Last week the Quick Chek New Jersey Balloon Festival was in town. This is one the largest hot air balloon festivals in the country with over 100 balloons launching. I went two of the three days (the second day was bad weather so there were no launches). My timelapse compilation is above from the festival in 4K. I thought it would be a good idea to list my top 5 tips for shooting a hot air balloon festival since its harder than you would think
Watch the first balloon – The first balloon launches about five minutes ahead of all the other balloons. The balloons don’t have any mechanism to steer other than the wind! So watching the first balloon go off will give you an idea of where all the other balloons will be headed. This is a key amount of time to scope the area and find a good location if you want a shot with all the balloons.
Go early – the launches are early in the morning (6 am) or later in the evening. The morning launches have a nice calm feel but there will still be plenty of people there! So don’t plan on arriving right a 6 AM because it might take a while to get parking. The evening launches will have a much more crowded and festival feeling so plan on going even earlier.
Find a spot behind strollers – Once the balloons start inflating and taking off people will stand up and take photos for a long time with their phones or cameras. They won’t care what’s behind them. You have to either be in a perfect or elevated position or like my tip says be behind some strollers. This is a good spot because no one can stand there and if a kid stands up it wont be taller than your tripod! Definitely do not stand behind of people sitting on chairs or blankets.
Use a fast (1 second) interval – The balloons will move faster than you think, I used a 2 second interval my first day and realized a one second interval would give a much better result with the amount of movement you want to see.
Ask where the balloons will inflate – the balloons can also inflate rather quick and if you don’t know where which balloons will inflate it might be a surprise. I would recommend asking around to see if people know where the cool (bees, flags, angry birds, etc.) balloons will inflate. It’s tough to react with a lot of balloons and people if you want to shoot a specific balloon. It could be inflated and off in the air before you know it!
Thanks for reading! Please let me know if you have any questions!