Giving Your Right Brain a Regular Workout

Take Flight: 7 Steps to Become a Balloon Aerial Photographer

Sometimes at RB HQ we decide to do something a little out of the ordinary, and attaching a continuous shooting digital camera to 70 helium filled balloons and walking around the city is one of them. We dedicated our latest installment of Tips and Tutorials to show you how simply, and cheaply, you can capture unique and different photographs from a (ahem) new perspective. In less than 8 steps, you too can create a flying photographic capsule of goodness.

Hold onto your hats.

YOU WILL NEED:

- A camera with a continuous shooting mode

- An ice cream container (or sturdy cardboard box or container)

- Scalpel or scissors

- Rubber bands

- A permanent marker

- Heavy duty nylon cord

- Kitchen sponges

- Long cable ties

- Standard sized helium filled balloons (calculated depending on weight needs)

1. Find a container that allows your camera body to fit snugly inside, and is deep enough to house most of your lens (except the end, we want a few millimeters to poke through so you can shoot away).

2. Lightly trace the outline of your lens on the base of the container. Cut out the circle you’ve drawn, and place the camera in the container. Adjust the camera and support the body with sponges, if you need you can secure the sponges with rubber bands.

3. Puncture two holes in the side of the container, and one in the top. Create a loop of long cable ties over the top of the container (your balloons will be attached to this). Create another cable tie loop on the top of the container (your nylon rope will be attached here). Now you’ve made a basic top and bottom “handle” for your camera box, it’s time to attach your nylon cord to the box (so you can hold on tight).

4. We cut a small hole in a bottom corner of the box, and slid the rope through and tied a series of knots to ensure the rope would stay securely in the box. To make sure the rope wouldn’t move inside the box and disrupt the sponges, we taped down the rope to the interior.   This nylon rope will be attached to you, so your camera doesn’t fly away. We tied the end of this rope around our waist, or you could try on your belt or around your wrist.

5. To attach the 70 balloons to the camera box we took all our gear to an underground basement car park in a shopping centre. We tied the balloons to the cable ties and chopped off the excess string (it added extra weight). Before closing the last cable tie, we set the continuous shooting on and walked quickly out into a park next door to begin our walk. Don’t be discouraged if at first it looks as if the box won’t be lifted, once the balloons are properly unpackaged and tied up, along with wind power, your capsule will be soaring in no time.

HOT TIP: A general rule to follow when using standard latex balloons is this:

Helium has a lifting power of 1 gram per litre. So if you have a balloon that has 5 grams of helium in it, it will lift 5 grams. An average 22-30cm latex balloon can lift approximately 14 grams. It is really worth doing the maths and calculating how many balloons you need before you start hurling your camera around. A great guide can be found here.  We used 70 helium filled balloons to lift the camera, however we also shot on an extremely windy day, so the wind lifted (and pulled) the camera for us. We also recommend you have a spare 5-10 balloons in case some popped (a few of ours did), or you need an extra lil oomph. 

6. Set your camera on the continuous shooting mode to begin taking photographs every 2-6 seconds for “x” amount of images. This formula depends on your camera, and your memory card size, but there’s a pretty simple beginners rule:  Try taking one photograph every 3 seconds for 250 photographs. This will take you 750 seconds, which is 12.5 minutes. This gives you a good amount of time to walk with your balloons through varying terrain around you. Of course, if you have more room on your camera, you can extend the walk. This formula is extremely flexible!

7. Think like a bird! On your 12.5 minute walk, think about the type of images you’re capturing from above. Would you like ariels of busy inner city walkways? Or perhaps you’d like the patchwork effect of rolling farmland? Walk with purpose to diversify the shots you capture, and enjoy your incredibly creative stroll.

Below are just a handful of the images we captured from above during our walk. The camera often tilted and swung about in the wind, resulting in a variety of angles and shots. Be prepared for an awful lot of blurry, average shots that are only of the blue sky. This is  part of the incredibly cool journey of getting to know your local area, and creating some truly unique photographs. Once you get past the quirky looks you receive from passersby, this experiment makes for a memorable day with friends.

Have you tried aerial balloon photography before? Do you have any aerial shots you’d like to share? We hope you share your experiences of this tutorial in the comments below.

HOT TIP: Be very careful of power lines, tram lines, bridges, street lamps, superman, buildings, flags and do not do what this guy did (he grounded planes out of LAX and caused neighbourhood blackouts). We recommend you check with your local council about any laws pertaining to airspace regulations. There’s a fine line between a photography experiment and a DIY drone! Practice pulling your balloon capsule up and down a few times before you begin shooting. 

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