Every time I see a Hot Air Balloon, I watch them with awe as they gracefully glide through the sky towards the horizon, thinking one day I will do that. Well, my daughters obviously picked up on my frequent upward glances and arranged a joint Mother's Day/Birthday present for two.
Now you just can't fly these glamorous balloons whenever you feel like it, so it did take about 2 months before we finally had to set our alarm for the 3am wake up call.
As a result of my, let's same extreme excitement, I didn't need the alarm; we were up and in the car by 3.15am on a cold Australian winter's morning. I probably should add, that this is the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, so the cold is probably more like a freezer section in a meat shop, when compared to a lot of other places around the world.
Regardless, we were rugged up with our winter Marmot and Vigilante jackets and even some thermal base layers.
For those wondering how to capture Hot Air Ballooning, I found it difficult as it was pitch black to start with, the light was constantly changing and I didn't use a flash. You don't have time to change lenses or set up tripods or flashes. The experience is in the ballooning, so I wanted to enjoy the experience of our morning, as well as capture memorable pictures. I decided on a very versatile lens 18-300mm and set everything to manual (including focus), changing the settings to suit the changing light and speed. My ISO was limited to 8000 which still gave me quite a bit of grain.
We were to be picked up at the Sheraton Mirage, Southport. A beautiful hotel, and as we had managed to arrive a bit early, we spent some time scouring the grounds and ocean behind it.
After a 90 minute bus ride up through the Hinterland, we arrived somewhere around Beaudesert to be greeted with the pre sunrise cold. We were to take off from one of the paddocks where the 7 balloons were being inflated. Lucky for the thermals :)
We were fortunate enough to be the first balloon to take off, soaring high very quickly. It was quite surreal how quickly we rose, without even noticing.
I didn't fully realise how big the balloons were and when you see them compared to the buses we had arrived in, you fully appreciate the size of them.
We flew over some beautiful countryside with fog pockets throughout the valleys. The serenity and quiet in the balloon was amazing.
The dots in the sky are the balloons following us. Murry (our pilot) was in constant contact with them, regarding wind, speed and many other conversations.
The early morning sunrise over the mountains, heightens your senses and you become aware that you are witnessing the waking of a glorious winter's day.
Just prior to the sun rising looking west over the Hinterland.
Surreal, serene and whilst not a dare devil activity, something you won't forget.
I believe I was lucky with my placement in the basket, as I got to stand in the basket section beside the Pilot. It was warmer and it allowed me to capture these pictures. The basket is segregated into 5 sections - one in the middle for the pilot and then either side of that were 2 sections divided down the middle. We managed to fit 24 people fairly comfortably into the basket.
The moon still high in the sky as we were passing by it.
The three balloons scattered across the skyline, following fairly closely in the path we had taken.
The landing was so smooth, which I didn't really expect - maybe just a great pilot. You notice how fast you are travelling as you get lower to the ground. Apparently our speed was around 40kmh. The sun was just rising in the background as we landed.
One of the other balloons trying to find a spot to land in the next paddock.
And just about to touch down.
I couldn't resist this photo. Nothing to provide you with perspective of the size, but a quick shot into the air as the balloon was approaching me. I just love the colours that appeared.
And it's a wrap......