Have you ever seen the sky literally filled with hot air balloons? From cows, to Darth Vader, to cartoon characters and more, the Albuquerque Balloon Festival presents the worlds largest collection of hot air balloons each year for a week in October (for details see www.balloonfiesta,com). Along with the balloons, you'll be entertained with music and laser light shows.
Arrive early to see the the test balloons go up just before dawn. We got up at 4am to get to the launch area in time to see the first balloons launch. It is a great scene and you are allowed to walk throughout the launch field to get very close to the balloons and the launch crews. If conditions are favorable, over the next hour hundreds of colorful balloons will scatter across the early morning sky, drifting where the winds take them. If conditions are perfect (as they often are) the balloons catch natural wind currents that allow them to circle the launch area. What you'll likely miss are the chase teams racing to get to their designated balloon as it lands. Some end up in the river and many on private property with restricted access. Watch the evening news for some of the landing stories of the day.
If you get there early and plan on photographing the launches understand that the sky will be very dark to start with. A tripod or a higher ISO setting will be required to get these shots. The balloons will be bright against the dark sky so expose for the balloons. As the sun rises the light bounces beautifully off of the balloons and lower ISO's and shutter speeds will work. Composition options abound. Get some wide shots of the balloon filled sky, then work on select compositions like the one above with the friendly cow in the foreground that moves beyond the grand shot. You'll have so much fun that you'll forget how early you got up to do all of this.
Scott Kemper is a landscape and travel photographer based in Arizona. His work has been published around the world in magazines, calendars, newspapers, and for business advertising. Scott recently began offering select images as wall art for home or business. If you have questions you can reach Scott through his website www.kemperimagery.com.