Understanding Travel Restrictions

Understanding Travel Restrictions

Ready, Set, Shoot! Tips For Photographing A Hot Air Balloon Festival

by Eva Morris

Hot air balloons floating aimlessly in a bright blue sky can create a striking image. These colorful and magical objects appear to defy nature and take on a life of their own. If you are a budding photographer, a hot air balloon festival can provide you with the photo opportunity of a lifetime. But, in order to get those stellar images that grace the cover of magazines, you will need to plan ahead and be ready for shooting balloons in various stages of flight. Follow these tips for capturing stunning hot air balloon images.


You will need your best camera, of course, but the lenses you take with you are important too. You will want a wide angle lens for shooting scenes that include people and other background objects. You will also want a telephoto zoom lens to capture the balloons as they drift high in the sky or to capture photos of the landscape as you soar in a balloon yourself. A fisheye lens can be useful for capturing the inside of the balloon when the basket is filled with passengers or for capturing group activity. You may want to bring along a tripod or monopod, but they may become cumbersome. Hot air balloon festivals are often crowded and a bustle of activity. Setting up and using the tripod may be difficult, unless you find an out-of-the-way location to shoot from a distance.


Arrive early and scope out the landscape. Look for intriguing images that you can use in the background to enhance your photos. Mountains, bright foliage, rivers or streams, or those rolling hills in shades of green can make your photos pop.

Check the sun's position. If you will be shooting a liftoff at dawn, you may want to capture the rising sun behind the hot air balloon. Backlit images can be impressive, but images with the morning ray's striking the front of the balloon can be striking, too. Decide ahead of time which type of image you want to capture and position yourself so the sun is in the right location for the shots.


It may be tempting to think you can capture the action wherever it occurs, but with hundreds of balloons ready for liftoff, you can't possibly capture them all. Look around and choose three or four balloons you want to focus on and hone in on the action surrounding them. This allows you to capture preparation, liftoff and images of the balloon drifting in the air. After you have the shots you want of the chosen balloons, go ahead and snap some shots of the others.

Camera Settings

The settings you choose for your camera will vary depending on the amount of light and the desired effect. Use these settings as a starting point and adjust them as needed. If you need help with adjusting settings, review the principles of the exposure triangle ahead of time.

  • ISO: Generally, if you are shooting at sunrise you will need to set your ISO to 1600 or higher to get the amount of light you need. Keep in mind that higher ISO also means more noise in your image. Keep it as low as possible while still getting the desired exposure.
  • Shutter Speed: Set your shutter speed to approximately 1/250 sec. Although the balloons may seem to float aimlessly in the sky, they actually move around a lot. You will need a fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur and get crisp, clean images.
  • Semi-automatic modes: While you can shoot hot air balloons in manual mode, it may be more efficient to opt for one of the semi-automatic modes like aperture or shutter priority. Do test shots to determine the correct f-stop for the depth of field you desire. Shots at night to show the glow of the hot air balloon require a larger aperture. You can even try with your camera set wide open with an f-stop of 2.8 to emphasize the glow of the balloon.
  • Focus: Set your camera to continuous auto focus or 3-D tracking to get the crispest shot of a moving object.

Taking the Shot

Hot air balloon festivals can be a flurry of activity. Plan ahead to take a variety of shots from different angles. Follow these tips for getting unique shots.

  • Get down low and shoot from waist level or below.
  • Capture the crew setting up and launching the balloon.
  • Shoot photos of children's faces as they watch the balloons take flight.
  • Take shots of the inside of the balloon.
  • Take a balloon ride and shoot the landscape from above.

Photographing a hot air balloon festival can be an exciting time, but there are also many distractions. Planning ahead and thinking about the shots you want to capture will help you stay focused and get the job done.


About Me

Understanding Travel Restrictions

As soon as I started traveling worldwide for work, I realized that I needed to work hard to understand the travel restrictions for some of the places where I would be going. After I tried to board a plane with a pack of playing cards to Germany and I was turned away, I realized that there were some finicky countries out there. I worked hard to research each and every place where I would be visiting, and within a few months I felt like I had the hang of things. This blog is filled with fun information about travel and tourism so that you can enjoy your travels and your work trips.