The kite was an obvious way to get eyes into the sky. In 1888, French photographer Arthur Batut attached a camera and an altimeter to a large DIY kite and launched it into the sky over the town of Labruguière. Earlier attempts to make kite photos had failed, ostensibly because exposure times on cameras were far too long — and the kites too shaky — to capture a clear image. But by Batut’s time, shutter speeds had dropped to a fraction of a second. Using a fuse to set off the shutter, he captured what’s thought to be the first clear aerial photograph taken from a kite:
When the shaking stopped on April 18, 1906, William A. Del Monte’s mother bundled him in a tablecloth and carried him out of the house and into the street, where her husband waited in a buckboard wagon. Amid San Francisco’s chaos — broken water and gas mains, shattered windows, twisted telegraph wires, six-foot chasms in the fissured earth — a horse began hauling the family from their North Beach neighborhood to the ferry terminal by the Embarcadero. Dawn was breaking. Small fires were beginning to burn. Houses, tipped diagonally, seemed on the verge of collapse. The city’s power was down, and its supplies of fresh water were mostly gone.