The International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival and Festivent Ville de Lévis are golden opportunities for photographers to take amazing pictures! Follow our tips to make the most of these magical moments, whether you stay on land or hop aboard a hot-air balloon.
Take your best camera with you, especially if you’re planning to soar up into the sky. Ideally, you should bring along two lenses (a 10-20 mm wide-angle zoom lens and a telephoto lens) so that you can take advantage of the various viewpoints from the hot-air balloon. If you have a smartphone, it’ll be harder to take nice pictures once you’ve reached a certain height in the sky. Got a fisheye lens? This is the time to use it—it’ll allow you to take superb photos from the gondola by grouping together, in one picture, the passengers, the pilot, the flame and the surrounding sky. Truly magical!
The take-off period for hot-air balloons lasts at least 45 minutes. This gives you plenty of time to change your settings or reposition your tripod in order to take advantage of different viewpoints. What’s more, the sun won’t pose a problem—you can always position yourself so that it’s behind you. In short, you’ll have time to experiment with your shots.
A few ideas
1. On land
- If you’re looking for a particular backdrop for your take-off pictures, go for a wander around the different launch sites before the start of the event.
- Get closer! Unlike at an air show, you can get relatively close to the hot-air balloons
- Don’t miss the blowing-up of the hot-air balloons—the pilot releasing hot air into the balloon, the flame... To capture these fleeting moments, take a quick succession of shots or set your camera to shutter priority mode.
- To take a great panoramic or wide-angle shot of several balloons taking off into the wide blue yonder, you’re better distancing yourself from the crowd, and getting closer to the control area, for example.
- A hot-air balloon moves around! To get a shot of the balloon and gondola, set your camera to shutter priority mode (Tv or S) and set your shutter speed to 1/250 second. Also set it to continuous AF mode.
2. In the sky
If you get the chance to take to the skies, bring your camera and two lenses (a wide-angle zoom lens and a telephoto lens) in order to vary your shots at different heights.
- Facing the sun when the balloon lifts off? Don’t fret—the pilot will turn the gondola in different directions regularly throughout the ride.
- With a fisheye lens, you’ll be able to fit the pilot, some of the passengers, the flame and the sky in the background all into one shot. Once you’re up in the air, take a shot of the land below—it’ll look spherical!
- When taking photos of the ground below, choose points of reference and play with the lines of the roads or fields to frame your photos.
- See a cloud? Try to capture the magical moment when a colourful balloon emerges from it.
Special thanks to Patrick Beaudry, photographer, SNAPePHOTO (www.snapephoto.com)