A hot air balloon festival is a colorful site. Bluff, UT is a tiny town with a couple of motels, a gas station, and once a year in the winter, a balloon festival. Bluff itself has some nice cliffs. Why do you think they named it Bluff? So, it is pretty to see them fly in town, which they will do on Friday and Saturday morning.
On Saturday night they hold the night glow. It is a fun event where a few (about 7) balloons are set up in a small field in the center of town and they are lit by the flames from the burners. Hot air balloons can push very hot flames (blue) that make them take off. But they can also push a yellow flame that is better at making them just light up. It takes a continuing source of heat to hold the balloons vertical. After all, they are roughly an 8 story building. During the night glow, they either flicker (fun for video shots) or they all glow at once, which works for stills. The burns are signaled by one pilot who whistles either in staccato bursts or a single, long whistle.
The Bluff festival is a small one, with about 15-20 balloons. Gallup has a lovely festival with about 55, and Albuquerque has hundreds. It is not just numbers, it is location. Bluff is located right by the Valley of the Gods. It is also close to Cedar Mesa (Bears Ears National Monument) and to Monument Valley. The Valley of the Gods is where the balloons fly on Sunday morning, and that is a photo opportunity since the rock structures are fantastic.
The photos are best while the balloons are relatively low, since colorful dots in the sky don’t really make much of a shot. It is also fun to play with perspective with balloons and capture them in various patterns. I have a double-decker shot here. A more rare shot is my shot where two balloons actually touched. They call this a kiss, and no harm if the baskets are not involved in the collision. It takes really variable winds for this to happen, since the balloons are pushed in 2 directions at the same altitude. That way they touch instead of gliding along together in tandem. The pilots told me the kiss is a pretty rare occurrence.
I took shots from all angles, but I like the ones best that play against the iconic pinnacles of the Valley of the Gods.