The Challenges and Joys of Photographing Hot Air Balloons

Balloons are Eye-Candy

One Colorful Hot Air Balloon on the ground, being filled with air, while others are nearby in the sky.

When making photos that tell a story, I think it’s important to show a sense of place. ©Kit Frost

This image shows a beautiful red striped hot air balloon and a background of spires and mesas in Valley of the Gods, red rocks of Utah

By showing a hot air balloon being filled for launch, as well as the spires of Valley of the Gods, we give the viewer a sense of place and story. ©Kit Frost

Two Patterns of color in Hot Air Balloons with blue sky,  Valley of the Gods, Utah Red Rocks

In this third image, the balloon is almost ready for lift-off, and we can see another balloon in the blue sky.

When I think of Hot Air Balloons, the first thing that comes to my mind is color.  The multi-colored balloons are fun to watch, the sound of the gas heating up the balloons is seductive and enjoyable. What comes to mind for you?

What to see and do at the Bluff Balloon Festival

A hot air balloon casts a heart shaped shadow on the cliff walls below.  Twin Buttes, Bluff, Utah

As a hot air balloon floats overhead I waited until the cast shadow fell on Twin Rocks in Bluff, Utah. Broken Heart? Love on the Rocks? “Right Place,Right Time” ©Kit Frost

This past weekend (January 17-19, 2014) marked the Annual Bluff, Utah, Balloon Festival.  The schedule was full of fun things to do, good eats, great chili, Navajo children’s music and dance performances, an arts & crafts bazaar, and, of course, balloons everywhere.

I taught a group of Photographers how to capture these subjects, and to learn a few simple techniques for photographing moving subjects. In addition, while the balloons were grounded (they fly early and late each day), we explored Anasazi Petroglyphs, Grand Landscape, Sunrise, and Sunset.


At the campsite, Cadillac Ranch RV Park, watching the early “risers’ launch their hot air balloons. At the Bluff Balloon Festival, Bluff Utah.  that’s my rig on the far left.  The balloon festival is a sell-out in the small town of Bluff.

A Great place to camp: Cadillac Ranch RV Park, Bluff Utah.  Tim and Diana are wonderful hosts, and I served breakfast each morning to the photo workshop participants, at the dinette in my camper.  And later each day, coffee at Cafe Chase the Light:  my camper.

Right Place, Right Time, Right Moment to Click the Shutter

A favorite lesson for my students: learning to be at the right place, at the right time can be easy, but pressing the Shutter Release to make the photo can be challenging.

Here are a few examples of being precise, and anticipating your compositions when subjects are moving.

As a Hot Air Balloon approaches Red Rock in Utah, the sun casts a shadow on the cliff walls.

As this balloon was floating closer and closer to the Twin Rocks, I anticipated a cool photograph with the basket at the right moment. ©Kit FrostBy being prepared for anything, it’s possible to anticipate, and cheer as your subject falls into place.

A hot air balloon looks like it's going to land on the Twin Rocks in Bluff. Learn to anticipate and be open for surprises too.

A hot air balloon looks like it’s going to land on the Twin Rocks in Bluff. Learn to anticipate and be open for surprises too.

But the real gem, was when the balloon cast a shadow on the Twin Rocks, is this heartbreak or love?

A hot air balloon casts its shadow on Red Rock Buttes in Utah, creating a broken heart or love on the rocks.

Heartbreak or Love on the Rocks? What do you think? Only two balloons cast their fast-moving shadows. ©Kit Frost

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