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Photo Tips

Photographing from moving platforms. Part 1. Balloons

Jackie Ranken

This article is about the experiences that I have had of shooting Landscape photographs images from a moving platform. As photographers, we can often find ourselves in this situation…either not being behind the wheel or simply being in a situation where you just can’t stop. Though the positive action of at least trying to make a shot you can often be rewarded with images that work on a different level. Photographs made from moving vehicles whether it be a car, horse cart, train, hot air balloon or aircraft all require a different way of shooting and also a different way of thinking. The major consideration once you have found a subject to photography is to ask yourself ‘what do you want to say’ and then to experiment with your camera settings to make photographs to help communicate those thoughts and ideas.

The major factor to be aware of is that your shooting platform is now moving and your distance relationship to your subject is constantly changing. This kind of shooting takes practice, be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. Hold onto all your captures and analyze what worked and what didn’t work. Be prepared to take a second and third look at your shots before they hit the ‘bin’ because blurry moving images can still work.

 When I am travelling I always try to have my camera out of the camera bag and setup with the most appropriate lens and camera settings.  This is usually a lens range of 24-70 on my full frame Canon 5DMKIV. Equivalent to around an 18-55mm lens on a smaller DSLR sensor size.

 

To start with let us look at  making photographs from a hot air balloon.

 F8, 1/1000th Sec, ISO 160, focal length @70mm Canon 5DMKIII  My favourite shot!

F8, 1/1000th Sec, ISO 160, focal length @70mm Canon 5DMKIII

My favourite shot!

Shooting from a hot air balloon is an event that starts in the dark. So keep your wits about you and be prepared to record the whole story. From the inflation of the balloons in the near darkness to the landing and champagne breakfast. 

Once in the air, your viewpoint changes dramatically take a deep breath and remember to enjoy the ride.  Before the sun lights up the landscape below you it will light up your balloon or other balloons that you are flying with. Take advantage of this and make some air to air shots. Then photograph the first rays of light that are cast shadows across the landscape. This can look most dramatic when you shoot towards the direction of the sun.

For me this is the money shot. Shooting against the light and cropping out the horizon line emphasised the early morning smoke from the villages below. The temple is the key to the composition and shows that we are over The Plains of Bagan.

 f3.5, 1/80th sec, ISO500, focal length set at 38mm  The air to air shot.

f3.5, 1/80th sec, ISO500, focal length set at 38mm

The air to air shot.

 f8, 1/640th sec, ISO400, focal length set at 35mm.  The landing shot that tells the story of what I am in, what I can see and where I am going. 

f8, 1/640th sec, ISO400, focal length set at 35mm.

The landing shot that tells the story of what I am in, what I can see and where I am going. 

 

Tips for shooting from hot air balloons

• Try and get a corner in the basket because this will give you a better opportunity to shoot straight down to the ground.

• Carry your camera around your neck and have another small bag that you can hold around your waist with a spare lens. A wide angle lens is good to tell the story of what’s going on around you and a mid-range telephoto lens (70-200mm) will be best for shooting details in the landscape.

• Keep your horizon level.

• Because the balloon is moving faster than you think, keep your shutter speed double that of the focal length of the lens. Raise your ISO if necessary to keep your shutter speed fast enough.

• Before landing put your camera away so that it doesn’t hit you in the face! But be ready to grab it (with a wide angle lens) as soon as you have landed to tell the last part of the story. Taking off. f3.5, 1/100th second, 1000 ISO, 70mm.

Taking an opportunity to see the world from above in the early morning should not be missed. Moving with the air is an experience like no other.

Join  Mike Langford and I, on our 2018 Myanmar Photography Tour October 29-Nov 11

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