Shooting Night Balloon Photos

If you looked at my ‘PIX’ posts, you’ll see I just got back from shooting the Havasu Balloon Festival.  The festival wasn’t unlike any other festival with its challenges in crowds of people and harsh light once the sun was up.  So I tried to take my photos early morning and late evening.  The balloon festival has great night glow shots with flaming up the balloons that make it a great photographic opportunity… and challenge. I normally shoot Aperture Priority, which gives me creative control over the depth of field in my photos.  So for the balloon shoot, knowing that I was in low light conditions I shot f4.0 on my 28-105mm to maximize the light entering my camera, at a ISO1600.  Unfortunately, hind sight is 20 / 20, but I did learn what to do / or not do next time.  So I thought I’d share my learnings. Even though I shoot Aperture Priority, for my next balloon shoot, I’ll shoot Program mode.  I know, for a serious photographer this seems blasphemy.  Though considering that the balloon heaters are only on for like 3 seconds, it’s hard to note your settings, and make adjustments in that time.  Granted you could check your settings on one blast, adjust, and wait for the next blast to snap the photo.  But by setting it on Program you can let your sophisticated camera do the thinking in this particularly challenging situation, and concentrate on composition. I also noticed that where you take the exposure reading is crucial.  I like to black out the background so that you can cut the clutter of the crowds out and the distracting background.  So by taking your exposure reading off the very bright burner blast, you blacken out everything else… as in the picture below. flamexPSi Finally, I did minor adjustments in Photoshop Camera Raw.  Worth noting, though, is on the left side of the photograph was a persons head.  I used a brush in Camera Raw set on max shadow (dark) and max exposure (dark), and painted black over the head and around the outside of the balloon to clean up any distracting bits.  I left the expressions, hand movements and glow on the faces directly surrounding the balloon glow, leaving a story telling photo.

Story Telling

I mentioned that I had the fortunate opportunity to have Moose Peterson critique some of my photos.  While we was very kind and even called my photos great (woohoo), and suggested that I had good technique an composition, he noted that I needed to work on my story telling.  When I think of story telling, I think of portraits… photos of people doing something, action, great expressions, expressing a moment in time.  I get that good portraits may use shallow depth of field to blur the background to highlight the subject.  But how do you do that in Landscape and Wildlife photographs?

woods canyn corner fish_SSPSi

While I am not comfortable taking photos of people, I do understand that they had great depth (sense of size) to a photograph, and tell a story of that place.  Here I caught two young adults mid catch at Woods Canyon Lake.

Expressions, if you can capture them, are worth a thousands words.  Whether you anticipate and wait for it, or just get lucky.  Here you can hear the oohs and ahhs of my friend and husband as they revel over the magnificent fall colors we were fortunate enough to enjoy.

deanna john uhahi

Or the tender moment between a deer mom and her little one.

monand lilone_PSi

Thanks, Moose.  I’m working on it.