I love hot air balloons so when I heard that there would be a “festival” in nearby Lakeland, FL, I just had to go!
I purchased a ticket online and late Saturday afternoon I met my friends in downtown Lakeland for an early dinner. As always, we had a fun time eating, discussing photography, and our latest photo adventures. From there we drove to Linder International Airport, where Up, Up, and Away Florida was holding the festival.
Since I had booked online, they were sending updates via email as the weather in Florida is always iffy! As we were walking to the entrance to the airfield, I received an email that did not bode well! We continued on to the will-call window where we were told that the winds were too high for a launch and that the tethered night glow (where they run the burners in the inflated balloons in the dark) most likely would not happen.
Several of my friends decided to try another event back in Tampa that evening. Another friend and I decided to go back to my house and try again in the morning!
Generally, in central Florida, the winds are usually calmer in the morning so we were hopeful. We drove back to Lakeland very early and I received an email as we arrived that the mass launch was a GO!
Upon walking out to the flight line, I noticed that all the spectators were sitting along the asphalt but I did not see many folks out on the launch field. My past experience at the huge hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, had been more up close in personal! I did not see anyone “policing” the area so I decided to walk out onto the field and ask forgiveness, if necessary. Well, there were no problems at all. As always, I was careful to give the balloon crews plenty of space and especially steer clear of the large fans that they use to inflate the balloons. My friend had never been at a launch before so I quickly went through the “dos and don’ts”.
Using my Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z 24-70mm lens, I was able to get great views into a balloon as it was getting inflated. I used this camera and lens or my iPhone 12 Pro Max for all the images. The iPhone was great for the wider views!
From my times in Albuquerque, I learned that shooting the balloons on the ground was just as, or even more picturesque than when they are in the air!
I always try to catch the burner as they use that to finish the inflation as the balloon finally rises off the ground.
As I walked around I found more colorful hot air balloons being inflated.
At this point, the noise from all the burners was incredible! You have to be on your toes as they sometimes move sideways as they first lift-off.
As the first balloons lifted off I raced to get these images as quickly as I could.
Shooting into the sun is not the greatest but when it lights up a beautiful balloon I will make it work!
Eventually there were a bunch of balloons in the air so I could get a group image!
The Americana balloon was one I wanted to get with the others in the distance!
One of my favorite hot air balloons was the watermelon balloon.
One of the last balloons to liftoff was the rainbow colored swirly balloon! Since I had the room, now I could follow as it flew over head. I shot up to get the pattern of the balloon from slightly different angles.
As the last of the balloons lifted off the quiet was just so profound!
There were a couple of tethered balloons for paid balloon rides, food concessions, vendors, live music, and later, night glow. But we had come for the mass launch so we walked back to the car and headed out for some breakfast!
I was so happy we had come back that morning! I had finally seen a mass launch (my two experiences in New Mexico were not so lucky! see 2018 and 2019) The Up, Up and Away Florida Festival is not anywhere close to the immense Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico but nevertheless is was exhilarating to be on the ground while they were inflating, and to see all of them in the air, was a thrill. Something about them gets my endorphins flowing!
Oh! I did not mention that I rode in a hot air balloon some years back! It was one of the most exciting things I have done and it was not even flying over anything terribly interesting but it was a rush! I think just being around these balloons and hearing the burners, smelling the gas and watching the crews work just took me back to both my balloon ride and the visits to Albuquerque!
If you get the chance to see a hot air balloon mass launch, do it! Hopefully, Up, Up and Away Florida will run this festival again in 2023 and on!
Click on any image to see a larger version OR visit my gallery to see and purchase prints and other items with these and many additional images: Gallery Link – Up And Away Florida Hot Air Balloon Festival
My next post will be even closer to home! I beautiful field of flowers just down the road!
That is all for now!