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    Updates: Balloon Mapping McDowell

    During the past week those of you in McDowell may have noticed an extraordinarily large round object hovering approximately 900 feet in the McDowell skyline. Nope, it was not a flying space pod. It was actually Hollow’s helium balloon and camera used for the process of balloon mapping. You may still be asking yourself: “what is balloon mapping and how does it fit into Hollow?” Balloon mapping is the process of sending a traditional point-and-shoot camera into the sky using a large weather balloon. Like a kite, the balloon is tethered to a pilot on the ground that can raise or lower the balloon. During flight, the camera shoots a continuous series of aerial photographs. The end product looks very similar to the imagery you see on commercial mapping platforms such as GoogleEarth/Google Maps and Bing Maps. So than why do we not use Google Maps and avoid the hassle of rigging up a camera to a balloon, avoiding debilitating derechos, and finding someone to fill up a helium tank? Balloon mapping is not only a moderately low cost and fun do-it-yourself technique that result in high spatial resolution and up-to-date imagery but it also produces a sense of community embeddedness and ultimately the reaction of “Wow! I did that!”.

    A trending inquiry by the community in regards to the Hollow project has been about how the project is engaging with younger generations in McDowell. At the project’s first community workshop on June 23rd, participants acknowledge the sheer importance of the youth perspective and how it is a commonly underrepresented voice in community affairs and the creation of the community identity. Hollow is making a conscience effort to provide outlets for younger generations to express themselves and their community. In addition to putting personal video cameras in the hands of McDowell County youth, Hollow is using balloon mapping and follow up mapping workshops to directly target these vital perspectives, spatial representations, and narratives of the community. Workshop participants had numerous thoughts as to the various places they identified as youth hotspots in McDowell County as well as places that they think would be incredibly powerful to map.

    List of Areas of Interest by Workshop Participants

    (List of Areas of Interest by Workshop Participants)

    As of today, July 7th, several McDowell County youth have engaged with Hollow to map various key places around McDowell. These places include Gary, Downtown Welch, Berwind Lake, Linkous Park and Alfius Prep Plant.

    Gary, WV

    Welch, WV

    Berwind Lake

    Linkous Park Mosaic Overlayed on GeoEye Imagery

    This afternoon Hollow will be attending Big Creek People in Action’s Mountain Music Festival and sure enough, we will be using balloon mapping to capture this event and to further introduce everyone to the process. Tomorrow we will be balloon mapping at Black Wolf Links golf course in Gary, WV. If you’re interested in attending, lets meet at Black Wolf Links at 2:00 pm. The mapping process will take approximately 2 hours. Don’t forget to wear your closed-toe shoes and bring plenty of water! If you have any questions, please contact me at


    — 1 year ago with 2 notes