Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Experience of Aerial Photography at Buddhist Sites

Nalanda was privileged to host retired French archaeologist, Yves Guichand. As an archaeologist, his knowledge regarding Buddhist heritage sites is invaluable, as is his expertise as a kite photographer. Yves has been coming to Nalanda since 2005 to document the heritage with his aerial photographs. In the past five years, he has helped me, working with Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, to document 50 such Buddhist heritage sites with his kite photographs.

Yves fixing the camera to the kite
Ever dependent on the wind, kite photographers face the challenge of timing site visits with the cooperation of Mother Nature. Some years have been less than ideal with little to no wind at the opportune times of the visits. The last two years, however, 2010 and 2011 have been particularly fruitful. In these two years, more than 25 Buddhist heritage sites have been documented.
Aerial photography provides the bird’s eye view necessary in order to understand the shape of the structure, its placement with respect to other structures, as well as the damage to the structure itself. Besides the archaeological value of aerial photographs, these aerial pictures also provide an aesthetic value, one that allows us to realize the full scope of many large Buddhist structures from the top down.

The camera is programmed to capture images at a fixed interval. The wind needs to be strong and stable enough to carry the camera, without waving it too much. On average, the kite stays up in sky for 30 to 45 minutes and clicks an average of 150 to 200 pictures. As per the requirement, the best pictures were chosen. We share with you a few of the best shots at a few select places.

The Kite and the Camera
Yves designing a kite
The making

A prepared  kite
Cradle to hold the camera
A special camera, with an interval timer function, fixed to the cradle

The long stretch of mound in the Village Dharaut

Aerial view of the remains of Bari Pahari (Bihar Sharif)
A bird's eye view of the Stupa mound at Keur Village
Nandangarh Stupa
Rivulet between the stupas at Rampurwa, exactly as mentioned by Xuanzang
Top view of Nandangarh Stupa (the Diamond Shape)
A Stupa shaped mound (Top left) amidst agricultural fields
Two Ashokan Pillars over the Stupa Mound at Rampurwa
Vedic Stupas in the center of city
Top cap of the Keshariya Stupa
"Vedic Burial Stupas" of  Lauriya Nandangarh
Group of stupas in Bakhra Village (Vaishali)
Besides the usefulness of the activity of kite photography, the visits themselves have proved to be a big attraction for many villagers in these rural areas. As you can imagine, a Frenchman with a big kite is not your typical visitor to rural Bihar. Villagers welcomed us with enthusiasm wherever we traveled. Their excitement was contagious and kept us motivated to work hard for two weeks straight. Many new associations were formed with village leaders working to preserve the heritage in their areas. Here are some pictures many cheerful people we came to be acquainted with.
The excitement of the onlookers captured by the kite camera from the top
Inquisitive villagers surrounding Yves

Curious children
Yves flying the Kite
The Pied Piper .....with the followers
All eyes spotting the kite
Kite being played in the field


Unknown said...

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Pelican Drones said...

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