Balloon Festival Photography Lessons, Bluff Utah

A last minute adventure this past weekend to the Bluff Balloon Festival proved easy.  The Desert Rose Inn in Bluff had a few cancellations and I grabbed a room.  Very nice accommodations.  I usually stay at the Recapture Lodge in Bluff, but Jim and Luanne took the month of January off this year and closed the Lodge.  The Desert Rose was new (about 15 years old) and although I had to air out my linens from the strong scent of cleaner, I was comfortable. In the past, Zazi, my lab, would travel with me. Since she died I have explored some places where dogs are not allowed.  National Park trails, motels with NO PETs, etc.

Arizona Strip Workshop-11

I left Durango around 11am and arrived in Bluff for some late afternoon photography near Twin Rocks and spent a few hours along Comb Ridge, photographing sunset light hitting the walls of the Ridge.  The Bluff Balloon Festival’s after dark GLOW was scheduled for later so I  left the Comb in time to enjoy Saturday night in downtown Bluff. .  And I wasn’t disappointed in the glow.  Although difficult to photograph, the light glowing from the balloons was fun.  The pilots took turns lighting up their tethered balloons with the help of a count down.  So photography, although limited was enjoyable.  I did occasionally run and warm up in the car, as the temps were tipping 5 degrees. I planned to be up at sunrise to drive out to Valley of the Gods for the early launch so I hit the Desert Rose shortly after a few grab shots of the balloons.  The Bluff festival is small and there were about 10 balloons at the glow.  A big change for those of you who have witnessed the nearby Albuquerque Balloon Festival.

The morning launch was after sunrise in the Valley of the Gods, about 20 miles west of Bluff.  I love the Valley of the Gods, often camp there and the drive through the Comb Ridge is always a treat.  For photographing the balloons against the red rock formations in Valley of the Gods, I thought the wide angle lens would be the ticket.  My favorite lens is my Nikon 16-85 mounted on either a D300 or D5100 body.  But I found that in order to really accentuate the balloons it was best to photograph with the Nikon 55-300 lens.  The compression that long telephotos achieve was just the ticket for adding impact to the photos.

While waiting for the balloons to launch, I picked a location that would have a sweet rock formation too. ©Kit Frost

While waiting for the balloons to launch, I picked a location that would have a sweet rock formation too. I enjoy the sound of the fans filling up the balloons with air, followed by the sound of the bursts of gas heating up the interior, then the passengers load up and we have liftoff. ©Kit Frost

Photographing the balloons without a sense of place doesn't really work for me. ©Kit Frost

Photographing the balloons without a sense of place doesn’t really work for me. ©Kit Frost

Full compression of the 55-300 lens.  The background sure appears closer and the composition is fun too. ©Kit Frost

Full compression of the 55-300 lens. The background appears closer and by isolating the subjects against a shady part of the far wall, the basket stands out.  Compare this to a balloon and basket against blue sky. ©Kit Frost

Valley of Gods Balloons-5

You can see the wind blowing the balloon to the left.  Shortly after making this photo, all the balloons were tethered to wait own the wind.  ©Kit Frost

You can see the wind blowing the balloon to the left. Shortly after making this photo, all the balloons were tethered to wait out the wind. And many pilots landed and packed up to leave. The color of the basket is close to the color of the red rock, so not much separation of tones in the image.  But I waited for just the moment when the balloon on the right was between two buttes to press the shutter. ©Kit Frost

By using the Nikon 55-300 lens I was able to create frames that compressed the background buttes and spires.  The balloons, then appear closer to the mesa. ©Kit Frost

By using the Nikon 55-300 lens I was able to create frames that compressed the background buttes and spires. The balloons, then appear closer to the mesa. When working with pairs of balloons I had to photograph quickly.  It was a windy morning so they flew high above the spires in a few moments.

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