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on Mar 2, 2012 in Landscape Photography

That Magical Morning in The Valley


I am one very, very, very lucky and very, very, very fortunate photographer! Someone likes me somewhere because the blessings that have dropped in front of my lens are at times just way too hard to believe true! I’m infamous for planning things using all the modern tools with old school traditions to make luck happen for me when I can. And with all of that said, I still get skunked. Be it wildlife, landscapes or aviation, many a time my best laid plans end up with not one pixel dying in the creation of a photograph. And when that happens, I tend to be just that more determined to make it happen the next time out.

When I selected dates for our first K&M Adventure in Monument valley, I did my usual schtick and went information hunting. Figuring out the phase of the moon as a snap. Where we’d stay, who we’d use for a guide and our destinations were pretty much in the bag. Then I saw the Hot Air Balloon Festival dates and my mind started to race. I mean really, how cool would that be! It just so happened the dates corresponded with the moon phase I wanted for star trails so it was a done deal. I don’t know what I read during this time, but somewhere in the back of my mind, the balloon thing was not a for sure thing. Time would tell.

We arrive at Monument Valley and the signs are up about the balloon festival but I didn’t see any of the telltale signs like vehicles with big baskets until our second day. It started the next day but information about the launch was pretty sketchy so I still had my doubts. The next morning we rose to a pretty overcast day, not the best light or background for a subject I think of as being airey and festive. No matter, off we headed to The Valley. We got down in time to see some of the balloons inflate, a couple were in the sky. This all happened when the overcast had cleared and gorgeous skies opened up with great light and backdrops.

To say it was magical is an understatement. The balloons started to dance around The Valley, going up and down, floating from mesa to mesa, riding the breeze and the romance for an hour. We shot and shot and shot! The opportunities were anywhere you wanted to point your lens.

Then from behind the mesa beside us there was that unmistakable sound of a heater blower. There were three launch sites for the festival. We were at the North Window, in front of us was the Mittens and behind us Artist. Floating in from Artist and now behind us was the balloon Skywalker. It was like a dream as they rose over the mesa, floated around and then landed just feet from us to the east. The nicest folks, they were talking up a storm with us as they launched again floating literally right over our heads.

As they floated overhead they call out, “Where would you guys like us?” I’ve never had a floating model before but this was great! They worked the breeze and the hearter unit the best they could to make our wishes come true. Little did they know that they didn’t have to do a thing to make our wishes come true. The sound of shutters slamming echoed off the mesas as 10 cameras on astroblast screamed through the pixels.

For these reasons and so many more, this is my favorite balloon and favorite images from that morning. Of these, there is one favorite. It comes next.