I love hot air balloons – they're a great subject to photograph! Most ballooning events are very photographer friendly and from local events to the Great American Balloon Festival in New Mexico, there is always a ballooning event going on somewhere.
I love OM-Ds for these types of shots. I never know what M.Zuiko lens will be calling my name, so having a wide range in my bag is a must for me. I normally have 4 or 5 lenses with me: M.Zuiko ED 8mm F1.8 Fisheye PRO, M.Zuiko ED 7-14mm F.2.8 PRO, M.Zuiko ED 12-100mm F4.0 IS PRO and M.Zuiko ED 17mm F1.2 PRO.
- Get out early in the morning
- Think about your light
- Lear some local information, so you know the best places to shoot
- Think about placement of your subjects
- Look for unique angles
Ballooners like to fly early in the morning, so that's when you'll be shooting. When you're on "Dawn Patrol," you'll need to bump up your ISO to get the shot.
Light is very important in the morning, so think carefully about the direction you're pointing your camera in. Point north for pretty blue skies, or into the sun for extreme contrast.
Local information is very important and can help you get incredible photos. Look into race times, and local phenomenons - like the "Albuquerque box." This is a wind condition that you get in New Mexico, where in low elevations the winds tend to be southerly but at higher elevations they become northerly. This lets the pilot fly in a giant box, landing the balloon near where it took off from.
And don't forget to let the officials do their jobs - they're there to look out for you!
Shooting the inside of the balloon from the edge of the envelope can lead to great shots. Look for the custom shaped balloons, their insides are much more interesting. It’s good to make contact with the crew before, just to say "hi" and ask if it’s okay to photograph inside the balloon. Sometimes this can be handled with the tip of the head and a show of the camera. They have to flip that basket up at some point and you don’t want to be behind it when they do, so it’s good for the crew to know you're there.
Look at your placement of the balloons, and don’t be afraid to isolate your subject.
Make sure to look around for other interesting shots - other elements besides the balloons. This is the New Mexico Mounted Search and Rescue. They were awesome! I shot this with Dynamic tone Black and White setting.
Think about placement of your subjects. You will normally have time to move around and re-compose the shot. The balloons move pretty slowly until they're off the ground.
Look for unique angles and don’t forget to include the sky! This will help tell your story.
If you pay attention to launch control, it easy to get in to the flow!
Make sure to have fun shooting!
ABOUT ALEX MCCLURE
Alex McClure, an avid photographer for over 30 years, joined the Olympus Trailblazer program in 2013. Alex works to achieve his stated goal to “make beautiful photographs that inspire and motivate people” through his nature, commercial and fine art photography.