I got to do the most amazing activity to celebrate my twins turning 19. I can’t believe they are now 19… anyway they were not sure what they wanted as a gift, so we decided instead to create some great memories and booked a Hot Air Balloon Ride on their actual birthday. I have never had a balloon ride before, so had no idea what to expext so I did some research online about what to expect and what equipment to take with me.

I came to the conclusion:

  • I could not take much – there would not be much room in the balloon, no bag, I needed to be able to secure my camera for take off and landing and need to have everything to hand. I choose my Canon M5 camera as it fits in my car pocket, so therefore leaving my hands free to climb in and out of the balloon and help when needed.
  • A wide angle lens was needed to capture shots in the balloon, there would not be much room to move around, but if I wanted to include the balloon, I needed to be able to shoot wide.  I chose the Canon M series 11-22mm lens.
  • A zoom lens to capture the landscape – the 15-150mm lens fits into my pocket, so if I could manage a lens swap mid air, then this would be an option.
  • A flash, I choose  to take the Godox TT350 flash with 1/4 CTO gel, to use on camera on ETTL as needed – I would have no choice about where the sun is compared to my shooting position, and a flash can save the shot.
Setting up a Hot Air Balloon - Shoot Wide for a sense of scale.

Setting up a Hot Air Balloon – Shoot Wide for a sense of scale.

Our flight started by helping to set up the balloon, it was a bright sunny afternoon at this point, so I moved to the side of the balloon that was lit by the sun and watched as it was started to be inflated. I wanted to try and capture the scale of the balloon, so made sure I included people in the shot – this was shot on the 11-22mm lens, which enabled me to include some members of my family. This was not a professional shoot but a day for creating memories and capturing moments.

Inflating the Hot Air balloon with my family - record shot

Inflating the Hot Air balloon with my family – record shot

Suddenly I spotted the opportunity to postion my family alongside the balloon to record the fact that we were all there together, I was shooint into the light, and they are backlit, but I managed to nail the shot – F8, ISO100, 1/400sec and 11mm – my kids did not particularily want to be included… but they did almost co-operate.

Once the balloon was inflated we were told which compartment to get into – I did not have a lot of choice here, and would have got a better shot if I was in the other section of the basket. I had read online that as a photographer it was important to get a corner of the balloon if possible – lucky on our flight the balloon only carried 12 passengers which meant there were groups of 3 in each corner, and I was sharing with my hubby and son – so could move round a tiny bit too.

Take Off and Shadow Shot...

Take Off and Shadow Shot… Hot Air Balloon

As the balloon took off, there was a chance to get a shadow shot… as I send I was positioned in the wrond place for this, but I was able to capture a moment – the shadow, my children capturing it with their phones and the people getting smaller down below.

Flying High in a Hot Air Balloon

Flying High in a Hot Air Balloon

Part of my aim was to capture a shot that was unique to being in a Hot Air Balloon, here I was stood in the basket looking straight into the balloon and I was able to capture the flame as it heat the air and caused the balloon to rise.

My family in the Hot Air Balloon capture by my daughter

My family in the Hot Air Balloon capture by my daughter

I handed my camera over to my daughter, and with the wide angle lens and the ETTL flash on camera, my camera set to AV ISO100, F9, my daughter was able to capture 4 members of our family in the balloon whilst in flight. We have not control of the light – she is shooting directly int the sun, you can see it above our heads, but the fill flash meant that our faces were lit too. The wide angle distorts us… but without the wide angle – this was shot at 12mm this shot would not have been possible.

Whilst in the air, I was able to switch to the zoom lens, and I was able to focus in on the landscape below. It was a real challenge to try and get the photo on the horizontal plane to ensure the buildings were pictured correctly, and it was really fascinating so see the land from this perspective… and I can see where the inspiration comes from for some children’s toys, but looking through the lens I felt this images lacked the evidence that I was in the balloon, I could have been in a plane, or a really location looking down.

The view down to an urban area from a Hot Air Balloon

The view down to an urban area from a Hot Air Balloon


A field from the Hot Air Balloon taken with a zoom lens

A field from the Hot Air Balloon taken with a zoom lens

This image appealed to my humour, this is the pilot – and his wife (she does not always get to fly) and the guests in the other half of the balloon – you can see the cylinders and the concentration on their faces, we weren’t lost but they were looking for a suitable landing site – he was using memory map on a large tablet to the bottom of the screen and she was using an Ordance Survey map, it was a photo to capture the people who made my first flight possible, it highlighted that we did not know we were landing,  A wide angle lens with some fill flash enabled me to lighten the shadows and capture a memory.

Lost in the Air - Map Reading from a Hot Air Ballooon

Lost in the Air – Map Reading from a Hot Air Ballooon

As the balloon lowered the angle’s that I was able to view the surroundings changed. I loved how the zoom lens compressed the landscape, and I loved the evening light when the sum came out, but the shots missed the story telling element of the balloon.

Hot Air Ballon church view

Hot Air Ballon church view

This is a shot from the basket with my wide angle lens, this I prefer as the story is connected to the images, you get a glimpse of the Hot Air Ballooon – it got a bit misty and hazy, A lot of the photos I took included my family in the balloon rather than the view, and I choosing not to share those on here today, as they just want to treasure the memories.

A photo from the Hot Air Balloon Basket

A photo from the Hot Air Balloon Basket

The view from the basketOnce we landed we had to get permission from the landowner to disembark, whilst we waited in the balloon, we were lucky enough that the 2nd of two retrieval cars arrived and there was a chance to have our photo taken with the inflated balloon before disembarking,  I handed the camera over of Av preset to F9 as I wanted lots in focus, ISO 400 as there was plenty of light and the flash turned off.  He was surprise how wide the lens was, and I am thrilled that he included all of the basket and some of the balloon, which helps give the image a sense of scale.

My family in the Hot Air Balloon on landing

My family in the Hot Air Balloon on landing

The balloon was let down and pulled to the ground with ropes, my husband got to pull the rope – he has the photographer friendly red jumper tied to his waist, the pilot told us about the circle show the sky that is opened up to let the hot air out of the balloon to help it deflate, so I was able to include both in the shot because of the wide angle lens. A shot unique to going up in a balloon.

Time to pack the Hot Air Balloon away

Time to pack the Hot Air Balloon away

This is a selfie of me on landing, I wanted to take my own photo of me there on landing, to prove that I was there in the balloon and that I had shared the experience. One of the great things about the M5 is that you can reverse the screen and see the image to create, and I was thrilled to be able to capture the air being let out of the balloon after our flight.

Me on landing - selfie time with wide angle lens.

Me on landing – selfie time with wide angle lens.