are a lot better. 
You can see the footage of the first trials with the GoPro attached to the kite here:

Still need to make a few adjustments and change settings on camera so the images are closer-up to the ground, but it's not bad for a first-time flight. 
Starting to feel that this might actually work in the Arctic. Only 12 weeks to go now before I set off....

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Kite flying again...

So its Tuesday evening and I'm back in Weston-Super-Mare, and this time weather permitted kite flying, but with an eye on the tide - which was predicted to be high, and coming in fast and furiously behind us, assisted by an increasing wind.

Attaching the camera in its tin
Although it was somewhat gusty we did fly a single line kite and attached a can with my water bottle tucked inside to emulate the weight of a camera. Seem to bear the weight pretty well, but the trick is going to be to balance the camera in its protective container, so that it's pointing downwards and hope that the wind isn't too strong. The camera would have taken some pretty wild and jerky film in the prevailing wind conditions.
Final adjustments
Lift off
Flying tins

With lots of help from Dom and friends (thank you). Sorry about my poor knot-tying skills Dom!

Still a lot to learn and get right... 

Interesting place to be in the evening on Weston-Super-Mare beach; there are lots of activities going on - dog walkers, groups of kids digging in the sand, kite flyers, and kite surfers shooting across the beach, and a sea full of wind and kite surfers all out there doing amazing jumps and turns... very tempting... maybe another adventure.?

Aerial photography research part II: Kite flying

Last week I traveled to Stroud to meet artist Neville Gabbie, one of the artists to be accepted onto the now defunct British Antarctic Survey Artists and Writers Programme. In 2008/09 Neville spent four months traveling to and at the Halley Research Station on the Brunt Ice shelf, the most southern British base in Antarctica in 2008/9. A place that you can only go in the summer months and even then is pretty inhospitable. Whilst there he used a kite to record the landscape; I decided that we had things to discuss... 

Flying a kite with a camera across the landscape is a performative act and is also as much about drawing over the landscape as capturing it on film.

Neville very generously talked to me about the experience, the kit he used and what I need to consider. I will need a kite capable of lifting a camera and one that I am capable of controlling.

So I decided that I needed to talk to kite expert and sellers .... and went in search of kite shops - which is more difficult that one would think. Kite flying is not popular at the moment. However I have struck lucky and found  

This is a great shop in Weston-Super-Mare - with extremely helpful and very experienced staff (Dom has spent many years in the kite industry; a national stunt kite champion, competing on both national and international circuits, a national kite buggy racing champion. Barry is an open class champion in racing kitebuggies).

Tuesday found me in Weston-Super-Mare and in UFO kite shop discussing options and learning about the different types of kites - starting with the single line Cody Box kite - developed by Samuel Franklin Cody.
A wild west showman and early pioneer and manned flight Cody is most famous for his work on the large kites known as Cody War-Kites that were used by the British in World War 1.  
Cody Box Kite

Then on to 2 string, 3 string and 4 string kites - some with frames and others without - and which include power kites and ones used for kite surfing on water and land......


Then it was off down to the beach while the tide was still out, to learn how to fly a kite.. and I have much to learn, but I had a very patient instructor!

I don't look quite as stylish as Cody! 
Really enjoyed the experience of using 3 string and four string kites, but I'm going to need masses of practice if I am going to be able to control a kite without it crashing to the ground, and especially one with a camera attached if the camera is to survive! 

Next week will see me back in Weston-Super-Mare and flying more kites - weather permitting...  watch this space..

Aerial photography research: Drone flying

I have finally managed to fly a drone that is controllable and can hover... Thanks to Kim-Tobias Kohn from UWE's Avionic Department for the lesson and taking time to help me. 

So now have to consider the options of using a drone - the noise is a bit off-putting, but I can achieve clear images  - or going with other options - a kite perhaps - or maybe using both.

J Kerr, White on White 2009