By: John Hofilena
Keisuke Iwaya, a 27-year-old engineering graduate from Sapporo, has taken his fascination of outer space to a different level – a higher level – by doing photography way up in the stratosphere.
Iwaya, a website designer by trade, has created his own technology for high altitude balloon photography through sheer perseverance and a process of trial-and-error, and now he is reaping the results of his persistence – stunning images from way up high in the earth’s atmosphere.
Perfecting his method in a period of less than two years, the Sapporo native is now able to take gorgeous and unique photographs from more than 30,000 meters above the earth’s surface. The photos from his method are so amazing and eye-catching that Iwaya has won the top prize in Sapporo’s creative business competition. He also bagged another top prize from the director of the Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry. He is delighted to tell the story of his photography, remembering that he was met with skepticism when he started out doing this. “Isn’t it a waste of time?” the people around him used to ask. Iwaya says that he is “glad that he kept going”.
Iwaya started working on balloon aerial photography in 2011 while studying at Hokkaido University’s School of Engineering, inspired by an online news article about an American college student who took a photo of space from a high altitude balloon. He designed his own helium-filled balloon and now attaches his own camera holder to it. The device is designed to automatically take photographs from high altitude until such time that the balloon expands to its limit and bursts. The contraption Iwaya designed packs the camera in a ball of Styrofoam, and falls back to the Earth’s surface.
He met a number of challenges in the beginning, especially in retrieving the camera and making sure that the data is intact. With the use of a GPS transmitter, Iwaya is now able to locate his cameras accurately, and with a few tweaks in design, he is now able to make the camera take over 30,000 photos per high altitude journey. As he has perfected this method, the young web designer now wants to take on deep-sea underwater photography next. And armed with the same discipline, he may just succeed in his next venture as well.