It’s that time of year again! End of school, start of summer, Father’s Day and the annual hot air balloon festival in Quechee, Vermont.
Now in its 37 year, the Annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon Craft and Music Festival will be held on Fathers Day Weekend – June 17th, 18th, 19th, 2016.
The longest continuously running Hot Air Balloon Festival in New England features over 20 hot air balloons, with 5 flights, over 60 craft artisans and commercial vendors. Children’s activities, festival food, a beer and wine garden!
- Gates open at 3PM on Friday and at 5:30AM on Saturday and Sunday!
- PARKING INCLUDED IN ADMISSION!
- Only $15.00 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 yrs-12 yrs and free for 5 yrs and under!
- Admission Tickets for the festival grounds are good for the entire weekend.
About Hot Air Balloon Festivals in general
Watch the weather and be ready to wait for the winds to die down. Hot air balloons in the U.S. can only take off in winds of ten miles per hour or less by regulation. If wind speeds exceed this there is no point in going to the site as no launching will occur. Note that in some countries balloons can take off in windy weather.
In the US spectators are allowed to approach the balloons, and many balloonists will allow you to approach very closely. Even though balloons are typically tethered when they are being inflated, there are tremendous forces present. These forces can make approaching too closely dangerous as wind speed increases, so use good judgment and follow ground crew directions carefully.
Balloons do not normally take-off in the afternoon since wind speeds and gusts are normally higher in the afternoon than at sunrise. They also do not take off if there are thunderstorms within 50 miles of the launch site.
I’ve been to the Quechee Hot Air Balloon fest once where there was no wind at all and some of the balloons actually landed back down on the launch field! I’ve been to another one with more wind and the balloons were out of site very quickly! Best to plan to be at all the launching during the weekend. Don’t think you’ll just show up at the last one of the weekend – it might get cancelled due to weather.
What does it feel like to be in the middle of a hot air balloon launch?
Tips for Hot Air Balloon Photography
Its extremely difficult to take bad photographs at a hot air balloon festival! I mean seriously folks! Usually the launches are at the golden hours of the day – early morning or evening. The subject is BIG, COLORFUL and FUN! The background is typically blue sky or puffy clouds. That said here are some tips.
- Things happen very quickly during launch and landing and you need to know how to operate your camera and be prepared to adjust quickly to changing light or opportunities. Mobility is important. Forget your landscape skills like shooting manual, mirror lockup, manual focus, timer remote, … They won’t help you.
- Arrive early when the balloons are just starting to be set up. This will allow you to view the balloons as they arrive and select one or two attractive ones to focus on. If you are shooting commercially you may need model releases for any identifiable people. Editorial use like for a newspaper is ok.
- If any balloons have annoying advertising on them, try to purchase a ticket for THAT balloon. This way all of your photographs will include all of the other balloons.
More Tips for Photographing Hot Air Balloons
- DON’T GET IN THE WAY OR HEAVEN FORBID STEP ON A BALLOON!
- Limit your photography to a small number of balloons and follow them through the flight process. I prefer yellow or orange colored balloons as these colors complement blue skies, and look best during the balloon glow.
- Leave the tripod at home unless you are shooting video. You need to be mobile to get the best angle and to get out of the way of the balloons.
- If the flights occur right at sunrise you might need to boost your ISO to keep your shutterspeed fast.
- Get in close. Shoot some abstract shots. Shoot some details. Its only electrons. Bring a big SD card and fill it up!
- Normal zooms work best during the launch and landing. For shots of balloons in the air a long telephoto is best. Move around to compose and look for the best light. Pack light so you aren’t saddled down with a bunch of equipment. If you are busy changing lenses, you will miss the take offs.
Even more photography tips for Balloon Festivals:
- Shoot from low so you can, you can eliminate extraneous background by doing so.
- Use a polarizer to improve blue skies and eliminate glare. Blue skies can easily be improved using a digital polarizing filter, and glare sometimes reduced with a digital haze filter. Digital enhancing filters can also improve the yellows and reds effectively.
- Try shooting some backlit shots by placing the sun behind a balloon. Even though balloons move slowly in the sky, you’ll need to work fast and anticipate where the sun will be.
- Include the surroundings. Look for framing elements.
- At the Balloon Glow event light levels will be low. Boost your ISO to 1600 and use a tripod or monopod.
- If you go on several nights, look for other vantage points. Everyone is shooting at the launch site. What about a more scenic area near the festival which would be enhanced with a colorful balloon in the scene? It all depends on the wind but many balloons like to dip in nearby water as a thrill to the passengers.