Alabama Jubilee

Every weekend before Memorial Day is the Alabama Jubilee in Decatur, AL, which is not very far from where I live.  The Alabama Jubilee has many things to offer, but the biggest draw, for me, is always the hot air balloons.  They average about 60 balloons each year for the balloon events.  They offer many different balloon events, but the most popular is the "Hare and Hound" Race.  During the race one balloon designated as the "hare" will launch first.  Then a signal is given to the other balloons that they are allowed to inflate and launch.  Once in the air they try to follow the "hare".  After a time the "hare" will land and put-out a large fabric 'X' on which the following balloons will try to drop a bean-bag marker onto the center.  Whoever is closest wins.

I have been going to this event for 6 or 7 years now and many times the weather will keep the balloons from flying.  This year the weather was very iffy.  It had rained a ton the night before and it was pretty cloudy, and very wet Saturday morning.   The low clouds cause the postpone of the launch by an hour or so.  When they finally announced the race was on, many pilots still choose not to fly because of the weather conditions.  The balloons that did not fly still inflated and put on a show for the crowd.

Every year talking with photographers before the event, there are always a few things that come up.  First is the old "I didn't know which lens to bring"  and then, for those that have been there before, it's the "I hope I can get something different than before". 

The first is an easy choice for me.  Instead of trying to switch lenses back and forth, of carry multiple bodies around, I simply choose the Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD with my Nikon D500.  Using this lens gives me the ability to shoot wide and long in a simple twist of the lens barrel and saves me from fumbling around with multiple lenses or bodies.  

The second topic of discussion about finding something different was a bit easier to deal with this year, too.  The low clouds were fantastic because once the balloons launched into the clouds, it looked as if they were simply disappearing.  Another thing were the rain puddles left over from the night before.  They made for a lot of soggy feet, but the trade off was some pretty great reflections of the balloons.  So, for those photographers that got up and gambled on the weather, they were rewarded with conditions you don't normally get for this event.

This image is one where the balloons looked as if they are simply disappearing into the clouds.  I really liked these images simply because it was something I had not seen or photographed at this event.  It was a very nice treat!

Equipment list: Nikon D500 and Tamron 18-400 F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD

EXIF Info: Aperture-priority, 1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 400, Compensation: +1

Hot Air Balloons

During the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, there is an annual event that I try to attend near my home in Decatur, AL.  It's called The Alabama Jubilee...but it's more commonly known as "the hot air balloon festival" around these parts.

Now, I've shot this event before, so I sort of knew what to expect.  I knew I'd have to arrive before sunrise.  I knew a tripod would do me no good fact it would hinder me and slow me down.  Once these balloons start to inflate and launch things happen very quickly.  

What equipment did you take?  I took 2 camera bodies and 2 lenses, both setup differently that would cover most any situation I could dream up here.  I took my Canon 5D Mk II with the Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Lens attached for wide angle shots.  Then I had my Canon 7D with the Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Lens attached for longer, isolation shots.

This combo worked wonderfully!  The fast glass was crucial early on in the morning.  And, since I had one setup on one shoulder and one setup on the other, I could quickly change from one to the other without missing a shot.

While the balloons were inflating, I could use my 24-70mm setup to get shots like this:

Normally, I use the wide angle setup for shots after all the balloons have launched to get that shot of a sky full of balloons, however this year the sky didn't quite cooperate.  The sky was just very, very bright white, with not much color at all.  There was also a haze in the air that made everything look...well, polluted.  I did grab this shot, that I was able to pull just a tinsy bit of sky out of with Lightroom.  

Since the sky was pretty nasty, I focused on using my longer lens and isolating the colorful balloons and trying out different compositions.  This image was taken with the 70-200mm lens looking straight up after this balloon began to launch.  I was looking for colors, and it's hard to beat this.

This last shot is also full of color, but I think it maybe my favorite composition from the morning.  I happened to capture tons of color as the pilot was looking down at my lens.  He looks grumpy...I'm not sure I'd mess with him. 

Lastly, here is a full frame shot of one of another colorful balloon.  Filling the frame with this balloon eliminated much of the nasty sky, which, trust did not want to see.  Again, I was able to pull out a bit of sky in Lightroom.  

So, that's some of my favorites from the morning.  I'm glad I had the lethal Tamron combo to shoot with!  It sure saved the day!