I have discovered a secret about myself. I love shooting hot air balloons! You might think the idea of a photographer loving to shoot a subject—any subject—would be redundant. After all why would I bother staring through a camera lens, if I don’t love what I do? But here is the secret I’ve discovered: loving what I do and loving what I shoot are two very different things.
I’ve loved hot air balloons ever since I was a toddler, but I had never been able to ride one until my husband’s and my Colorado vacation this year. It was an amazing experience punctuated by the feeling of watching the world pass around me in slow motion. Our balloon’s landing in a cactus field did nothing to curb my enthusiasm and the addiction was sealed when I finally viewed my beautiful photos from the flight.
Those balloon photos are still some of the most popular photos I’ve ever circulated so when the 2011 Big Bend Balloon Bash (BBBB) was announced for Labor Day Weekend in Alpine, Texas, I knew I had to go. Instead of two hot air balloons for my camera to play with, there would be 18! The event was a small pleasure event rather than a full-scale competition which meant the entire atmosphere at the Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport was refreshing and relaxing: perfect ingredients for gorgeous photography. I contacted the BBBB coordinators to see if they needed an event photographer and was enthusiastically invited to participate.
Saturday’s weather was perfect balloon flying weather. The National Anthem was played and pilots began unrolling their envelopes* at 7:30AM. AT 8:05AM, the first balloon “Too Much Fun” lifted into the air. Several other balloons followed suit and the pale morning sky soon began to fill with color.
By 8:20AM, my assigned chase crew was yelling for me to hurry inside the van and then we were off to track down our flying balloon across the Texas countryside. I shot as many photos as I could while we bounced over the country roads during the next hour’s chase of our balloon. When our balloon finally landed in a pasture several miles from the airport, it took all six of the chase crew, passengers, and pilot to gather up the envelope and stow it with the basket, cables, propane tanks, and burners inside the van. I thought we would surely blow out a tire on the rough terrain as we made our way over stone pastureland and dirt roads back to the main highway. Fortunately, I was proved wrong.
By 10:00AM our van arrived still intact at the airport and I shot photos of four first time balloon flyers being initiated during the traditional champagne toast. The toast proved a bit different than my own initiation in July. Whereas I had merely toasted my pilot and crew with a flute of expensive bubbly, the four initiates that I watched through my camera lens had to drink their alcohol without the use of hands while their balloon pilot poured cold beverage down their backs. Still their initiation was mild compared to the ceremony of a first time certified pilot. He had to kneel and slurp his champagne from a cup amidst the deluge of two beers, three sodas, a bottle of champagne, and a 30 gallon ice chest. Saturday’s festivities were finished off with an old-fashioned cookout and lots of good gossip.
While Saturday dawned to perfect weather, Sunday and Monday proved too windy for safe flying. Even though my possible photos of the event were whittled down to one day, I still shot some amazing photos and even managed to deepen my addiction of hot air balloons.
Hopefully I can release my photos to the general public for purchase within the month. Right now my gracious event hosts have first dibs. I have all of the event photos listed in the password-protected “Clients Only” Gallery for now, but I promise to send out an announcement once I do release the BBBB photos for general purchase. Until that time, I will be busy uploading several wonderful carnival photos to the “Objects” and “Human Nature” Galleries. Enjoy and please visit the official website at www.bigbendballoonbash.com for more information about this event.
Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!
[ O*] Alycia
*Envelope is a term used for the balloon-shaped material portion of a hot air balloon that fills with hot air and allows the entire apparatus to fly.