Hot Air Balloons: 750 ft above the Willamette Valley

After shooting the Northwest Art & Air show – I was pining to get some shots from a balloon.  As it turns out – a friend from work is a hot air balloon pilot –and he offered a ride in his balloon in exchange for some crew hours.

So, on a beautiful September morning, at 6:30AM – we met at Tangent Elementary – the site of the Tangent Harvest Festival – where another 3 or so balloons were launching that air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-1

First thing – I grabbed some leather gloves – and helped unpack and inflate the balloon.  Then it was about 60 minutes of flight hot air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-2– and after landing in a farmer’s field – we packed it all up.  At the brunch following the flight (good food!) – I was treated to the first flight ritual.  I think this practice changes a bit from group-to-group – so I won’t post any spoilers here.

As for the photography – I’ve not had much aerial shooting experience.  My thoughts going in was to look for interesting features, buildings, and patterns.  If later I decided to deviate from the plan – at least I started with a plan.

So, how did I do?  Well – patterns are more difficult to shoot than it sounds.  My warehouse images were pretty boring.  And farm animals – really – how many more farm animal pictures does the world  need?  OK – there’s likely room for a few more – but I’m not sure they’re going to come from my camera.

Bottom line: I need more practice shooting from the air.  hot air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-5

As obvious as it may sound – it’s different up there.  Shooting straight down requires  good composition – as it will likely be a “flat” image – without a lot of depth / layers.  Contrast will help tell your story.  Horizon / landscape shots also require care – a mountain is still a mountain regardless if you’re at sea level or 1000 feet up.  What additional interesting element is going to entertain your audience?

Lenses?  Started with the 24mm for launch – but quickly swapped over to the 70-200mm f/4L.  I didn’t put the polarizer on as I wasn’t shooting much sky in my images – though looking back at the session – I’d likely try it if there were a “next time”.

Bottom line 2: If you get the chance to go up in a hot air balloon – and heights don’t concern you – go for it.

hot air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-3

hot air balloons - Tangent Harvest Festival 2009-8

One thought on “Hot Air Balloons: 750 ft above the Willamette Valley”

  1. or you can find me at – which may be more appropriate because I am posting this EVERYWHERE… sharing on twitter and facebook, and will likely come back to dreamily stare at your beautiful photos.

    Thank you so much for this…. your skill and talent at your art highlights and presents the Willamette Valley in an amazing light for the whole world to enjoy. Truly some of the greatest shots I have seen… well done, and thanks!

    Michael H.
    Online Concierge
    The Allison Inn & Spa


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