Hot Air Balloons; Fun Without Ever Leaving The Ground!

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Hot Air Balloons at night

Hot Air Balloons at night

Who knew that you could have so much fun with Hot Air Balloons without ever leaving the ground? Well I guess I already knew that but it made for a good title for this blog post didn’t it? Of course the “Gold Standard” for any Hot Air Balloon gathering is in Albuquerque, New Mexico every October, which I was fortunate to go to over 15 years ago. “Back in the day” I shot gobs and gobs of slide film and photographed the spectacle from every angle that you can imagine, the only angle I didn’t get was from the air! I would shoot “gobs and gobs” of film as insurance that I might have gotten a few good shots. This time I would be shooting with pixels and thanks to the digital age, able to instantly see the shots that I was getting. Also I know (after shooting gobs and gobs for years and years) that sometimes less is more and now I don’t need to go hog wild shooting tons of images – I had a vision in my mind and that is what I was going to focus on.

 

Zia Balloon

Zia Balloon

 

This past weekend a friend invited me to go with he and his two young boys to a local “Fall Balloon Festival” here in Scottsdale. Having seen “The Best of The Best” in Albuquerque years ago I thought to myself; “How good could this be?” Well I am happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived and I saw an entire football field filled with deflated Hot Air Balloons just waiting to come to life. When fall arrives here in the desert the outdoor events are too numerous to count and are very popular since people are more than ready to be outside after such a long hot summer of being stuck in their air conditioned houses.

The festival was very crowded which concerned me a bit since I would have my tripod in tow and that would make me a 5-legged creature and 5-legged creatures generally don’t fare well in large crowds. I opted for my lightweight tripod with carbon fiber legs and quick-release ball head that doubled as my backpacking tripod for years. I quickly realized that if I worked “smart” here at the festival it would not be a problem, I would make this work.

 

"Fill'er up!

"Fill'er up!

In addition to my tripod I was “armed” with my small “day” camera bag to carry my Tamron 10-24mm as well as my Tamron 18-270mm, so I had all of my bases covered for an event that called for both wide and detail shots. As the sun sank below the horizon the magic was about to happen – the glowing balloons were capturing everyone’s attention. The night was shaping up to be gorgeous, the stars starting to shine with a beautiful crescent moon elegantly hanging in the sky. The light fall breeze felt so good after such a hot summer and now it was “Show Time” for me and the balloons! I moved easily through the crowds, in and out of bumble bee balloons, a spider pig balloon and a butterfly balloon – I felt like Alice in Wonderland walking through this colorful “forest” of magical balloons. I staked out my first shooting spot and started with some wide angle shots with the Tamron 10-24mm then switched to the Tamron 18-270mm to move in for some detail – both of these lenses were perfect for this occasion; lightweight and they gave me all of the variety in focal lengths that I needed.

 

Wide Angle Fun

Wide Angle Fun

I found that the crowds of people that I was so concerned about ended up working out well for my photos, except of course when one gentlemen so mesmerized by the glow of the balloons ran right into me….oppss…no harm done, we both laughed it off.  The people helped add scale and interest to my photos in addition to some fun  shadows and movement. It was a great evening and I was really happy with the photos that I came away with. Best of all I kept my gear to a lightweight minimum and that enabled me to get in and out of crowds more quickly and get to the places that I needed to be. There’s definitely something to be said for keeping it simple when it comes to camera gear and those of you that know me know that I am ALL ABOUT keeping it simple! Oh and I am happy to report that I didn’t go hog wild with the pixels either, I shot about 260 frames over the course of a couple of hours and came away with many keepers!

Enjoy the great fall weather wherever you are even though some of you have already gotten that “pesky white stuff” aka SNOW over the weekend……at least I don’t have to shovel sunshine and I will take that any day! And speaking of snow, that means “you know what”, yup “The Holidays” are right around the corner. For a limited time I am offering FREE SHIPPING on all of my Matted & Signed 5×7 Fine Art Photographs in my Gift Shop – there are over 30 to choose from and ordering is so easy….just click a few buttons and “viola” you can cross a few names off of your holiday shopping list!

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