Things, stuff, and other items of interest

September 5, 2011

Full of Hot Air

It's been a while since I last posted anything up here, primarily because I got side tracked by a sudden outbreak of summer. I was then further delayed by a sudden breaking of my foot. That in and of itself will be the basis of another post, but for now I want to share with you a small portion of what was a most excellent day.

(Image: DSC_0071, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from my photostream)

The "Festival de Montgolfières de Gatineau" (or "Gatineau's Hot Air Balloon Festival" for us anglophones) has been a point of both annoyance and delight for me over the last couple of years. Last year was the first time I really tried to get some shots of the balloons, but I was foiled at each attempt as Mother Nature wasn't terribly cooperative.

(Image: DSC_0400, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from my photostream)

The festival itself follows a pretty strict schedule for take-offs. The pilots have a pre-launch briefing where presumably the weather conditions are discussed and the launch status is decided & announced. I don't know the specifics of that process, but I do know if you follow the festival on twitter, you can keep up to date on the launch status for each scheduled take-off. If the last few years are anything to go by, being a hot air balloon pilot must be a very frustrating job.

(Image: DSC_0243, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from my photostream)

This year was going to be different, I had a plan. Basically this involved me getting up before the sun and hustling my sizeable caboose down to a 'secret location' and then checking the festival's twitter feed to see if the launch was going to happen or not. Believe me, no one is more surprised than I that this actually worked.

(Image: DSC_0160, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from my photostream)

As it turned out, there were a few flaws in my plan. Specifically:
  1. Given the safety concerns and the unpredictable impact of Mother Nature, getting there over an hour early was a little excessive.
  2. My secret spot was anything but. As launch time arrived about six SUVs and a dozen or more cars start piling in and unloading their passengers. Thankfully my particular perch was a bit more removed. I ended up hanging out with another photographer while we waited for the balloons to arrive. 
  3. I hadn't considered that the National Capital Commission may have something to say about all of this. More on that in a moment.
(Image: DSC_0104, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from my photostream)

After about two hours or so, the go ahead was given the green flag hoisted on the launch field, and the balloons started to fly. It may sound a little corny, but it really was like nothing I've seen before. Balloon after balloon each jumping up into the air and never coming down. It seemed like they were in a race as cluster after cluster took off. All said and done, the launch window was pretty short as they only had about ten minutes left of their schedule take off time. I'm guessing they had about twenty-five or so balloons take off, maybe a few more or less.

(Image: DSC_0230, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from my  photostream)

When it was finished, I headed back to my bike only to find that it was surrounded by barricades, and there were two NCC trucks waiting for me. It seems that the NCC shuts down this particular location for each launch. I'm going to guess it has something to do with safety reasons, but then it could just be for pure spite. Local opinion tends to vary widely on the good nature of the commission. One of the fellas in the truck hopped out and explained that they closed the parking down and that since I had made it there before them, and the fact that there were no signs posted, they weren't going to ticket me. Gee thanks. They asked me to keep it in mind for next time. So all in all, an excellent start to what turned out to be a really good day.

Personally, my favourite shot of the day was this one:

(Image: DSC_0351, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from my photostream)

If you'd like to see the rest of the photos, please feel free to check out the full set on Flickr. It's taken me a couple of days to get this post written since I first posted the photos, and as it turns out they've become my most successful set so far.

1 comment:

Scott said...

This was the first year I made an attempt to get to the parkway to see (and shoot) the launches. I didn't make it there as early as I had planned. I first drove past all of the spots with people watching, only to find that the actual look out spot I was hoping to be at was cordoned off for the handicapped. I turned around at the traffic circle and headed back to the small parking lot near the New Edinburgh Club and walked back up the parkway to somewhere between the parking lot and the lookout. There were a lot of people there, but I had a fairly unobstructed view.

I almost didn't go out when I realized I was running late, but I'm glad I did since it seems that a lot of flights for the rest of the weekend were cancelled.

Your personal favourite shot is a really nice one.