How to capture hot air balloons in the Barossa Valley

Who hasn't heard of South Australia's renowned Barossa Valley and its superb array of award winning wineries and gourmet food options? There would be few people who don't have the Barossa on their bucket list and frankly, it's top notch scenery is a photographers dream. A great spot to visit any time of the year. But if it's balloons you want - Autumn is the best season to come.

If you want to check out the experience first-hand, then book a ride, but if you are more like me and prefer your feet firmly on terra firma just jump in your car and get ready to play paparazzi with some hot air balloons. First up, a few safety things to remember: the roads around the Barossa can be busy, even early in the morning, so be mindful when pulling over on the road and crossing them; be aware of wildlife while driving around on country roads and; finally avoid trespassing on private property.

To avoid disappointment it does pay to do a bit of preparation the night before. First check the weather forecast - it makes sense that if the weather is bad, the balloons won't be up, right? Check the time of the sunrise so you can plan what time to head out. Also check the wind direction to help predict roughly which direction the balloons will be travelling in. From here on, it comes down to luck.

I recommend using a telephoto zoom lens for your balloon chasing efforts. I used my old 55-250mm kit lens on a cropped sensor DSLR. A tripod might be an option if you are well positioned in advance, or taking a photo from a distance and have time to set up. It was surprising how quickly they moved, so a faster shutter speed is needed to prevent motion blur particularly when close up. 


Hot Air Balloon Silhouette, Barossa Valley South Australia.

I was lucky enough to come across two balloons as I was driving towards the town of Nuriootpa. It was a case of coming over a hill and there they were. My settings for this photo were 60mm at  aperture f4, and a shutter speed of 1/800sec. I wanted a silhouette effect for this shot so I placed the balloon between myself and the sun and metered my exposure off the brighter area of scene.


Hot Air Balloon over paddock, Barossa Valley, South Australia.

This image was taken facing away from the sun so that the foreground was filled with a bit more light, but there was still a nice pink hue reflected from the sunrise. It was very much a think quick shot as the balloon was about to sail over the hill and down into the valley. I also wanted to capture the burner flame too. My settings were 55mm at ISO 100, f4, and 1/400sec.

So good luck with your balloon chasing, and if you have success please post your photos on the Lensing about Australia facebook page. I would love to see them and share them with my followers. Until then happy wandering.