Just about ten days ago I went over to Page, Arizona to see the Lake Powell Balloon Regatta. Well, I'll make this quick, I didn't get the pictures that I really wanted. I didn't know the lay of the land well, and well, I had another opportunity to pursue instead.
As you can see from some of the images, I got to fly, and make that twice. During the first pilot meeting, I got an offer to crew a balloon, and fly for free. So, obviously, I took them up on that offer. Riding on a hot air balloon as a passenger can get pricey. In Colorado, it's about $200-$250. I know that flying with Rainbow Riders during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is $450. Since I got to fly twice, I sure did get a lot of value from this trip even if I didn't get any winning photos.
Lesson here is: If you want to fly for free, volunteer to crew a balloon. Though, I must mention that crew sizes vary. Because I helped crew a small balloon, I had a good chance of flying. There were only four of us total (three on one day) on most days. Other crews can have up to ten people so, if the pilot did allow a volunteer to fly, chances are slim.
The kind people I got to fly with were a couple from Europe, Jackie (pilot), and Hans (chase crew). They were on a 3 month long road trip participating in balloon festivals. They had a unique setup with a collapsible basket; it really did draw the attention of the other ballooners, as most baskets typically are not made to break down. They were able to fit everything into a van whereas others need a trailer in addition to their vehicle.
The area around Page, Arizona makes for a good flying experience. You've got Lake Powell to the north, Horseshoe Bend to the southwest, and Antelope Canyon to the east. Seeing things from above does provide a different perspective, however, it's a little difficult for photos in my opinion. A good opportunity for photos is if the pilot dips down into Antelope Canyon. When I say Antelope Canyon, it's not the parts where tourists go through. Because this was Jackie's first time in Page, she didn't know about the canyon on our first flight, and on the second flight we only got to spend about 30 seconds in the canyon (should've launched further north but, who can ultimately tell where the wind goes?).
Next year, I will have to do a better job. I noticed that there is a large rock in the middle of the golf course many of the balloons launch from. Some observers setup there, and I believe that it should provide a good vantage point for my photos. Also, if I do get the opportunity to fly again, I'll just have to hope I can get some pictures from within the canyon, and especially of another balloon.
In the meantime, I'm hoping for some good email exchanges. We'll see where those go though... Take a look at the photos I got below. I hope to get some real winners next year!