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The Balloon Glow Fireworks Show

This is my fourth time shooting the Balloon Fiesta. They say that this is the most photographed event in the world. That being the case… They should try consulting with some photographers for some tips on how to improve the festival. I've had the same gripes every time.


I won't even mention how ugly the foreground is from every angle. Parking lots. Fences. Concessions tents, and porta potties. I guess there's nothing they can do about that. They need all that stuff. And. Albuquerque is just ugly. So… That is the foreground.


Anyway… The problem is… They do everything about a half hour too early.


Most mornings start with the "Dawn Patrol". They launch a dozen or so balloons at 5:45 AM to light up the night sky. Cool concept, BUT, the sky is still completely black then. So. Photographing it is impossible. Just blown out, overexposed white blobs against black. Wouldn't it be cool if they waited a half hour, when dawn actually happens? Balloons glowing against the purple glow of a dawn sky would be awesome!


Problem #2… They start the mass balloon launch at 7:00 AM. This is a MASSIVE, HUGE problem! There is a big mountain just east of the balloon field. The Sandia Peak. The sun doesn't come up over the top of that mountain until 7:45. Soooooooo… That means that there is absolutely no light on the balloons for the first 45 minutes of the festival. I have tried and tried to get some photos of the first 45 minutes of the event. They are all just complete crap, and end up going in the trash. On some of the slower days, all the balloons are long gone by 7:45. And… THEN the sun comes up……


Then, on the big nights, they have a balloon glow. It starts around 6:00. IT'S NOT EVEN DARK YET! How can they glow if it's not dark??? So… The balloon glow goes for a while, and then they deflate. 15 minutes later, the fireworks start.


So… If you try to shoot the fireworks, the foreground is just… A big field of deflated balloons. Trucks. Trailers. And… Thousands of blurry people standing around. Oh yeah. And... Porta potties.


So. This is a composite of two shots. I got a nice clear shot of all the balloons glowing at the tail end of the balloon glow. Then… About 15 minutes later I got this fireworks shot from the same spot. This is a merge of the two.


This is the shot I could get if they timed this thing right.


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Taken on October 8, 2011