Balloon Aerial Panoramas

I use a tethered, helium-filled balloon/kite (Helikite) to lift a small, high resolution digital camera to as high as 300’ off the ground. I stitch the images into panoramas, or sometimes use the camera facing straight down, and arrange images into photomaps. I made photographs of mountaintop removal coal mines in the southern Appalachians, and followed those with photographs of prisons, several built on reclaimed mountaintop removal mine sites. Mountain top removal mines are pitched to local communities as being opportunities for jobs, and, ironically, flat land suitable for industry - which is scarce in the Appalachians. It seemed deeply cynical to me that the economics of the prison industrial complex were what, in the end, these sites were best fit for. 
The process of making these pictures was deeply interesting to me - perhaps more interesting than the actual photographs that resulted. The idea of using a balloon to capture a panoptic view of these facilities, Supermax Prisons, based on the concept at least of the Panopticon itself, was part of the fascination. The equipment itself, also, was fun to use, though frequently harrowing. 

These images can be printed with no loss of quality to more than 8’ across.

Using Format