• Matthew Brooks

Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2017


In August I had a number of trips planned which would be a great chance to potentially take some amazing photos. Well this one is something that I have now ticked on my photography bucket list. Of which is a rather long and entirely unticked list.

I really want to challenge myself to do things that I have not done before photographically. Fast moving objects and birding are probably two areas I want to improve. Both can be very similar as both require fast reactions and panning skills in certain scenarios. Well hot air balloons certainly don't move fast but still require certain skills to get composition correct and make images look aesthetically pleasing. I decided to spread it over two days to try and catch the nightglow and fireworks on the Thursday night and the up early on Friday for the 6am morning flight.

After a terrible journey there which included a blowout and tire change, and then a 1 1/2 hour walk to the Ashton manor estate due to the main route across the Clifton Suspension Bridge being shut..we got there .It was a lot busier than I anticipated. For some reason I thought I would be walking amongst the hot air balloons with everyone else. However as we were late due to tire issues and a slightly longer walk I was at the back of a huge crowd with thousands of people in front of me. One thing to learn.....planning. Despite this I was really pleased that I managed to get some pictures that I was happy with. Which hasn't been the case recently.

On the way down I grabbed shot of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was closed. The sun was going down and loved the colour reflected in the river.


The night glow spectacle itself was really great. So many colours and the balloons were flaming and glowing to the rhythm of the music that was playing. A slight shame there were so many people in front of me but the tilting screen on my Sony A7Rii definitely helped with that, just holding it up a high with the screen tilted down and click away. Even though I am happy with these in this situation it was really tricky to get a lot of usable photos. With the balloon pulsing quite quick you don't have that time to stop and compose with the precision you may want to. So it almost comes down to a numbers game. I shot in high bursts so I could choose the best and binned the rest.

It was really windy and a few were struggling to stay upright and some struggling to even stay on the floor all together. At points streams of people were running to bring that Cameron Balloons branded one back down to earth. Here is one zoomed in on people holding one basket down. Also one of the fireworks to end off the show.

After a long walk back, got in about 12 to get up at 5am the next morning to get morning shots. A 20 minute walk to the Clifton Observatory above the bridge was clearly the hotspot to be as there were a couple of hundred people there ready to take photos.

In my head I already had a vision of what I wanted to shoot. Which is so important as a photographer when going into a shoot that you a have a vision of what you may want to capture. Obviously outside it depends sometimes on weather or In the case on my Skomer Island trip at the start of the month I went to capture puffins but they had nearly all left the island a week earlier than normal. Thankfully this time it worked out that conditions worked in my favour. There were some clouds in the sky and where the sun was rising behind me was cloudless so had some lovely light on the bridge itself.

I knew given the right wind direction the balloons would come close if not across the bridge. Everyone there got their wish. This was so worth getting up early for no matter how tired I was. Love these pics and was exactly what I had in mind. As the last few were coming over the lovely glow from the rising sun had started to disappear.

20 minutes back to the hotel, breakfast, then 4 hours walking around Bristol Zoo. Overall way too much walking for me haha. If you get the chance to go next year then I definitely suggest it. It can be a long day if you want to see it all but as long as the weather is with you take a picnic and enjoy outdoors. There is a fair there with some rides for younger kids and the typical stalls to win cuddly toys and so forth. So it is definitely a place suited to families of any age.

That is all. Hope you enjoyed.

#landscapes #sunnyday #walking #photography #photoopp

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Hendy, Carmarthenshire

photographymb87@yahoo.com