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Poteau Balloon Fest – Tips for Better Photos

The Poteau Balloon Fest has just launched a new website to promote the annual event.

The site Http:// features  my photography from past balloon festivals.

This years event will be held on October 22-23, 2010 at the Robert S. Kerr Airport in Poteau Oklahoma.

A Hot Air Balloon Festival is a great place to capture great photos, and I have some tips to help make your photos even better.

The festival actually offers several different photo opportunities all in one location

  • Hot Air Balloons
  • The Balloon Glow
  • Mud Pit Race
  • Carnival

Hot Air Balloon Flights

For photographing an event like this you need a selection of lenses from telephoto to wide angle.  When the hot air balloons are flying the may be a long way off and the longer the telephoto lens you have the better shots you will be able to capture.  Try to fill the frame with the subject, you do not need to have the entire balloon in the photo to make a great photo.  By not having to much sky in your photo will also help to get a better exposure.  Be very careful about watching the background, try not to have power lines or other distractions in your photos.  Try and time your shots so that you can catch the balloon when the burner is on, the flames will light the inside of the balloon making it glow.

 (Greg Disch Photography)

The Balloon Glow

To photograph a balloon glow you will be shooting in low light and want to use a tripod to keep the camera steady.  Fortunately for us photographers they have the glow just at it is getting dark, this gives us some color in the sky and some light for capturing the environment of the event.  The key to shooting the balloon glow is to shoot when the burners are on and lighting the inside of the balloon.  The problem is that when the burner is on, the balloon is heated and will take off, not wanting to actually launch, the balloon pilots only fire the burner for a short time.  If you are shooting multiple balloons, getting them all at the correct time can be a challenge, listen for the announcer to call for an “all burn” this is when for only a few seconds all the balloons will be glowing at the same time.

The good news for setting exposure is that if you have the balloons mostly filling the frame and some dark areas of sky, the auto metering of the camera does a really good job most of the time, due to large evenly lit surface area of the balloon.

Poteau Oklahoma Balloon Fest 2009. Taken during what is called a "balloon glow".  A hot air balloon glow is when the balloons are set up and inflated at night or dusk, and the pilots light the inside of the balloon with the propane burner used to create the hot air that causes the balloons to fly.  The flames from the burner cause the colorful balloon envelopes to glow in the dark.  The balloons due not actually take off, so the pilots can only run the burner for a short time and then let it cool down to keep from lifting off. (Greg Disch)

The Mud Pit Race

The mud pit races at the Poteau Balloon Festival are a great place to catch some fast action photos.  You will want to have a medium telephoto lens to be able to move in tight and stay a safe distance form the trucks.  The key to getting great action shots of an event like this is to use a shutter speed that will stop the trucks but not fast enough to stop the spinning of the wheels.  This will take some experimentation, but you will probably be shooting at a shutter speed of between 1/30 of a second and 1/120 of  a second.  If you have the ability to set your camera for continuous high speed shooting, now is the time.  You will need to shoot a lot of pictures to get a few really great shots.

 (Greg Disch)

The Carnival

You can photograph a carnival during the day to capture the people and the food, but the excitement comes from shooting after dark and capturing the lights and color that draw us to them year after year.  A tripod will keep your camera steady during the long exposures needed for night photography and it may be necessary to shot using a high ISO speed to stop moving people in a picture.  This is a time when you will have to do some experimenting with finding the proper exposure, shooting in manual mode will give the most control.  For photographing the moving rides you will want a slow enough shutter speed to catch the motion of the lights, for the booths and games will want to able to stop the action.

 (Greg Disch Photography)

Gallery of Images



1 Comment
  1. Thanks for the heads up on this. I never knew this took place. Thanks for the tips also.

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Greg Disch
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Fort Smith, Arkansas 72904

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