Chasing Hot Air (Balloons)

Discussion in 'Scenic, Architecture, and Travel' started by ddekadt, Jun 22, 2016.

  1. ddekadt

    ddekadt Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Central California
    Last weekend I took a trip two hours north of Boston to a small village in Vermont called Quechee with a small group of buddies from the Boston Area Photography Meetup Group. Every year the village hosts a hot air balloon festival, boasting dawn and dusk flights that are apparently extremely fun and scenic. Our goal, however, was to stay on the ground, and catch the ~25 balloons in flight, first on Friday evening, and then on Saturday morning.

    I was armed with my tiny E-M5 (mk 1), the Olympus m.Zuiko 75mm f1.8, the Olympus Zuiko 11-22mm f2.8-3.5, and a sturdy tripod, we set up camp at a river bend. Once again, my little M43 exceeded my abilities -- any weakness in the photographs is purely down to my own artistic and technical limitations.

    Photographing hot air balloons is a challenge. Not because they are "hard to shoot" -- once in the sky the balloons are pretty simple and beautiful photographic objects in their own right. Rather, it is quite a challenge to predict their likely flight patterns and find good spots on those paths to capture things like reflections, or front- or side-lighting. Indeed, one doesn't know whether they will fly at all until shortly before the launch.

    To this end, we arrived a few hours before the 6pm scheduled flight on Friday to scout out locations and nab the best ones with our three legged friends. Our spot overlooked a bend in the river, downwind from the launch site. All seemed perfect; the light got warmer and richer as the afternoon passed, so we enjoyed a little afternoon shooting around the river:

    27775006946_4f18f792e3_b.jpg Waiting for Balloons III by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    27775137236_b32d2e72e5_b.jpg Waiting for Balloons I by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    So we waited... watching the sky and horizon for balloons... 6pm came and went... nothing... We assumed the winds must have changed and scuppered the flight. I took a quick drive to the village -- and there they were, unfurled on the grass, but not inflated... We waited a bit more. And then came the shout -- balloons! The launch had been delayed to 7pm.

    But we were not yet in luck; the flight path was not as predicted! After a brief assessment, we got in our cars and raced to an alternative spot we had scouted out earlier. En route we found a perfect stretch of lawn aside the river, overlooking the launch site. It was a private property, but the generous owners let us set up camp and shoot for a good half an hour, watching the balloons launch and fly both past us and over us:

    27151221493_106116b770_b.jpg Low take-off by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    27774322675_6d7559296f_b.jpg Backlit by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    27150258404_fb33aa905b_b.jpg Fireball by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    27728238076_f2921f209d_b.jpg Turning up the heat by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    Thoroughly satisfied with the outcome of the day (given our initial fear that the flight was cancelled and our sudden realization that our spot was not going to work), we settled down to a good dinner and an early night.

    Up at 4:30am on Saturday, we made our way back to the village to secure prime spots on the Quechee covered bridge for the 6am flight. We were first to arrive, but by 6am the bridge was crowded with photographers and people there to watch the flight. Promptly the balloon show began, and the pilots like to show off by skimming the river:

    27661946542_cd00596ac0_b.jpg Skimming by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    But some of the balloons don't really need their pilots to show off:
    27797213466_455166dff0_b.jpg Untitled by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    27529970340_c44c743f18_b.jpg Burst by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    Toward the end of the launch, it struck us that the balloons were likely following the path we had anticipated the night before. We raced to our cars and drove back to the river bend. Lo and behold, we were right:

    27762837125_cc05a211d1_b.jpg Down river by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    27162595034_253562e523_b.jpg Untitled by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    And a little more skimming:
    27151165503_fd97b4507a_b.jpg Balloon and Kayak by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr

    Well, it was a wonderful 12 hours! Thanks for looking all -- the full rez images are on Flickr, as always. And thanks Quechee, see you next year?
    27151369983_31f6c03109_b.jpg Quechee covered bridge by Dan de Kadt, on Flickr
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  2. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Really nice images.
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  3. Just had a similar event last weekend here in Saratoga County...great opportunity for lots of shooting. Wonder if the event in VT featured a balloon glow in the evening?
  4. ddekadt

    ddekadt Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Central California
    Yes indeed it did. I didn't attend the glow though... :)
  5. missed one of the best parts. The launches are cool, and watching them set up is also. But with a field full of balloons in the dark, when they fire up the burners it's pretty incredible. If your group decides to do this again, they should have an option for a portion of the group to stay later for this. Guaranteed they'll be talking about it next morning...while they search madly for coffee. But they'll have some great shots.
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  6. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Lovely shots. I lived near Boston for three years in the late 90s and as a keen glider/sailplane pilot spent a lot of time up at Sugarbush near Montpelier. I love Vermont - a place of beauty and these shots reminded me of my time there. Thanks for posting.
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  7. ddekadt

    ddekadt Mu-43 Regular Subscribing Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Central California
    Ahh, next time... We had decided before hand to skip it on account of the traffic (which would have meant we wouldn't have gotten to bed until about midnight) and the crowd prevent a good opportunity for a photo. The group is very flexible though so I'm sure a few people did attend. :)
  8. Don't know what kind of a set up area they have there for the crews, but here we are able to walk right out and be right there as they set up and inflate. The crews are usually pretty friendly. At our fairgrounds, there's enough space for everyone to set up and still have room..even with 20 balloons. This allows for a variety of shooting. My preference is just put the Rok 7.5 fisheye on and go with it. Open to f4.0, prefocus at about 4', and just start shooting, because there's a lot of action as each balloon gets inflated. Pretty soon their popping up all around you. Fisheye lets you get in really close, and with the Rokinon, there's actually not as much typical distortion. You can get shots showing the crew and look right up inside the balloon as they hit the burners...very dramatic. I wouldn't miss that for the world. I DO know what you mean about the late to bed part though. I was dragging butt the next day when going back for the morning launch at about 5:30 am.
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  9. chicago8c

    chicago8c Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 9, 2014
    Gorgeous - nice work
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  10. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    I like the way you planned the shots in the field; you deserved your reward.
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  11. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Great shots and very nicely scouted to get those reflections off the river. Gorgeous.
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  12. DWS

    DWS Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 6, 2014
    Excellent composition and processing! :thumbup:
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  13. Good to see the 11-22 in action; I have one coming later this week. Bulky but talented I hear, and the wide shots here look great :)
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