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Hanging by a Thread

A Kite’s View of Wisconsin

Craig M. Wilson, Brent Nicastro

Publication Year: 2011

This full-color book of photographs records Wisconsin from an unusual viewpoint: a camera suspended from a kite and controlled by photographer Craig M. Wilson from the ground. Taken from fifty to a few hundred feet in the air, Wilson’s photos capture natural and man-made views that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The result is a vibrant collection that captures Wisconsin in all its shifting beauty in landscapes and cityscapes, festivals, Door County’s lighthouses, Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, and the crowd at a Badger football game. Captions are provided in English, Spanish, German, and Mandarin Chinese.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-8

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pp. vii-9

For a medium-sizedMidwestern city,Madison has an unusually large community of photographers. This situation might lead to intense competitiveness and a lack of openness and information sharing. Just the opposite is true. On a regular basis a group of photographers gather to show recent work, discuss new technologies and socialize. It was at one of these gatherings several years ago that I first became aware of CraigWilson’s kite photography. About a dozen photographers were showing slides and Craig’s turn came. The first image I recall him showing was a shot of...

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pp. viii-23

The thought of using a kite to lift a camera bubbled through my mind. A simple thought, like thousands before it. It seemed possible when I realized my new kite—controlled by my left hand—had more than enough power to lift the camera I held to my eye with my right hand. That thought struck in 1987, on an afternoon when my big new Delta kite was pulling hard, flying high in the rays of the setting sun. I stood at the end of the line in a meadow, already deep in shadow, wondering what it looks like from up there. After a few weeks of thinking and tinkering I figured out how I could do it. I needed a timer to epoxy to the back of a camera—a camera that I could live without—a camera I would surely ruin. I waited for the hobby shop to call with the miniature timer...

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Almost Busted

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pp. 14-24

Good lighting alone won’t do it. I need wind of the right speed and direction to photograph the Capitol. Forget scheduling a time—when the conditions are right I have to get there fast. I found a perfect time one late Sunday afternoon and quickly had my camera up over the Capitol shooting in exceptional light and wind. I was hoping for a golden sunset on the Capitol. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a flashing light and looked over to see a police car screeching to a halt. An officer hurled himself out the door and ran towards me. His hand was on his holstered weapon and he yelled at me, “Bring that kite down immediately. If you don’t, I’ll do it for you!” I looked at him, smiled..

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pp. 25-33


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Leave it to Maddy

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pp. 34-37

It was one of those beautiful October afternoons with little white puffy clouds floating across the sky and fall colors in full glory. That crisp, brilliant kind of day that you get only a couple times each year here in Wisconsin. I asked Madeleine if she would help me make a photo out in the front yard. The trees were golden, the sun angle and the wind were just right, and the yard needed raking. Perfect! After some negotiation she agreed to pose with the rake, but not actually do any raking. I couldn’t argue; I would be flying a kite. I headed up to the open greenway at the end of the cul-de-sac to launch the kite and camera and then maneuver it back to our yard. Madeleine...

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pp. 38-46

I took the long way home through theUWcampus from downtown looking for an interesting photo opportunity. I found the UW marching band practicing with the late sunlight creating long, hard shadows. I quickly got my big Delta kite assembled and into the air, then worked my camera around the band, dodging their high steps, quick turns, and about...

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Fast Friends

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pp. 47-60

A friend invited me to come out on frozen Lake Mendota to watch him race his iceboat. I guessed that iceboats might be good subjects but I hesitated, thinking I would be in the way and standing close to boats traveling 60 to 100 miles per hour could be dangerous. I decided to take him up on the offer. I parked my car, put on my hockey skates, and then began towing a sled withmy gear, out towards the collection of triangular sails. After twenty minutes of skating,...

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pp. 61-85

Airplanes were always under construction in the garage when I was growing up. I had a small hand in those projects; I held the “dumb end” of the tape measure, caught Sitka spruce as it came out of the table saw, and stitched fabric to wings. I earned lots of plane rides and annual pilgrimages to the Mecca of sport aviation—Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I was honored when the Experimental Aircraft Association asked to exhibit a collection of my kite aerial photos in the AirVenture Museum. During that show, I approached the museum director about flying a kite and making photos at the EAA convention..

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Not a Shore Thing

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pp. 86-115

Flying a large kite with electronics and a camera attached takes concentration. Add a boat and you really have your hands full. So early on, I drafted my son, Casey, for the boat driver job. On open water, there are no power lines or trees to snag the kite. The wind is usually steady and if it’s not blowing, the forward motion of the boat creates lift for the kite. There are new and interesting photos to be taken from boats—as long as I keep the camera out of the water. Casey drives, and I handle the kite. We’ve had good times boating and kiting in sailboat races, among canoes, fishermen...

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A Different Point of View

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pp. 116-130

The Calatrava addition to theMilwaukee ArtMuseumstrikesme as a building about to jump up and fly off. Santiago Calatrava’s designs are so different, so surprising, that they challenge our perception of how buildings look. It is the perfect subject formy kite and camera. The first photos of Earth fromspace changed our perception of our world. TheHubble telescope gave us new views of our universe. Architecture,music, art, technology, and even fashions constantly change how we see things. We are always looking for new ways to see our place in the environment. That’s why kids climb trees, why tall buildings have observation decks, why we want the window...

About the Photographer, Back Cover

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pp. 131-142

E-ISBN-13: 9780299286033
E-ISBN-10: 0299286037
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299286040
Print-ISBN-10: 0299286045

Page Count: 144
Illustrations: 140 color photos
Publication Year: 2011