This will be my third visit (so far) to this event. I have yet to have what I will call a "successful" trip, largely because balloon festivals are at the mercy of Mother Nature herself. If it is rainy (and yes, it rains in the high desert at this time of year!) - the balloons don't fly. If there is too much wind - pretty much anything over 8-10 mph - the balloons don't fly. In my two previous trips to ABQ for this event, the balloons have managed to launch only two times - out of 6 possible launch sessions!
The main event, held on the weekend mornings and on at least one morning mid-week, is the Mass Ascension. During this session the sky will be filled with all of the registered balloons as they take off in waves from the 72 acre launch field in North Central Albuquerque. I have only witnessed a weather marred version of this, where approximately 300 balloons (out of the 700 that registered) were able to launch. Even this "smaller" version was a sight to behold.
So - what do you need to take with you for a trip like this? Layered clothing, for starters. It can be pretty cool-ish at 5 AM in the high desert in October. And it is likely that the temperature will have changed by 20 degrees by the time you leave the festival grounds. And you will be on the move, so make sure that you have some well broken in and comfortable shoes. As far as camera gear goes, my kit looks something like this:
17-35 F2.8 Wide Angle Lens
24-60 F2.8 Normal Zoom Lens
80-200 F2.8 Zoom Telephoto Lens
Monopod (For Morning Sessions)
Tripod (For Evening Sessions)
ND Grad Filter
I will probably pack a few other sundries for cleaning the lenses and what not - it does get dusty out there. The thing to remember is that you will be mobile for three to four hours on the festival grounds - and will have to keep everything with you that you bring because you will be surrounded by thousands of your new closest and dearest friends. So take what you need, but travel smart and travel light and the time will fly by. But Oh, what a time you will have!!!
Even with the weather woes I have experienced, the sheer scale of this event is enough to set your senses reeling. I am traveling with a fellow photographer instead of Ms. C this time because, for some reason, she doesn't find the same allure in sitting on the sidelines, potentially in the rain and cold, without a camera...go figure. I will be there on the final weekend...with an ear to ear grin -
Have a nice day!!!