Hot-air balloon festivals are fun to watch and fun to shoot, especially when you are able to capture those great pictures of hot air balloons taking off. And it’s no wonder: The balloons are so big, bright and beautiful, and the early-day light is so dynamic. Still, success hinges on planning.
Ballooning Festival 2a
© Kerry Drager
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Strategy for Capturing Those Great Pictures of Hot Air Balloons Taking Off
Get there early. Arriving when the "gates" open allows time to scout out things in a casual, pre-event atmosphere. You'll appreciate this strategy later, when the action is happening oh-so-very fast.
Incidentally, most spectators and photographers gather near the easy-to-reach main “stage,” but excellent balloons can also launch from the less-hectic fringes. Besides great colors, look for balloons with funny designs, slogans, and shapes. Be ready to catch crews in action, including the heating-up-the-air process that creates a mini-“fireworks” display during inflation. You may even want to ask crew members if you can poke your camera inside their backlit balloon.
What To Shoot Besides Pictures of Hot Air Balloons Taking Off
Besides great colors, look for balloons with funny designs, slogans, and shapes. Be ready to catch crews in action, including the heating-up-the-air process that creates a mini-“fireworks” display during inflation. You may even want to ask crew members if you can poke your camera inside their backlit balloon.
Great surroundings? Then include the scenery as a backdrop. Ponds or lakes nearby? Watch for reflections.
What To Take for the Best Chance of Getting Great Pictures of Hot Air Balloons Taking Off
Don’t leave any lens behind! A telephoto or zoom lets you fill the picture frame with a splash of color and allows you to compress space by making balloons appear closer together than they really are. With a wide-angle, you can combine a close-up foreground with far-off balloons for a so-called "sense of place."
Pack any accessories you have, too. For instance, a polarizing filter can boost colors by reducing unwanted glare and by beefing up a pale-blue sky.
Remember the No. 1 balloon festival "rule": At any given minute, the best and brightest balloon is ALMOST ALWAYS rising too far away to shoot!
For information ... To Find balloon festivals and races in your area, go to: Search the Internet. Consult visitors bureaus, magazine listings, events calendars. Check local advertisements.
For inspiration ... See BetterPhoto.com’s exciting Pictures of Hot Air Balloons Taking Off gallery.
About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager
The content manager and course advisor for BetterPhoto.com, Kerry Drager is also the co-author (with Jim Miotke) of two books: The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography (2011) and The BetterPhoto Guide to Photographing Light (2012). In addition, he teaches photography online at BetterPhoto's digital photography school. See his instructor bio and list of courses...
Be sure to check out Kerry's Pro BetterPholio website - www.kerrydrager.com.
Also, he is the author of Scenic Photography 101, the photographer of the photo-essay books The Golden Dream: California from Gold Rush to Statehood and California Desert , a contributor to the books BetterPhoto Basics and Daybreak 2000, and a co-photographer of Portrait of California. In addition, Kerry was profiled in the April 1994 issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine and in Vik Orenstein's 2010 book The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business, and his website was showcased in the January 2003 issue of Shutterbug magazine. Plus, his work has appeared in magazines, Hallmark cards and Sierra Club calendars, and in advertising campaigns for American Express and Sinar Bron Imaging.
Also see his Visual Creativity photography blog, and follow Kerry on Facebook.
Kerry lives with his wife, Mary, in the country near Sacramento, California, with their six Newfoundland dogs, four cats, two horses, and a mixed terrier.