Recently, I decided I would get up early and do something I have always wanted to try: photographing an early morning balloon launch. This was part of the annual Plainville Balloon Festival fundraiser for the Plainville Volunteer fire department .

I arrived well before the balloonists started setting up, but already people were there, as well as some fellow photographers. I spoke to a few of them about the usual tech talk and other events that they suggested might also be of some fun to shoot.

I brought with me my tripod, my Canon 5Ds, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, and my new lens, the Canon EF 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6L IS USM .

But then the activity level dramatically increased as the balloonists started to arrive and set up their vehicles. There were close to twenty balloons that were being assembled.

I quickly decided that the tripod was just not going to work for what I wanted to do, so I put it back into the car. Now came the time to start to work. The problem was, I had no clue how to shoot or even what to shoot.

Since the sun had yet to rise, the light level was too dark for manual mode. Also, since I wasn’t sure what I was going to shoot, except of course the obvious, and since events were unfolding, no pun intended!, very quickly, I settled on ISO 1600 to keep my shutter speed reasonable. I knew I could clean up the noise without sacrificing too much in sharpness with the Photoshop Noiseware  plugin. Smart Sharpen  can also rescue some of the lost edge sharpness as well.

I switched to Program mode  till there was more light and tried to keep the aperture between f8-f11. Once the sun rose, I went to Manual mode to have more control over the aperture and other settings.

I shot close to 200 photos, trying my best to dodge as many people in my shots as I could. I also tried my best to respect the space of the many other photographers there as well, which was no easy task! Once in my zone, I started to develop a feel for the type of shots I wanted. I love abstraction in general, and the amazing colors and patterns of the balloons, so this became my objective.


After I returned home, the real work began in the digital darkroom. I start out in Lightroom to set some basics including exposure elements. I then open the image in Photoshop and use the NIK software Color Effects Pro 4.0  plugin to set the color details of which I have my own recipe of multiple stacked filters which I tweak per image. Once the color is set, I clean up any artifacting with the wondrous Noiseware plugin. I then use Smart Sharpen as needed to restore some edging.

Finally, I go back into Lightroom for some final tweaks.

You can check out some of the images here .

Enjoy life!