San Francisco Photo Spot series: Chasing Hot Air Balloons over the Napa Valley

» Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Featured, Napa, photo spot, San Francisco, short trip

Last weekend I joined Frederic Larson’s meetup in Napa to photograph hot air balloons. The balloons are flying almost daily over Napa but on a nice weekend, you can have as many as 10 balloons in the air at the same time. Meetups are a great way to do things you would not otherwise think of doing. My favorite quote from Frederic is: “If you don’t change something, how could you expect different results”. My interpretation is: if you always wake up at the same time, you will always end up with the same photographs. Change you wake up time and see something different.

So for this meetup, we woke up at 4:30am, in order to be in Youtville by 6:45am. From there, we carpooled to the launching spot where a fair number of balloons where already being inflated.

Warming up the air for a hot balloon ride.

Warming up the air for a hot balloon ride.

The sun was rising quickly (so were the balloons) illuminating the bright colored balloons in a very warm light. It was the equivalent of a candy store for photographer. Anywhere you would turn there was a nice photo opportunity.

Getting the balloon ready at sunrise

Getting the balloon ready at sunrise

Time to fly

Time to fly

Ready to go, the sun is here, the balloon is inflated, let's go

Ready to go, the sun is here, the balloon is inflated, let’s go

I'm flying

A group of hot balloon rising above Napa.

A group of hot balloon rising above the Napa Valley.

The balloons left quickly and started to drift away. We jumped into our cars and drove among the vineyards until we got in front of the balloons. Frederic was trying to setup a shot with the balloons and the vineyards.

A low flying balloon among the vineyard in Napa.

A low flying balloon among the vineyard in Napa.

A low flying balloon among the vineyard in Napa.

A low flying balloon among the vineyard in Napa.

The fun was really to find where they would land. Since we did not have contact with the balloons’ pilot, we were simply following them until they started to come down. At the end, they ended up in Napa, landing between a train tracks, the highway and the Napa river.

Precision landing between the train track, the highway and the river Napa

Precision landing between the train track, the highway and the river Napa

Too close to the highway.

Too close to the highway.

Packing the balloon.

Packing the balloon.

The size of the balloon.

The size of the balloon.

Detail of webbing

Detail of webbing

By 9:30am we were back at our starting point (Bouchon Bakery in Yountville) for a well-deserved breakfast in one of my favorite bakery.
After that we spend the morning scouting the Napa valley until it was time for lunch.

All the images presented here are available for licensing or as fine art prints.