Holga Cameras… in Space!
Photographic educator Dirk Fletcher decided his summer Modern Alternative Photographic Practices class would try and test the Holga camera and boldly send one where no Holga had gone before — space. To get a shot of the earth’s stratosphere, Fletcher and his students created a four Holga box unit to float by balloon into the lower stratosphere and capture an aerial of earth.
There were a number of hurdles for Fletcher’s class to overcome — piloting a camera into the stratosphere, remotely triggering the four holgas and then tracking the entire rig once it got back to earth. Prior to his career in education, Fletcher was the full time photographer at the Museum of Science and Industry so he is no stranger to the intersection of science, light and camera.
According to Fletcher’s blog, the remote trigger had to function in the icy temperatures above the atmosphere and this required some home-brewed engineering. Student Ryan Ledesma suggested a power door lock mechanism and Fletcher was able to power one using a 15 volt batteries and a mechanism configured from PVC and wood.
The Holga aerial rig with GoPro camera. © Dirk Fletcher
Using a Spot II GPS receiver with the camera box was also a concern as the locator was only the means to guarantee safe retrieval of the cameras. The helium balloon that carried the device into space would keep the receiver upright but once it reached approximately 20 miles above the planet, the balloon pops and the device parachutes back to earth. If the GPS were covered once on the ground, the project would be a failure. By taking a retrofitted child’s Gyrobowl, Fletcher and his class were able to safely track and retrieve the Holga unit with an iPad.
Earth from Holga. © Dirk Fletcher
The results paid off with the first Holga image of the earth ever captured from earth. Radiation fogging limited the results of several of the frames but one image on Portra 400 achieved the class’ mission. “We did pick up quite a bit more radiation fogging on the other side of the ozone layer then we were expecting but it adds to the look and feel of the final image,” writes Fletcher in his blog. “I love the authenticity it adds.” Fletcher has since made a 40-inch print of the space Holga.
To see of Dirk Fletcher’s assignment work and personal projects, check out his web site.