22 million btu’s and a dog

Every year Colorado Springs hosts a balloon festival over Labor Day weekend.  You’d think as a photographer I would be there every year.  Events have conspired to keep me from being there, including events completely under my control.  My friend Brian and I actually were in town at the same time, and oddly enough, he’s another photographer who hasn’t been able to photograph this event.  We finally made it.  There is a ‘balloon glow’ that occurs on Saturday and Sunday nights, where the pilots set up their big gas bags (no small feat) and light the burners, causing their balloon’s to sit upright, and in the darkness illuminate them brilliantly from within.  Quite a spectacular sight, and something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  We learned a few things, this being our first time.  Images like this are somewhat cliche, but neither of us had anything that we could call OUR cliche images, but now we do.  One of the pilots, a friendly gent, invited Brian and I into his balloon just before firing up the burners, which he explained give off about 22 million btu’s of heat.  It feels a bit like standing next to 5 really large bonfires.  Or as Brian said, about the temperature of one of his dogs on the bed at night.  As far as we know, we are the only ones that had been invited to shoot inside any flying balloon (there was a non flyer set up for that purpose there) as walking on the fabric eventually breaks it down and it can  no longer fly.  This particular pilot is a representative of one of the balloon manufacturers.  We were honored.  His balloon is pictured above.

As you can see, the balloon glow is self descriptive and a favorite of the crowd.  We managed to get a lot of pretty good images of this one, although as I said, we learned a lot and next year, if we are in town, will be better photographically for us.  At least we hope.  No tripods were abused in the making of these images by the way.  Just good  timing with the burners and a steady hand, along with cameras that perform well at high ISO settings.

Apparently the balloon company rep has a substantial budget for propane, as he was allowing people to pose in his basket for photos (yes, that’s real wicker too) while he would light up his burner.  Again, dog temperature, even though it was aimed straight up into the air.  He was gracious enough to pose for me as well, so I told him I would post this portrait of him.  Quite a character and quite a spokesman and diplomat for the sport of hot air ballooning.

Hope your Labor Day weekend was fun and safe.

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