Balloon Fiesta: Dawn Patrol!
Last weekend, my husband and I trekked to Albuquerque for the annual Balloon Fiesta. We rose early on Saturday and braved incredible traffic in order to be there for the opening day of the nine-day festival. Our attempts were foiled, as all launches were cancelled due to high winds.
Being the intrepid balloon enthusiasts we are, we did not let this setback completely upend our weekend. We rose even earlier Sunday (a significant feat for this night owl) and tried again. This time: SUCCESS! Even better, a chase team saw us walking and gave us a free ride up to the park so we wouldn’t have to walk in the cold and dark for two miles.
We arrived well before sunrise and early enough to catch what is known as Dawn Patrol. A handful of balloons rise early to scope out landing sites and test the conditions so that the hundreds of other hot air balloon pilots will know what to expect when they prepare their flights during the Mass Ascension.
In all, I took a few hundred pictures of hot air balloons that day. This is a sample of those from the Dawn Patrol. These were the most challenging due to the darkness of pre-dawn and the variability of the lighting conditions. (It’s tough to know how exactly to expose your photo when at any given time there could be no additional lighting from the balloon torches or they could all be lit at the same time. You can see this challenge most clearly in the final “montage” image.)
Since my camera is “old” (all of four years), any ISO above 400 gets pretty noisy. Most of those from Dawn Patrol were taken at 400 or 800, and I tried to edit out some of that noise in post-processing. Focusing was also a challenge in the dark. I’m definitely no expert at photographing in such a situation, and I generally wasn’t pleased with how the photos turned out (even with the help of a tripod!). This is a sample of a few of the better ones.