Tuesday, September 5, 2017


I treat hot air balloons like very large, colorful, sculptures. So, I apply my usual rules of composition and lighting to create visual interest and three dimensionality. The challenge is that these things are very dynamic and offer several stages in the process from their initial inflation with fans, then the ignition of the big gas burners, bringing the balloon to vertical, followed by lift-off and then the jostling for position as 20 or 30 balloons spring into the air in very quick succession

It’s all very hectic and chaotic and in that first hour, as the balloons launch all around me, I’m constantly turning and shooting as I capture the action unfolding 360 degrees around me. In that first hour I make at least 300 images.

Yeah, some of you are saying, that’s all he takes! Well, all I can say is that I’m very picky about when and where I click the shutter. I rarely do the single balloon image, especially in the air, as I find those rather boring. My favorite photographic challenge is creating compositional layers of multiple balloons. So, I’m always looking for interesting juxtapositional combinations….

f6.3 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 45mm
These two balloons, visiting from Belgium, at our annual Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, are sculptures in cloth! Since they were parked next to each other I circled around them to layer one against the other stopping when I got the nice directional light (when the shadow side of the subject’s face is nearest to the camera…this is called “Short Lighting”) on Yoda’s face.

Here’s another layered composition….

f6.3 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 24mm
Here I circled around to get the, back, side light and captured four balloons! I’ve got the foreground, mid ground and background composition with two balloons in the air; Nice!

I love the duality of hot air balloons.  When going aloft they fly in silence like a kite on the wind and then the gas burner roars to life, breathing fire into it, giving the balloon its primal source of lift.

f7.1 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 24mm
When doing the balloon’s initial heat-up I usually pick a dark colored balloon for this image so the fire will really stand out.

I’m a sucker for backlight…

f9.0 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 70mm
These two balloons were coming back for their landing so I moved towards some trees, for some foreground interest, waited for them to overlap and got them both glowing in backlight. 

This is how I broke my rule against images of single balloons in flight…

f13.0 @ 1/400 SEc., ISO 400; Lens @ 55mm
As the balloons drifted west towards the entrance to Ann Morrison Park (Boise, Idaho) I remembered the fountain! Fortunately, the fountain was OFF, but still full of water, giving me perfectly still water for a perfect reflection making my single balloon a two-shot!

All of these images were taken using my Canon 24-105mm, f4.0, Lens on either my Canon 5D MKII or Canon 70D body. I find this lens gives me the most useful focal lengths for these large subjects and the speed that only a zoom can provide.

’Til next week…Have a question?  Don’t hesitate to ask…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

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