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The Cygnus Project captures near-space images with a Nikon D300s

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Erich Leath and Terry Presley, a pair of Texan photographers, have combined their photography and DIY skills to capture images from near-space. For their first launch, the team paired a Nikon D300s with a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, which were then rigged inside a beer cooler with a plexiglass window. A 20-ft helium weather balloon and parachute were then added, along with a GPS module to track the craft. Thirteen weeks after the project was conceived, the first balloon was released near Lubbock, Texas, and rose for roughly 2.5 hours. However, higher-altitude images suffered from ice build-up on the plexiglass — the pair speculate that at its peak the balloon reached 100,000ft (roughly 19 miles).

The results have been added to Erich's Flickr photostream, along with plenty of details on the construction, launch and future projects they plan to undertake including a plan to get some video footage next time. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, the makeshift shell ensured that the camera was recovered unharmed — impressive for a Wal-Mart beer cooler.