When You Want Amazing Photos of a Crater #CitizenScience #science #photography #DIY

Balloon packed in truck

Aerial photography can be helpful for capturing images with a different perspective, and a recent post on Public Lab shows Devan Harlan’s adventure at Amboy Crater, California. Devan was inspired to capture this location for a project at the Joshua Tree Highlands Artist Residency program. He used Public Lab’s balloon mapping kit, but chose an even larger neoprene balloon.

I was working completely alone for this project, which I highly discourage. Regardless this was the method. The balloon was inflated from a K-Type Helium tank in the back of a rented U-Haul Pickup. Tarp and rubber bungee cords were used to hold the balloon down during inflation.

Camera rig attached to balloon

Devan wanted quality photography, so he decided to use two Canon Powershot G10 cameras mounted in a styrofoam ice chest. Unfortunately he ran into a slight hitch.

The helium tank had less gas remaining than I had estimated, so the balloon was not completely inflated. I tried to fly it anyway but after 30 mins the balloon was not able to make an ascent as the load was too heavy. I cut down everything unnecessary from the foam box, including redundant carabiners, clips or line. This is the result and it actually worked out well.

Devan used the photography to create some interesting 3D images showing orthographic views. This mapping was just one of the highlights of his residency, and I encourage you to also check out his site for Found Rock which uses a mapped projected image on a casting. This is an exciting combination of science and art, bringing new interest to geology. How would you use balloon mapping?


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