Sunday, September 29, 2013

Full Of Hot Air

Hot Air Rising
 Living in southern Alberta, a common sight in the skies along the eastern slope of the Alberta Rockies, are hot air balloons. Now having said that, you may say...what is he talking about, as I have rarely seen any hot air balloons in the skies of southern Alberta.
Sorry....but that's because you have been lazing in bed at sunrise, when the rest of us, including those who fly hot air balloons, know that the best time to fly hot air balloons is just after sunrise, and in the hours just before sunset. Of course I am having fun with you, as I know you have seen these wonderful flying hot air balloons, as they float along in the skies above.

As a photographer, hot air balloons have long been a favorite of mine, as I realized the first time I ever saw one in the skies over southern Alberta, that I had to shoot photos of them, and I also wanted to ride in one as well.
Years back, Calgary had a large number of hot air balloons, and on any given day, you would see them in the skies overhead. Before long, I discovered that on the weekends, they could be found just after sunrise being launched from the various parks within the city, and during one summer, I became a hot air balloon junkie.

I soon found out that if I helped out with the launch of the various hot air balloons, in return I was given the opportunity to ride in the basket suspended beneath the envelope of any one of the hot air balloons, that I helped launch that first summer, upon discovering these wonderful flying machines. Several years later, I was visiting my sister and her husband one fall, and at the time they lived in Glens Falls, New York, where the Adirondack Balloon Festival was being held at a nearby airport. With 50 plus hot air balloons in attendance, it was wonderful. I shot a lot of Kodachrome 64 (yes... film!) on that day to say the least.Since then, I continue to run with the opportunity to shoot photos of hot air balloons, when I see them being launched, as I travel the backroads of southern Alberta.

This past week, the Canadian Hot Air Ballooning Championships were held at High River just south of Calgary. The goal of the event was for the competing Canadian hot air balloon pilots, and the winner of the competition to get the chance to attend the World Hot Ait Balloon Championship in San Paulo Brazil in 2014.
With all the goings on in High River, beginning with the floods that overwhelmed the town in June, everyone involved needed a break, and the Canadian Hot Air Ballooning Championships being held there over the past week, was just what was needed to unwind, even if just for a short while.One of the highlights of the event, was the balloon glow to be held Friday night, and if you have never been to a hot air balloon festival, you probably have not had the opportunity to experience a balloon glow.

When I heard that there would be a balloon glow Friday night, I headed down to High River, and I must say it was a lot of fun. It was without a doubt, the festive part planned for the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships. As the sun set on Friday, the crowd gathered in a local park to enjoy the music, with a party atmosphere in anticipation of the spectacular Balloon Glow, where pilots make their hot air balloons dance to a musical beat. At approximately sunrise, colorful hot air balloons begin to inflate and balloonists vied for their chance to be the stars of a most spectacular part of the evening. With the crowd numbering approximately 3000 plus, the evening was a hit, although I must say that once I took my leave, the traffic jam  on 12 Ave, was not unlike Deerfoot Trail in Calgary at rush hour!

Saturday morning before sunrise found me once more in High River, as I wanted to be there when the 20 plus balloons in attendance took to the skies. Once the balloon meister checked the weather conditions, and gave the ok for flying, the various hot air balloon teams dispersed in preparation to launch their hot air balloons. Soon the skies around High River were filled with hot air balloons, and I picked a group of 7 balloons to follow, as they floated above the fields on a wonderful morning, as only to be found on a morning just after sunrise in southern Alberta.  
With most hot air balloon flights lasting approximately a hour or a little more, the time passed amazingly fast as per usual. There is some strategy to be used when following and photographing hot air balloons in flight. Most hot air balloon pilots, like to hedge hop across the fields, and I have discovered that if you place yourself in their path, so that they pass over you. they will burn if you ask them to. What do I mean by this you ask... well a hot air balloon will rise when the burners are fired, and so the pilot as a rule only burns when he wishes to gain some altitude. Having said that, they will burn for a photo-op when you ask the pilot politely as the balloon passes over hey! 
Needless to say, all good times come to a end, and after a fun hour or so of chasing the hot air balloons across the southern Alberta landscape on this morning, the pilots began looking for good landing spots, and way too soon, the hot air balloons put down in a stubble field just east of Aldersyde, with the chase vehicles arriving soon after to retrieve the hot air balloons and their flight crews. So if you want to have a enjoyable time on any given weekend during the summer months, do yourself a favor, and look for hot air balloons floating on the air, and as they perform their magic on your senses, you too will become a hot air balloon junkie.
Maybe experiencing the magic of a balloon flight is in your future!
Fly Me To The Moon....
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