How photographer John Flaig shot the Grand Canyon from the edge of space (VIDEO)
posted Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 4:53 PM EDT
Amongst the burgeoning field of weather balloon photography, photographer John Flaig is probably one of the most well-established and respected names in the game. He's teamed up with National Geographic for a near-space shoot of the Grand Canyon, and in a video he walks through the process of shooting from the edge of space.
The images were destined for use for a National Geographic piece on the Grand Canyon, but the amount of work that goes into taking Flaig's images is an incredible story in and of itself. Watching the brief video, you get the feeling that all he does is send up a box filled with cameras, and then come find them when they land. But there's so much more to it than that.
Flaig documents each of his launched on his own website, including this one, where he talks about the build, launch, tracking, and aftermath of each project. This was actually his second attempt at the Grand Canyon, his one before having been less than successful due to cloud cover. With his second attempt, he managed to capture the photos, but had to track down the cameras after they'd traveled an incredible distance:
The balloon had stayed aloft for seven hours and twenty minutes, covering three hundred miles. It crossed Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, and had landed 9,300 feet up in the foothills of the San Juan range, between Durango and Telluride--amazingly, just 3,000 feet from a road. Switching to a contour map view on Google, I could see a thousand feet of elevation gain stood between the road and the balloon. There'd be no trail. From the satellite image, the woods seemed thick. Snow could be a problem. And when we got to the top, there was no way of knowing if the payload was dangling in a tree.
Flaig also chronicles what gear he used with each launch, and in this case he had a GoPro Hero 3+ black, Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, two Canon PowerShot A4000 IS, and a Pentax K-01 with a 28mm SMC manual focus lens, set for ten second intervals. All told, the components cost him $1,693.55, a hefty amount, but hardly outside of NatGeo's budget.
And purely coincidentally, Flaig and his cameraman from NatGeo just happened to be at the Grand Canyon on the day that it filled with fog, the day after they recovered the balloon!