Durango's annual Snowdown festival was just last week. I attended, sort of, over the weekend for the balloon ascensions, and none of the drinking (because I'm boring). Durango is a lengthy 6.5 hour drive from Denver, and many reasonable people would make the drive on the Friday before. But, no, I had a cunning plan.
I didn't want to pay for two nights staying in a hotel, and so I decided to make the drive Friday night, at 11 o' clock PM, and get there Saturday morning. I'll be present at both balloon ascensions, and only spend one night. Genius, I tell you! Well, I'm sure that you can imagine how whacked my sleep schedule became after that but, let's move onto the balloons.
The balloons flew. Exciting, right? Sarcasm aside, the festival was a bit different from what I had expected. Seeing the winter festival titled: "Snowdown", I was expecting something that was oddly not present. Snow. There was no snow.
If I wanted to photograph scenery that wasn't green, I could go to one of the festivals in Arizona, or New Mexico. Seeing Durango's mainly brown palette shattered my vision for photographing balloons against the white snow, and mountains. The launch field was brown, and dull yellow. The mountains were just... brown (okay, there are pine trees that are a dark green but, they didn't add much). And there wasn't any notable feature to put the balloons against. I don't know what you guys would do but, I was stuck. I saw nothing appealing about the area.
Anyway, it's like I came back with nothing. I just came back with a lot less than I wanted. I did try for composition that would hide the ugly scenery, however, these perspectives aren't unique. You can get these anywhere. Fortunately, I had the pilots, and crew inside of the balloons. I know it's common for these people to be inside but, I rarely am there to witness it. So, having two instances of the crew inside was nice.
The rest of the shots from the ground were honestly uninspiring. On Sunday though, I had the great fortune of being able to fly while crewing for a balloon, and its pilot, Rick. It's always a fun experience to fly, even if I don't snap many pictures. There were a few potential shots that I could've gotten, however, I only boarded with the 24-70mm lens, and I needed a 70-200mm. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, so, I'm not going to agonize over it.
There was one memorable moment from the flight. While we were floating around, I noticed a balloon below us rising quickly, and heading towards us. The pilot of that balloon didn't see us above, and was on a collision course! I immediately got Rick's attention, and he held down on the burner, and barely managed to keep us above the other balloon. I would guess that we were clear by about fifteen feet or so. Knowing how large these balloons are, that was basically getting by on the skin of our teeth. Rick said that he had never had a close encounter like that at a small festival.
Aside from my lackluster photo experience, I did get to have good conversation with a few of the pilots. I'm hoping that I've made enough of an impression for them to remember me down the line, and that may hopefully give me some better opportunities.
Afterwards, I drove back home, and spent time with my family watching the Superbowl. I'm going be frank though, and say that the only bowl I care about is the one with the guacamole.
You can see the pictures that I got from the festival below: