The women in the middle would be dear MaryAnne and Lisa. For some reason they decided that a hot air balloon ride would be quite alright. Neither woman is considered a risk taker. That would be Bob to the right. He’s cool with the idea. The shot reminds me of that last scene in the Wizard of Oz as they head back to Kansas. Oh, yeah.
Charlie (Bell 47 helicopter) and I chanced upon this scene while flying east toward New York City. As usual he saw the balloon before I did. We gave chase and soon came up on it from above. It was looking for a place to land. At the time I didn’t understand the etiquette of ballooning. Landing is not planned. You start looking for a landing site. Then you try to land in an area that won’t damage your balloon. It’s quite an event to have this large object drift down to land on your front lawn. With the late afternoon sun we had a great vantage and great light.
After the ride the pilot filled his balloon in the glow of sunset. The flame filling the balloon is in the lower left. The moon is there on your right. It’s more memorable for me because I was in the chase car that pursued my wife and friends as they went on a once in a lifetime ride. I wasn’t chicken. I’ve been in a helicopter, so that was a hard experience to top.
I’ve shot hot air balloons before. This was one of my first encounters. Lisa had seen an advertisement for the Long Island balloon festival air show and we drove to Brookhaven Airport with the kids. Several days earlier Lisa had been exposed to poison ivy in her gardening. She had never been affected before. But now she had weeping skin lesions on her arms and was quite distressed by the itching. She had covered her arms in moist gauze. The lesions were popping out in places she had not been exposed, such as her belly. Ever the good mom, we arrived at the airport. Seeing the balloons was cool. We had to wait around until sunset for the launching. At the time I was not yet aware that balloons launched at sunrise and sunset when the winds were most favorable. Catching the inflation with hot gas now filling the balloon is one of the most dangerous times. There are no rules so the teams allow photographers/spectators to get up close. As I said it’s dramatic. But the real memory was the heroic effort by Lisa to wait with the kids and myself until sunset. The poison ivy was really itching and uncomfortable. We departed with the crowd leaving the airport. As we passed an empty barrel of ice water that had held soda earlier, Lisa plunged her arms into the ice up to her elbows to get relief. I did not get that picture, but the memory is still vivid.
Looking at this image I keep thinking of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. As I said the balloons launch from a park. The balloon trailers are parked side by side but far enough apart not to get entangled. From a certain perspective it looks as though everyone is on top of one another. As the balloons begin to fill in the glow of sunset light it’s a feast of photo ops. Thank goodness for memory cards with large capacities. What I didn’t realize at the time is that I would not return to see this event again.
So the balloon pilots meet to discuss the weather conditions especially the wind. The winds are most favorable in the evening and at dawn. Once the winds are determined to be within safe limits, the signal for launch is given. For about 30 minutes there is a frenzy of activity, as everyone seems to race to launch before the winds change. It makes for a lot of interesting photos.
I only got one chance to photograph the annual balloon festival in Lewiston, Maine. But since I lived in the area I could get to the venue any time the balloons launched. I had left the launch park and was driving to work along the river. I could see a balloon drifting above the trees. Yes, I wasn’t looking where I was driving. But traffic was sparse. I jumped out of the car in time to catch this image. Morning fog was lifting off the mirror calm river and the basket just about to touch down. The balloon pilots liked to do this to impress. I was duly impressed and got the shot.
I respond in this post to a comment about dangers of flying in a helicopter. The story expands in the gallery of my other blog. The primary slide in this sequence is the early preparation. Balloons have to be filled with some very hot gas. Fortunately I have not seen any accidents. Then you go up into the air with no way to steer except by the direction and whim of the prevailing winds. The launch is determined by the winds, which really can’t be much more than a breeze, less than 10mph. Otherwise there is danger in flight control and landing problems. What comes to mind in the second photo is Dorothy in the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ After the balloon goes up….
This is my first shot at hot air ballooning. Lisa gets the credit for taking us to the Long Island air show at Brookhaven airport. She had acquired a vicious case of poison ivy. How bad? She was dipping her affected arms in the barrels of iced sodas. Balloon launches are in the evening and early morning when the winds are more favorably calm. The blast of flaming hot gas is necessary to fill the balloons. It is all the more impressive that everything nearby is so flammable.
Lewiston, Maine. A balloon festival occurred one summer weekend in Maine 2007. Since I lived close by, I was able to attend frequently. There were scheduled events during the weekend, but the balloon launches were weather dependent. In order to be favorable, the winds had to be calm, which was usually in the very early morning and evening. Aside from the pageantry, the balloon owners made money and expenses from giving balloon rides. Each launch period the balloon pilots would meet to discuss weather conditions. The winds were not great over the five-day period so that many times the launch was canceled at the very last second. As a result launches were extended past the weekend. When launching balloons was a go, there was always a frenzy of activity. I was fortunate to be there to watch several launches close up. There were photo ops everywhere you looked. Too many great shots were there everywhere you turned the camera. Here, I have to summarize in just one image.