Zilker Kite Festival


Last Sunday, March 3, 2013, was the 85th annual Kite Festival held at Zilker Park here in Austin, TX. Barb had an engagement with one of her friends for that afternoon. Since the weatherman said it was going to be a spectacular spring day, I headed downtown to catch the shuttle.

I was travelling light. I brought only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, a circular polarizer, and my hat. No camera bag, no tripod, not even a spare battery.

I only had to stand in line for 45 minutes before boarding the yellow school bus. The ride to Zilker Park took more than 30 minutes, in what would normally be a 10 minute ride at 1:00 PM on any other Sunday afternoon. I took the photo above just moments after I got off of that school bus. Even though the trees still haven’t yet leafed out, it definitely felt like springtime, and it was a great day to be outside!

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My first reaction was to get close and try to photograph some of the more interesting kites.


Zilker Park is just across the Colorado River (and slightly west) of downtown Austin. As you can see, there were a lot of people and a lot of kites!


It was definitely a warm, springtime day. The TV news and the newspaper both reported that 20,000 people made it out to the park that afternoon.


The circular polarizer can make the blue sky a unnaturally dark. I usually tried to rotate is so that the sky wouldn’t appear that way, but sometimes the action just happened so fast….


There were hundreds, if not a thousand kites in the air simultaneously. With that many kites in close proximity, there were bound to be some entanglements.


Some kites just never seemed to get off of the ground – it was usually the ones without a tail that didn’t seem to take right off.


Note the condition of the grass in that previous photo. While I wouldn’t say that dust was a problem for the people, but with all of the wind, the dust that was in the air was quickly accumulating all over my camera – and especially the front of the polarizer. I kept blowing it off. I was glad that this camera and lens combination is supposed to be weatherproof. I was also glad that I had only brought one lens, as there was no way that I was going to be changing lenses under these conditions.

This tree seemed to be a very popular final resting place for many of the kites. I was wondering just how many Charlie Browns came out to the park today.


After a while, I found the official Kite Contest Field, where people would enter into actual kite flying contest. I think they have different contests for smallest kite, steepest angle of flight, a 50 yard dash (where you kite must remain in the air). When I got there, they were about to start the contest for the largest kite.


I positioned myself with the downtown buildings as my backdrop and waited for that black “balloon kite” to take off. This is as high as I saw it get.


While I was standing there watching that black blob of a “puffer fish”, I noticed another animal was watching me. The owner told me that this is an African Grey Parrot.


Everyone was watching that black balloon kite roll around in the dusty field, including this other kite!


After an hour and a half, I decided to start heading out of there. But first, just one more look northeast towards the downtown buildings, with all of the kites up in the air.


During my one hour wait in line to get back onto the shuttle bus, I took this parting shot looking to the northwest.


It was certainly fun to get out and enjoy the weather, photographing something completely new to me.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

7 thoughts on “Zilker Kite Festival”

  1. Gregg,
    The colors are really beautiful! I especially like two of the butterfly kite shots, the perched bird, and the devil kite over the downed balloon kite! And standing in line for that length of time…ayayaya! Great job.

    1. Well, thank you Jana. I am very pleased to find out that you visit my blog occassionally. I guess I recently missed a great opportunity of documenting a certain limo ride to a few select central Texas wineries with some fun loving women… πŸ˜‰ Thanks again for your kind words!

  2. Wow all of those kites up in the sky at one time – were there any string tangles? I would imagine there had to be some.

    I love kites myself, always have. When I travel with the bigger camera bag I have a portable one that doesn’t require a frame that I stuff into the bag. I also have 2 year which are, regrettably, still in their packaging. I have to do something about that.

    1. Libby, yes there were a few entanglements, but not nearly as many as one would think. I thought I had at least one photo with two kite strings twisted together. I saw more kites caught in the trees than I did tangled to each other. When the weather warms up a bit in your part of the country, you should get out with those two kites that are still in their packaging, get them up into the air, and see if you can do anything photographically with them as the subjects. Some of the kites in my photos were not more than 20 feet off of the ground!

      1. I could maybe prop one up in a tree and shoot it LOL because unless I get out in a big field that’s where they go anyway πŸ˜‰

  3. Such a vibrant festival, and full of life and color ! You should get out and shoot more. We do not get such deep blue skies in Malaysia.

    1. Robin, yes it was a very vibrant festival. The skies here in Austin are not really that deep of a blue color – it was the circular polarizer that makes them appear that way. I usually try to rotate the front of the polarizer in an attempt to minimize the effect somewhat. I brought the polarizer filter because I knew that it would help make the colors of the kites a bit more vivid. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comment! Oh, and yes, I agree…. I should get out and shoot more often.

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