Shooting the Balloon Sky Parade

Member Articles

By P. Dale Ware

Shooting the Balloon Sky Parade Was Good for the Spirit. After losing my Dad to Alzheimer’s disease recently, I needed a spiritual and emotional boost to get my creative wheels turning again.

Shooting the hot air balloon Sky Parade on Sept. 2 was just the kick in the pants that I needed. I got up at 5 a.m. and raced over to the 10th Street West, across from Lancaster City Park, to shoot the ballooners going into action. As the sun rose and painted the sky with gold, the balloons lifted off one by one. Hot-air blowers roared, and intermittent bursts of flame shot hot air into each, allowing them to gain altitude and fly with colorful grace.

Baloon gondola with people

At times, it was difficult to operate my camera controls because I was shaking so much. I knew that I had very few moments to get the images I wanted because you have to move fast when balloons are going up. Also, you have to make sure that you stay out of the way of those holding the tether lines.


I used a tripod when I first arrived at the site, but it soon became unwieldy. I moved faster by handholding my camera and shooting in shutter priority mode.

I knew that I’d risk losing depth of field in some instances, but most of my pictures would be sharp.

Blowing gas into the baloon

All of my equipment worked marvelously well, including my brand new Nikon D100 digital camera. I opted for a 24-85 mm lens because I anticipated that most of the unusual shots I’d get would probably be at ground level. That turned out to be true.

My batteries pooped out at one point even though I had an extra power pack attached to my camera. A film camera would have been welcome then, but later, I was glad that I brought a digital one. I was able to review all of my photos as soon as I got home.

When I shoot action stuff next time, I’ll take an additional external power pack along. That’s my tip to you, too, if you shoot digitally.

Besides my camera equipment working well at the balloon shoot, my 67 year-old body worked fine most of the time. The experience was great for my spirit, too, given the loss of my Dad. Thank God, photography lifted me out of the doldrums again--as it always does.


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