Balloon Photography

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Holly and I live in San Francisco, in the Dogpatch historic neighborhood. We like to walk to nearby Agua Vista Park, which—aside from a fishing pier, good seabird watching, bongo drummin', and ganja smokin'—offers a great view of the nearby dry docks. These enormous, rusting shipyards look old and dilapidated, but are in fact still active. We've seen cruise ships dock there, and in January 2010, the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy was undergoing repairs in the dry dock.

Seeing these huge ships in our bay is pretty awesome, and I had the desire one day to take some aerial photography of the area. Aside from the ships, all of these old, sometimes abandoned industrial buildings and warehouses will someday no doubt get razed and replaced by the modern world, but, they make a great spectacle today.



With a scavenged camera, an existing SDHC memory card, and a reused cardboard box for the gondola, the total price for the system (without helium gas) comes out to $134. The total system weight (including balloon, line, and camera rig) weighs under 500g.

For helium, I rented an 88cf tank of helium for $55 from SF Party, near downtown. Their prices are competitive with industrial suppliers, and you get a three day rental.


Andrew Ho (