Kite Aerial Photos of Manihi Now in Google Earth

Some of you may know about my five year trip around the world by sailboat which we are calling the Tahina Expedition. As part of a partnership with Google, I’m taking photos of the Earth in some places along the way just like what you see in Google Earth. Only, some of the photos are even better than what you normally see because we are flying a camera only a few hundred feet above the ground with a kite!
Kids watching kite aerial photos being taken in ManihiBack in May, we visited a beautiful Tuamotus atoll in French Polynesia called Manihi. We had a wonderful time visiting there, and one day we had perfect conditions to fly the kite. My goal was to capture parts of the village near the pass into the lagoon. We had time to walk down the main street on the north side. There were electric poles and wire and trees, so we couldn’t quite capture the entire street. It was a really unique experience because the local kids and some of the adults all came out to find out what we were doing. We asked the kids to help us when we had to bring down the kite.
Google just recently published our photos of Manihi in the latest imagery update. You can see the results below in Google Maps, or in Google Earth Make sure you zoom in close to see all the amazing detail. It’s way better than the surrounding satellite imagery for the rest of Manihi.

View Larger Map
You can read about the day we did the shooting or just watch the slideshow below for more photos showing the entire Manihi village from the air, and pictures of the kids who helped us.

View full-sized slideshow

Watch the slideshow in the post about BBQ Island for pictures of how we do the aerial photos. And, you can see another island we did in Google Earth called Petite Tabac. Special thanks to Stewart Long of Gonzo Earth who did all the processing of the photos and stitched them together so they could be delivered to Google for their database.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Paul van Dinther says

    Fantastic. I can imagine that mapping the entire village is a lot of work. It looks like the string got stuck in kids more than in power poles! What a lovely village.

  2. Eric Moeller says

    Great article. Could you do another one on the technical aspects of doing kite photography? For example what kind of camera, kite, etc. are you using? Any tricks to mounting the camera, processing the photos (ie. photo stitching – is Photoshop Elements 8 or the new version 9, good for this?).
    I would love to try this on some of my trips, but it would helpful to have some insights as to how best to do it.

  3. Very cool! It even lists the imagery source in Google Earth as, “Image Tahina Expedition.” It’s great to see this level of detail in such a remote place.

  4. Kim Anonymous says

    The google maps satellite images of my university are badly outdated, and this would seem to be a great way to update the view.
    So I second Eric’s plea for technical details of the necessary equipment and procedures for repeating this exercise.
    Since you are most definitely ‘busy’ during your travels, even rough pointers in the right direction would be much appreciated.
    I could imagine that there are lots of other people who would like to replicate your approach!
    Thank you for a great contribution. May there be fair winds at your back on the rest of your journey!

  5. Frank Johnette says

    Please consider me if you start hiring people to travel the world and fly kites.
    Thank you.

  6. You must have considered this already. I’m curious if you’ve tried quadcopter photography? What are the trade-offs compared to kite photography for what you’re doing? Thanks!
    Here’s a random site:

  7. Great stuff. I use KAP to map archaeological sites. Much of my work involves making 3D models via photogrammetry, but I also shoot planar images that are useful as imagery alone. How can I add my kite view images to Google Earth? Here is an example.
    I should note that there can be significant distortion in KAP imagery. How are you georeferencing the imagery? Are you doing any ortho correction? Do you use any gyro-stabilization on the camera platform? I hope to hear from you: ncraig psu edu

  8. William Brooks says

    Thanks for more photos of Manihi. I wrote you earlier when you were still on Manihi, about the Faura Family and my wife’s and my stay on Manihi in 1966 and 67. I remember making a box kite from scratch one day out of bamboo and some wrapping paper from the Fare Tinito. Went up like a rocket, and 5 seconds later came down like a bomb. I couldn’t have provided more glee to that generation of kids, who looked a lot like those shown in your photo watching your kite, if the kite had pinned itself to the sky for hours. Thanks for your sharing your photos and experience on this lovely island. WTBrooks

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.