Hot Air Balloon Quest

This summer I have been on a journey. It all started when my mother heard about a hot air balloon festival in Howell, MI. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

So, we went to the festival at the end of June. I was excited because:

1.) I’d never actually seen a hot air balloon in person.

2.) I was going to get some awesome photos.

I was like a little kid on Christmas morning (or a poor college student on Christmas morning whose parents just bought them a new coffee mug… we could go with that, too.) I’m sure you could understand my disappointment when they cancelled the hot air balloon flight because winds were at 9MPH.

We drove home disappointed. However, my disappointment was short lived: I took to the internet. The next one we could go to was in Jackson, MI. We now knew that ideal conditions were under 9MPH, and there could be next to no chance of rain. We got this. We were prepared. We were going to check the weather conditions before we went out for a long drive to go see some big balloons and go snappy-snappy.

Yeah, there was a tornado warning the day we were gonna go.


There were no more festivals in Michigan. Ohio was another story. Our sights landed in Findlay, Ohio. We invited my friend, Kaiden, to come with us. I watched the perfect weather all week. We were finally going to see some hot air balloons. It was going to be a sunny day with 0% chance of rain and winds at 5-6MPH. Thank you, National Weather Service.

Thanks a bunch.

Why am I so thankful? Because I’m being sarcastic. We drove all the way to Findlay. It was cloudy and suspicious looking. And windy, very windy. When we got there it started to sprinkle rain. This was at 4:30PM, but we figured we’d wait it out, since the launch was at 6:00PM. 6:00PM came and went. At least there’s the balloon glow, at 8:30, we figured. There were hundreds of people still there being determined, so we thought we’d wait it out too.

However, hot air balloon pilots with their baskets attached to the back of their trucks were leaving. Were they going to have the balloon glow? Am I ever going to see these giant balloons? Or are hot air balloons some elusive myth, similar to Big Foot or The Loch Ness Monster? I was beginning to believe that finding good ‘ol Nessie would be easier than finding a hot air balloon.

It was cold, windy, and rainy- just like my discouraged soul. Kaiden and I went to the car to grab our hooded shirts to keep warm and to move our legs, for we had been sitting on the grass for many an hour at this point. Sore and tired, we returned to our blanket.

But not for long.

While we were gone, they started blowing up the remaining balloons. A worker was driving around on a golf cart and stopped next to where our blanket was because a photographer had his gear all set up (he had some nice gear- there was a lens he had that would cost me a kidney,) and offered him a special pass to go out on the field to take pictures up close.

Thank God for mothers. My mom stopped the person in the golf cart and said, “Hey! I have two photography students with me, can I get a pass?” AND SHE GOT ONE.

So imagine our faces when we came back and not only were there balloons (turns out they’re real I guess,) but we had special access to go near them.

We got out onto the field and snapped away. We were a little frantic, because we only had about ten minutes or so and our brains did something kind of like this: “okay so what setting should I use oh no it’s way too dark and oh no I’m stopped all the way down already and dangit how should I compensate for when the balloons randomly light up and ahhhhh one just lit up and I missed it okay okay fine high ISO it is I can’t believe this is actually happening ahhhh one’s lighting up let me square up and try not to get a blurry exposure.”

That’s not a dramatization.

We got our pictures though and had to leave the field pretty quickly, but we were satisfied. Kaiden and I got some really great shots, and I managed to somehow get a panorama. Perhaps the hot air balloon gods felt sorry for all my traveling and well-wishing and decided to finally cut me a break.

I also snapped some on my film camera with Revolog Texture film, but those aren’t developed yet because I haven’t finished the roll. Those should be coming soon. I learned a lot from this experience: plan ahead, hot air balloons are almost like unicorns, and having a mother like a honey-badger comes in handy. Next summer I hope to see hot air balloons in the air, but for now I’m pretty satisfied with them glowing on the ground.

1 thought on “Hot Air Balloon Quest

  1. Pingback: It Was the Fourth of July (Lomochrome Turquoise XR) | Deo Photography

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