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Advice appreciated - Hot air balloon "night glow"

Travis Hoover , Aug 05, 2008; 12:02 p.m.

I am taking my daughter to the state fairgrounds tonight for a hot air ballon "night glow" event. This is where at dusk they inflate the ballons but do not launch them, so everyone can walk around and gaze and ooh and ahh at the huge illuminated balloons. I am hoping my daughter will have fun and think it's neat, and I think it is an opportunity to get some interesting shots.

I am looking for some advice on settings and gear to take with me. The gear I have is a d40x, sigma 30 1.4, 10-20, 18-50 2.8, 50-150 2.8, and nikon 70-300 VR, and a tripod. I checked with the organizers, and tripods are allowed. People can view the balloons from the grandstands, or they can walk around the infield and get close to the balloons.

The event starts at "dusk", and I plan to get there a bit early to scope out good places to view the balloons from.

As far as gear, I plan to leave the 70-300 at home, since the balloons are not going to be going away from me and I don't think I will need the range. I can manage to take the other lenses, but it would be nice to leave one or even two at home. If you were going to take 2 or 3 of the other 4 lenses with you to something like this, what would you take?

As far as settings, I am just looking for advice on what type of settings to use, where to meter off of, etc. Anything that a novice hobby photographer wouldn't think of!

Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide!

Responses


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Shun Cheung , Aug 05, 2008; 01:07 p.m.

I would try to use existing light as much as possible. A flash will kill the mood for the most part. If your daughter is also in the picture and there isn't enough light on her, maybe add a bit of fill flash. Your wide anlge and the standard 30mm lenses will probably be the most useful ones.

Are there going to be a lot of people? If so, I wonder whether the environment will allow you to use a tripod because that will really slow things down. Plus if the balloons will be moving in the wind, you might not be able to use a very slow shutter speed. Unfortunately, for some of these issues you have to be there to decide what is best approach for the situation.

BW Combs , Aug 05, 2008; 01:09 p.m.

What an opportunity, for you and your daughter!

The best seat in the house for shooting will be walking around among the balloons. Your widest zoom (the 10-20mm) would be great for that. And your longer zoom, the 50-150mm, would be good as well for some details and longer shots.

Count of the tripod as the evening gets darker. I think you could handhold initial shots, not pushing the ISO up too high.

Aperture priority would be good, playing on wide open for some shots and stopping down for others. Also, play with some long exposures in manual, camera movement, etc., to capture some fun, very colorful images.

You're lucky that the organizers will allow you to mingle with the crews. Most festivals like this don't allow this anymore, without a media or VIP pass. Take advantage of it. Have fun!

BW Combs , Aug 05, 2008; 01:15 p.m.

I might add, you might consider a monopod instead of a tripod. Shun has a good point, as the crowd factor might make lugging a three-legged beast a bit more cumbersome.

Joseph Smith , Aug 05, 2008; 01:34 p.m.

You are very fortunate! It is rare that organizers allow photographers on the field for these events.

Many of these events start with sky jumpers or parachutists right around sunset. (not always advertised.) If that is the case, a 70-300mm would be nice to have. If not the case, leave it at home. For the baloon glow, use a good wide and fast zoom lens, like the 18-50 f 2.8, hand held. I would shoot RAW, white balance cloudy, for extra warmth. And aperture priority, meter matrix or center weighted. ISO as low as you can get away with given the shutter speed the lighting/f stop produces. Make sure you have plenty of flash cards with space on them at the critical times. A lot will happen in a very small amount of time.

Try and get some shots near the baloon of the fire from the burner lighting up the inside of the baloon. Then get some shots of the baloon(s) on their side all glowing. Control of backgrounds is important for these shots, so do your recon ahead of time so you are in the right position on the field. Make sure you get some shots where you are low to the ground and shooting up, especially if backgrounds are a problem. If the baloons have advertising on them, try and take some shots with it included and excluded. Sponsers/organizers might want to pay you for some of the shots.

If you do not normally shoot RAW, shoot in RAW and JPEG if your camera allows it.

Joe Smith

Travis Hoover , Aug 05, 2008; 02:33 p.m.

Thanks for the quick responses!

I am thinking I will try to handhold at first, when there is still enough available light, and I figure we will be walking around the balloons. Then when it gets darker, I was hoping to set up at one end of the field or in the stands and get some overall pictures of multiple balloons using the tripod. My dad is going with us, so hopefully he can walk around with my daughter for a bit while I get some shots on the tripod.

Shun - I have no idea how popular this event will be, and how many people will be there. It is a pre-state-fair event, as the Indiana state fair starts tomorrow (with a balloon race at dawn). I figure that I will end up carrying my tripod on my back for most of the time until it gets late, and I want to use it for the darker night shots. Maybe I can find a place to stash it until I am ready to use it.

BW - I agree, I think it is unusual and pretty lucky that we can walk around and get close to the balloons. That is actually one of the points they use in promoting the event, that people can get close and take pictures of the balloons illuminated against the twilight sky. as far as the 50-150 goes, I think it might be a little long for this event, as we can get close to the subjects and due to the size of the subjects. I have a feeling that the 18-50 will be long enough for the type of shots I am envisioning.

Joseph - I have shot some RAW, but usually shoot JPEG. I will likely switch to RAW so I can adjust things as needed later. I agree about doing the recon to find the best spots, and I do plan to get there early to do just that.

As of now, I think I will take the 30mm, the 10-20mm, and the 18-50mm, and leave the long lenses at home. I think I will just have to try and adjust as the lighting changes, as it will likely be completely daylight when we get there, to completely dark before we leave. It will be a challenge, but I hope to get some good pics. And most importantly, I want to be sure to have fun and enjoy the time with my dad and my daughter. That is more important than any picture I could take.

Thanks for the suggestions, and keep them coming! I am open and eager for any other ideas you guys (and gals) have!

Shun Cheung , Aug 05, 2008; 02:47 p.m.

Here is an example: the only time I was in a balloon ride, back in 1997 shot with (I believe) Velvia film.


Hot Air Balloon Preparation

Joseph Smith , Aug 05, 2008; 04:15 p.m.

Travis, make sure you include some crew shots. The interaction of the crew members getting the ballons set up and fired up is great shooting. And some close ups of young kids looking at the balloons. Usually there is enough distance bewteen the grandstands and the balloons for multiple balloons in a shot w/o having to get into the stands. That can be part of your recon. If it were me I would not get back into the stands unless that was the only way to get a group balloon shot. While on the sidelines, try not to block the views of others sitting in the stands. Kneel or squat down while waiting. Joe Smith

Travis Hoover , Aug 05, 2008; 04:35 p.m.

Joseph - Thanks for the ideas. I have seen some pictures of people silhouetted behind the balloon as it is being inflated and still laying on the ground, I think that would be a cool shot to try and get. and for a multiple balloon shot, i had initially thought about trying to get high up in the stands to fit it all in. but I found a picture similar to that on google images, and they seemed very far away and not all that impressive in size. so I think the grandstands might be too big a distance to shoot from, and with the 10-20mm I can stay fairly close and still get several balloons in, and that will also enable me to stay on the field and I can get the lower perspective to give the balloons more size and might.

Shun - cool shot, hoping to get something to that effect.

Thanks again to everybody!

Jerry Litynski , Aug 05, 2008; 06:49 p.m.

You might check

http://photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=841453

If you are able to go out and about the balloons, any lens you take will be fine. Some images with a medium zoom won't hurt either. If ten to 15 balloons are in the event, you will have some hiking to do to cover a few shots of each one.


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