The Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, a colorful family-friendly production kicking off on Wednesday, August 31st, is an especially magical experience from behind the lens. So, as a new Boise photographer, I was thrilled to learn about the event that has been around since 1991. After a pandemic-driven cancellation in 2020 and family plans in 2021 that cut my experience short, my hopes are flying high for 2022.
Capturing these colorful hot air balloons as they come to life through breaths of fire requires early rising. Once they reach the sky just after 7 a.m., the race is on to find the perfect angle to capture the balloons in all their glory. Popular viewing spots are along the Boise Train Depot and Shoreline Drive. From that location, the morning sun rises from behind the foothills, which provides a great angle to capture the balloons as they light up like lanterns and reflect off the water below at Ann Morrison Park. As the balloons move higher, I found it best to do the same. For nearby hikes with city views, the hills of the Military Reserve may be an ideal location to capture the balloons hovering over the city before they land on roof tops, streets or even the front lawn of the Capital building!
It’s easy to play favorites from behind the lens and focus on the most colorful or interesting of the bunch. I could easily dedicate a whole morning to following one balloon, while another day might be spent capturing that wide-angle view of the city with its fanciful fliers. Every day is a chance to try again - to set off on a different path to land a few good shots before the balloons retreat back to the ground just an hour or two later. But before picking a location to set up, it’s probably best to make sure all the camera gear made it out of the house during those barely awake 5 a.m. departures. Decisions must be made about transportation, too. Cars may be faster, but setting off on foot or by bike could be advantageous in some areas. Another very important factor for capturing that ideal image is light. Such questions float through a photographer’s mind faster than the balloons. Where is the sun, where are the shadows? Once they rise above trees and buildings, clouds can still hide the sun or cast a shadow upon the balloon at the exact moment you snap a photo.
All of this consideration and strategizing requires patience, because things never go as planned... but that’s also part of the fun. Chasing balloons is an unpredictable, but exciting venture, like trying to capture a butterfly before it flies away, or lands just out of sight. There’s always a new angle or perspective. Millions of photo-possibilities are all wrapped into one glorious 5-day event, including morning launches and a Friday evening glow. Wherever these balloons take me, I’m looking forward to the exhilarating challenge of capturing something new and seeing what our community of inspiring photographers will capture this year, too!
SpiritOfBoise.com for more information and than you to our contributing photographers: @westinski, @maltese_rose_photography, @gemstate.pups, @i.am.optimus.prime, @loeblifephotography, @scenicpicnic, @knowlesgallery, Kyle Brutke