Dallas-based visual artist and photographer Stephanie Johnson offers these professional tips for taking photographs of hot air balloons at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival:
#1 PLAN YOUR VISIT IN ADVANCE.
- Community events gather large crowds, so go in with a game plan. Know where you’ll park and where you’ll predominantly want to be. Be sure to plan what you’ll bring versus what you will not want to weigh you down.
- Plan your gear choices being sure to limit your lenses to less than a few multifocal lenses versus too many prime ones. The ability to follow along a balloon will be helpful when things start moving quickly. Also, be sure to pack a tripod or monopod. The most photographed times of morning or sundown when the balloons are wanting to be “glowing” the tripod or monopod can help greatly with camera stabilization in low light atmospheres.
- Walkable, comfortable clothing and shoes will be something you thank yourself for doing.
#2 ARRIVE AS EARLY AS YOUR SCHEDULE WILL ALLOW.
- Not only does this help with being able to catch set up, it allows you the opportunity to scope the balloons that will be around.
- Focus on a few in a close area to watch through take off so you don’t miss any of the potential photographs that come from that time. You don’t want to be caught up in a crowd when you could be capturing a great moment.
#3 IF YOU ONLY HAVE ONE LENS TO TAKE.
- If you can only manage to have one lens with you on your camera then go as wide as you can. A kit lens (one that comes with your camera) is often an 1855 and that gives you a good, standard range to play with. Honestly, the less to carry in your bag, the less you have to deal with and the less chance you have of missing a good moment because of lens change.
- Remember that these balloons are much larger than many people realize (until they see them up close) so you would hate to get there and have equipment that keeps you from capturing the whole of the magnificence.
#4 BE AWARE OF THE SUN.
- Whether you want the glow to go through the balloon from behind, or to reflect onto it directly, you’ll have to be aware of the big bulb in the sky. Photography is an active and anticipatory process so being aware of where things are headed can help you grab a great photo at the right time.
- There will be many levels of light from morning to night so you will have to be able to anticipate and adjust your settings accordingly.
#5 KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS.
- Because of the large amount of people and equipment at an event of this magnitude, it is important to not get too caught up in it all. It can be really easy to be so into the act of photographing that you fail to notice ropes, cords, holes in the ground, etc.
#6 TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
- Wear sunscreen and be sure to stay hydrated. Even on a cooler day, a lot of time outdoors with the sun and crowds can be quite harsh on the body. Be sure to take care of you.
Find out more about Stephanie Johnson, an award-winning photojournalist, by visiting www.SJohnsonArt.com and following on Twitter: @HairFacePhoto or Instagram: @HairFacePhoto.
The 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be held September 23-25 at Oak Point Park and tickets are available www.planoballoonfest.org.