Weather Balloon Photography

Term: 4 Year: 2017

For my Year 12 VCE Media production, I sent a camera to an altitude of 21,000 metres using a weather balloon. This is technically classified as ‘near-space’. 

I decided to do this project because I really wanted to challenge the low expectations that many people have of young artists and students when it comes to the quality of the work that they can produce. I gained inspiration from websites like YouTube, when I found videos of other people doing similar projects. It’s ridiculously hard, if not impossible, to be ‘original’ in our day and age. However, I believe that because I knew my work was ‘uncommon’ it motivated me as I wanted to fascinate as many people as possible.

I launched the balloon from a small town in Victoria called Elmore, in the driveway belonging to a farming family. I needed to calculate many different things, such as the dimensions of the materials the balloon would be lifting as well as their weight. This was required in order to ensure that I used the appropriate amount of helium to achieve maximum lift. The weather was also a major concern as I launched during the school holidays and every single day but one was rainy and windy. I was extremely fortunate to have gained approval from CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) on the day that I did, because the sun was beaming, there were no clouds in sight and the wind was still.

Once the balloon was in the air, we jumped straight into the car and began following it using multiple tracking devices. This was a stressful experience because we were confined by the road laws, and couldn’t just drive across the acres of farmland surrounding us. I had a rough idea as to where the balloon was going to land thanks to a program that simulates the flight path. Once the balloon had hit the ground, we still had around an hours’ worth of travel in order to reach it. All of the equipment landed perfectly in the backyard of someone’s property in Waggarandall, Victoria. It could have landed in a tree, in a lake, or even on the top of Mount Buller. However, all we needed to do was drive up their driveway and pick up the equipment. I was extremely lucky for everything to work out as well as it did and I couldn’t be any happier with the results.

Bryce Peatling 
Year 12 VCE Media Student
Beaconhills College

Supporting teachers in creative education