The new year has arrived and it feels like we’ve already fallen into the same old routine. A well-known and comfortable routine, so we’re not complaining! But it is a bit sad to let the wintry festivities go.

Fortunately, there’s still a bit of fun to be had leftover from New Year’s Day: One enterprising Hokkaido resident took it upon himself to film the dawn of the new year–from the freaking stratosphere! He posted the video on YouTube and it is absolutely beautiful.

Using weather balloons to capture videos from high above the planet has really taken off in recent years, with costs coming down and ease of use going up. But Keisuke Iwaya is one of the best when it comes to blowing our minds with high-flying images!

Iwaya, who has been posting videos and pictures taken from balloons since 2011, decided to do something special for the new year: Capture the first dawn of 2014 from an altitude of 30 km (18.6 miles). We’re here to share the beautiful but shaky results with you!

▼Iwaya preparing to launch the balloon.


His plan started with launching the balloon very early on the morning of January 1, while it was still dark and bitterly cold at a temperature of -7 degrees Celsius (19.4 degrees Fahrenheit). We imagine that living in Hokkaido, Iwaya might be somewhat used to the temperature, but we still want to thank him for the sacrifice!


The balloon rose up, up, up, and up, until, after about an hour, the camera caught the first rays of light breaking in the east. But this was hardly the end of the journey, and the balloon continued its ascension to a height of 30 km (18.6 miles), just 9 km short of the height from which Felix Baumgartner began his supersonic freefall in 2012.


From the stratosphere, above where most commercial airplanes fly, the world looks…different. “Beautiful” can barely begin to describe it.

▼30 km up and wow. Just, absolutely wow!


After reaching that stratospheric height, the balloon burst as expected, and the camera tumbled out of the sky like Icarus. Fortunately, the camera didn’t break, and Iwaya was able to retrieve the device about 195 km from where it was launched.

▼Iwaya and his safely retrieved gear.


If you’re feeling inspired by Iwaya’s brilliance, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to do some high-flying videography of your own. He assembled his rig using supplies bought from hardware and electronics stores for about 25,000 yen (about US$240). The biggest problem, of course, is the lack of stabilization. We have no intention of looking a gift horse in the mouth, but if you get motion sickness easily, you might have a hard time watching the video.

Iwaya plans to post more videos throughout 2014, and we can’t wait to see them! We’ll be sure to share his excellent work with you whenever it appears. Until then, you really should check out his YouTube page and bask in some of his other gorgeous videos.
[ Read in Japanese ]