Archives for October 2012

Excellent Photo Adventures: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta…Ticket To Ride

Having taken my first balloon ride a month ago, I am hooked on balloons!  It’s a wonderful perspective to photograph from at around 500′ or lower.  So, I booked a balloon ride during the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta to try to capture the event from aloft, with other balloons.  I got lucky and was assigned to a smaller balloon with just 3 passengers and the pilot…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

The next thing I learned is that it’s better not to be the first balloon up since there are no other balloons in the sky to photograph but, I did find it interesting to see the balloons all laid out ready to inflate…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Other balloons were beginning to inflate as we drifted off.  I composed the image to include the Balloon Museum in the background…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

And the sky began to fill with colorful balloons…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

It was a beautiful morning for flying.  The air aloft was actually warmer than that on the ground and the morning light was lovely…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

As the sun crested the Sandia Mountains, it illuminated a lone balloon against the shadow of the mountain…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

What an experience to float hundreds of feet above the earth with only thin fabric filled with hot air to keep us aloft.  I know I’ll continue to explore balloon flight photography in the future…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

In no time our flight was over and everyone pitched in to deflate the balloon and carefully load it back in it’s bag until the next flight…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Our captain (Michael Gianetti) provided a safe and delightful balloon ride.  I look forward to my next flight of fantasy.  Stay tuned.

*Tech note: One technique I used during the balloon fiesta was to set my ISO to the Auto ISO setting with 1/125 of a second as my slowest shutter speed and 1600 as my highest ISO.  I let the camera adjust the ISO as needed to keep a relatively fast shutter speed for the mobility and hand holding.  If the light range was too dark for these parameters, the camera would default to whatever settings it took to make a correct exposure with me adjusting exposure compensation to taste.  I found this to give me more freedom to move quickly and capture spontaneous moments without worrying about some of the technical details.

 

 

Kenya: Masai Mara…Big Cats In B&W

The big cats of Africa are so magnificent, they need no introduction, no description, I even stripped the images of all but monochromatic colors in most cases simply to let the subjects in all their magnificence speak for themselves…

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II

 

I didn’t stop at Simba (the lion), I have some B&W images of Cheetah and Leopard too.  Stay tuned.

Excellent Photo Adventures: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta…Light, Color, Shape

Balloons have shape and color, the weather conditions in Albuquerque provides the light.  And we had lot’s of variety of Light, Color and Shapes to choose from.  Enjoy.

Tilting back to look straight up in the sky with a balloon directly overhead, emphasizes the colorful patterns against the blue sky…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

The balloon is filled with air, now a burst of gas will give it the lift to stand the gondola upright.  I used the graphic pattern of the balloon as a background rather than showing the full balloon to tell the story…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Perspective is achieved with balloons at varying distances.  The size of the two balloons compared to the zebra adds depth to the image…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Some of the chase vehicles (and their names…The Gentle Stripper below) were as colorful as the balloons…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

The graphics and composition caught my eye in this photo.  I had to work quickly to capture the image as I saw it before the balloons moved…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Standing back from the crowd allows me to see the overall picture and select compositions that are cleaner than from the middle of the field where it’s most crowded…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Getting right in the thick of it is a different experience and I used a couple balloons in the foreground to frame balloons in flight to convey the sense of the number of balloons together in one place…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

While I was wandering amongst the balloons I found a couple with interesting graphics and asked permission to step in really close with my 14-24mm lens to shoot inside the balloon…

Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

 

Stars and stripes are popular patterns and there are several flying the red, white and blue colors proudly at Balloon Fiesta…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

All the while I was shooting the balloons I kept my eye open to the east watching for a balloon to pass in front of the sun.  It couldn’t be just any balloon; I wanted one with color and pattern (ok, that’s easy enough) and it had to have translucent fabric so it would glow when the sun backlit it.  I like the effect I was able to capture with the sun peeking over the edge of the balloon, taking a small bite out of the balloon and adding a halo effect…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

I waited until this racing balloon had completely blocked the sun before squeezing the shutter.  I brightened the sky slightly to remove any color making the balloon stand out brightly against the white sky for a different look…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Once again, the morning flew by in a flurry of activity.  Soon, hundreds of balloons were mere pin pricks in the sky and their images were captured on our cards.  We loaded up and headed back to the hotel to spend some time going over our images to see what we liked and what we needed to work on.  Looking around at the group, all I could see were smiles from ear to ear.  There’s nothing like the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta to bring out the kid in us.  Stay tuned…and…Keep Smiling…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excellent Photo Adventures: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta…Weather

That’s been the question this week…whether the weather will keep the balloons grounded or whether they will launch.  It’s typical to loose about three days of ballooning to weather in the nine day event.  So, what does any good photographer do when the balloons can’t fly?  We photograph the weather…

Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Luckily, the fireworks have not been cancelled and so, we wait until dark and then pull out our cameras for the day’s finale.  And what a finale it is.  Each night the show seems to be better than the last.  There is nothing like fireworks to turn us all into kids again as we watch with wonder as the sky lights up with showers of beautiful colors…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR

 

Not only is there the grand aerial display, they also rope off an area at the west end of the field and put on a ground display like I have never seen…

Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 14-24mm 2.8

 

As we move into the final weekend of the Balloon Fiesta, I don’t know whether the weather will calm and let the balloons launch or not but, one thing I do know, we will arrive at the field in a short time and be greeted with big smiles and hopes as high as our own that the balloons will fly.  Stay tuned.