Gazet van Antwerpen

    Translated by Tony Cunningham at the KAP forum
Antwerp is a beautiful city to photograph” 

Bert Maetens takes photos of Antwerp in a rather unusual way. He fixes his camera to a kite and uses this to take aerial photographs of the city.

An enormous kite above the Antwerp skyline is not something you expect to see every day. The owner of this monster is Bert Maetens from Antwerp (Kiel district). “I lived in San Francisco Bay Area for years and there are plenty of kites there. Since then I have become an enthusiast and have been working with kites for the last 15 years. Now I make them myself.”

Making a kite is quite a complex process. Firstly Bert uses computer aided design to makes 3D drawings to give him better insight into the design. Next he prints out the drawing and traces this onto suitable ripstop material. “The detailed design, cutting and sewing of a kite takes at least a couple of days. My job at Belgacom rarely enables me to start on my hobby until around 9 pm.”

Photography
During the last six months Bert has developed another interest. “In 1906, just after the big earthquake in San Francisco, a photographer fitted a camera to a large kite and took panorama photos of the disaster area. I was so fascinated by this idea that I wanted to try it for myself.” So the enthusiast collected the necessary components and constructed a mechanism to remotely operate a small digital camera fixed to his kite. “I can rotate and tilt the camera using radio control. From a height of 60 m you get an unbelievable perspective that you cannot achieve in any other way. Sixty metres is the highest we are allowed to fly.”

American deal
When Bert attended a kite festival in England in June this year he met an American who takes kite photos for National Geographic. “He told me that my kite photography equipment was not very professional and we came to a good arrangement; I would make him a very large kite and in return for this he would send me a better camera rig to hang on my kite line, along with a smaller radio control unit. We will meet up again in September to hand over the kite.”

“I hope to be able to purchase better photographic equipment next year. I am now working with a rather simple camera because I am still learning.” This kite flyer is already on his second camera; his first was smashed to pieces when he was surprised by a sudden gust.

Freestanding buildings
“Every day I search for interesting places and buildings to photograph. Buildings that are not closely surrounded by others make rewarding subjects. The new courthouse is an example. Antwerp is a beautiful city to photograph. After a day of kite photography I am always curious about the results. I can’t think of a better way to relax after a tiring day at work.”

Workshops
* Bert Maetens gives kite making workshops for associations or companies.
* During these workshops he explains all aspect of kite making in detail and you take the kite you have made home with you.
* In March and April of this year he organized several workshops jointly with the City of Antwerp.
* You can visit Bert’s website (http://b-kites.blogspot.com ). There you can see various kite designs and further information about making kites. Bert’s second passion, photography, is also covered.

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