Oh, boy, it has been over a month since the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, and I hadn’t made a blog post about it yet. Until now. Why the delay? I don’t really have a good excuse other than the event made me super-exhausted and I just couldn’t be bothered to do anything more with it once it ended. Keep in mind that my photography for these balloon events are not financially motivated yet (I would certainly like to be paid but that’s not happening) so I have zero obligations to really get this kind of stuff done right away. But, that’s just lazy so, I can’t really say that there was much reason for holding this off.
If you’re here for photos, just skip right on down to the bottom! Once again, proof-reading is a thing of the past! Hopefully I don’t have any huge spelling/grammatical errors.
Crewing for Rainbow Ryders
For a good majority of the Balloon Fiesta, I was crewing for Rainbow Ryders, the official balloon ride company of the festival. What this meant was that I didn’t have a camera in hand for many of the days. Most of the pictures you see here were taken during less than half of the Fiesta days. Could I have not crewed for Rainbow Ryders, and taken pictures instead? Certainly. But, I need money, and my photography ain’t paying for my bills (yet), and I’m still ballooning so these kinds of gigs work out nicely. There was also the added bonus of having free access to the Fiesta instead of paying everyday.
Rainbow Ryders is ran/operated by a great group of people, and I’m glad to have met them. One of the pilots, Sheldon Grauberger, pilots for them only during Balloon Fiesta. And it was this gentleman that really got me into ballooning. If you ever want to meet this amazing balloon pilot yourself, take a flight with him over Lake Tahoe! (Website) Secondly, there was my great crew partner, Jon, who was so patient with my shenanigans.
Also, once again, I crewed for the ever-so-lovely, Janet Soffera’s “Vacation”. Janet’s a great pilot, and is always a pleasure to crew for. She, and Robert really take good care of me, and I always appreciate them. Additionally, I had the great fortune of being able to hop on board with Janet on the last day of flying during the Fiesta. What a great experience it was!
Is the Balloon Fiesta that great?
In short, yes it is that great. However, the Balloon Fiesta isn’t the be-all end-all festival in ballooning. In fact, I don’t think that the Balloon Fiesta is the best event to photograph. There are many challenges that photographers face photographing these hot air balloons.
This year’s Fiesta saw over 650 unique balloons. That’s a lot of balloons, and that’s too many to choose from for us photographers. Furthermore, that sheer number of balloons guarantees that some of them will be blocking the good light from others. While you’re photographing, you will notice that a rather mobile “cloud” starts shading everything you’re trying to take a picture of. Good light is critical for good photos, and having that light obscured by other balloons starts posing an issue.
The second big obstacle is the prominent mountain range right next to Albuquerque, the Sandias. During Balloon Fiesta, liftoff time is at sunrise. Sunrise is behind the Sandias. So that means that there’s no direct light as the first balloons takeoff. You can turn up the ISO on your camera to compensate for the lack of exposure but, you’re looking at a rather flat picture with dulled colors. Most unfortunate, indeed. Often times, I have to wait about 45 minutes after the first balloons takeoff before the sunlight hits the field.
Lastly, as you will see in my photos, sometimes the weather just isn’t cooperative. This Fiesta was met with many grey days. That doesn’t make flying impossible but, it does make our photos look a bit less desirable. There were also a few days where no flying was possible at all. I met many visitors who only came in just for one day only to have the event canceled due to weather. Oh well, it happens. That’s why I will always recommended clearing out as many days as possible to participate in a balloon festival.
Enough talk! PHOTOS! Take a look, starting with my favorite image of the festival!