Had an amazing opportunity to shoot the 25th Annual Lake Travis Ballooning Flight hosted by the Central Texas Ballooning Association yesterday morning and had a really amazing time. This was the first time I’ve covered this event, so the experience was new to me. At some point in their lives, I think almost everyone has dreamed about taking a ride in a hot air balloon, so I’m naturally fascinated with ballooning.
If you’re covering or attending this event in the future, here are some things I learned that may help you. This event is held at the Mansfield Dam Park on Lake Travis. Covering the ground portion, it’s helpful to realize that this event is HEAVILY attended. I have no idea how many people attended yesterday morning, but I can safely say the number was in the thousands. Parking is an issue, so get there early. There’s only one way in and one way out surrounding the balloon field, so you’re better off parking near the entrance of the circle than closer to the site if you want to leave anytime soon following the event. If you have all day, you can park closer. We arrived at about 6:00 AM, about an hour before launch, and parking was almost impossible…even that early.
Wind Direction & Speed
Realize that wind direction and speed matters when considering flight paths. Check the weather early. Why? Because the wind direction will influence the flight path of the balloons. This time, the wind was 5-10MPH from the south, so any vantage point over the lake on the north/northeast side was great for catching them in flight over the water. If they wind were blowing in any other direction, your position naturally needs to change if you want to shoot that angle. I covered the ground onsite, so that wasn’t an issue for me.
I carried a dual camera rig on me with a second shooter carrying a single. I shot a Sigma 10-20mm and a Canon 70-200mm and she shot a Canon 24-70mm. All three were useful in their own way. I was happy with my rig and if I could only carry two body/lens combinations, it would be the 10-20mm and the 70-200mm. Everyone is different, so it’s your choice obviously.
Earlier on in the morning, you’ll have to shoot a crazy-high ISO. I shot no less than 1600 ISO right up until launch time. Tripods are great for pre-dawn captures, but nearly useless any other time, so I didn’t even bring one. Stay lightweight if you have the choice and you find a tripod necessary. All common sense.
Here are some of the images we captured, enjoy!