Hovering with the Balloons

Just a quick post after an unusual photo flight.

Hovering with BalloonsI did a “first light” photo flight this morning. The client: me.

I needed a bunch of photographs that could clearly illustrate how a change altitude affects the perspective of an aerial photo scene. So I armed my helicopter with a battery of GoPro cameras, set them up to snap an image every 2 seconds, and went flying at dawn.

For about 90 minutes.

On the way back, I spotted a number of hot air balloons in the sky northeast of Deer Valley Airport. This isn’t anything unusual; the balloons are up every morning for the first hour or two of the day. But what was unusual is my attempt to capture images of the balloons.

Instead of satisfying myself with the usual fly by images, this time, I climbed to about 1,000 feet AGL, pointed the helicopter southwest toward the balloons, and brought it into a hover. And held it there for about a minute.

While I was hovering there, facing the balloons, I got a weird feeling, as if I were a bird trying to join a flock. I could imitate their motion (or apparent lack thereof), but I wasn’t one of them.

Anyway, this is one of the shots I captured, cropped for better presentation. As you can see, there was one balloon at a higher altitude but most of the others were lower. Can you see them all in this shot? I count seven.

I couldn’t do anything about the distance. The GoPro cameras have a wide angle lens, making everything seem farther away than it really is. If I got any closer, the folks in the closest balloon — which was also the one higher than me — may have freaked out. (If you think airplane pilots hate helicopters, you should talk to a balloon pilot one day.)

This isn’t, by far, the best photo shot this morning. But it’s the one I thought of from the moment I lowered the helicopter’s collective to descend back toward Deer Valley until the moment I first viewed it on my computer.

I really do need to spend some time in a balloon soon.

What do you think?