ES 555 Small-Format Aerial Photography


Educational Applications for SFAP:

Learning to fly kites and blimps to photograph an environment as an educational activity


Field Trip Report

By Tamara Korenman

July 1, 2003

Instructor: Dr. James Aber



Teaching environmental issues to students requires significant amount of field work.  Small-format aerial photography offers unique view of the site as a whole.  Obtaining small-format aerial photography using kites and blimps for educational purposes.

Taking students to a field trip for obtaining visual data using kites and blimps is an effective strategy to teach environmental issues in a variety of social science and science courses in grades 6-12, as well as Earth Science and Geography courses for college students.


In order to include field activities of flying kites and blimps for taking small-format aerial photography in a curriculum, educators should consider special training.  To provide effective learning experience for students during such activities, following steps are suggested:


Step 1.  Students define their objectives for collecting data from a site.  Examples:

                *conditions of soil, vegetation

                *ecosystem of a pond or stream

                *architectural design and structural characteristics of the place

                *land use, etc


Step 2.  Before the trip, students learn about:

                *the site, location and unique characteristics of the place.

                    *kites and blimps, weather conditions and safety rules

                *the compass and weather instruments

                *basic photography, cameras, and films


Step 3.   During the trip, students keep a journal recording their observation of the site:

                * characteristics of a landscape

                * conditions of vegetation

                * human activities


Step 4. Obtaining small aerial photography data using kites or blimps.

                    A. If the wind is 10 - 15miles per hour, students fly kites.  

                     They practice their skills in kite operating and taking aerial

                     photography using remote equipment.  

                     Students change their roles and follow the rules of safety.

                B. Of the wind below 10 miles per hour, a helium blimp may be utilized for aerial photography.


Step 5.  Students evaluate their field work, process pictures and interpret collected data.



The field work with the purpose of obtaining small-format aerial photography by using kites and blimps was done by students enrolled in ES 555 offered by Earth Science Department at Emporia State University during summer 2003.


The purpose of the field trips for this course was acquiring small-format aerial photography data, methods and different techniques for collecting such data.  For this purpose, our group visited several sites.  Ross Reservation and Cheyenne Bottoms were among our visited sites.


Our group developed specific objectives for collecting data from each site:

*observing and evaluating the effect of grass burning  in the Ross Reservation;

*observing conditions of marshes and wetland vegetation in the Cheyenne Bottoms

  during the season of mass precipitation



Ross Reservation, June 2003

Gladfelter Pond, Ross Reservation, June 2003


Overlook of Cheyenne Bottoms

Cheyenne Bottoms, June 2003

Measuring the wind speed

Ross Reservation, June 2003

Locating the North arrow by the deck

of Gladfelter pond. Ross Reservation, June 2003


Trying a kite

Ross Reservation,

June 2003


Putting the camera rig

on the lineRoss Reservation,

June 2003


Radio system to operate rotation, 

angle of the camera to the ground, 

and taking a picture

Trying the system work

Ross Reservation, June 2003


Preparing the blimp

Cheyenne Bottoms, June 2003



Filling the blimp with helium

Cheyenne Bottoms, June 2003


The blimp is ready to take pictures

Cheyenne Bottoms, June 2003

ES 555 students are ready to take pictures

Bring the blimp down to change

a camera rig, film, and/or battery

Equipment is neatly stored in numerous boxes






A blimp flies no higher than

500 feet above the ground

The blimp is up to work



These are two high-oblique images of Cheyenne Bottoms near Hoisington, KS

acquired in June 2003 by digital camera on helium blimp.

Image 1: access road to the Nature Conservancy land.  Marsh area is located on the right side of the road. Image 2: Deception Creek and dead cattails. Most of the area of the cattails were killed during the drought of 2002

These are two near-vertical images of Ross Reservation near Emporia, KS

acquired in June 2003 by digital camera on a kite.  Both images show bright green vegetation as a result of grass burning in spring of 2003 and then mass rains in May and early June.  Brown spots are cedar trees destroyed by the fire during grass burning.




Webpage was created by Tamara Korenman,

June 30, 2003

as an assignment for ES 555, Small-Format Aerial Photography

as a component of Geospatial Analysis Graduate Certification Program

Offered by Earth Science department, Emporia State University