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Hot Air Balloons

I grew up in Calgary and went to art college there, majoring in photography. Calgary can be a windy city and sitting in the foothills of Alberta, it gets good currents. In Vancouver, you never see a hot air balloon but Calgary is rife with them. With all the political debates, there is a lot of hot air that could be used more effectively to float those balloons.

Calgary’s skyline was often festooned with balloons, and I took one picture that had six balloons at sunset. A friend of mine still has that picture. Through the summer and fall it’s a common sight. I presume it still is. I was lucky enough at one time to run into the hot air balloon club as they were getting their balloons in the air. The balloons are massive, large enough to have a party of a 100 in some of them (a cozy party). The gondolas range in size but most would only hold four people max.

The rides can be fairly expensive but I made a deal and traded photos of the members working on their balloons for a ride. It’s was a spring morning in Calgary, which means there was still some snow on the ground. I was wearing runners and carrying my gear.

As we rose over the city I was amazed to feel…nothing. This was no sense of rising and falling and the ride was like standing in a building. I suppose if there had been too much wind, the ride might have been bumpier. Like looking out a plane window you get a sense of the birds-eye view of the world, but this is closer because you don’t rise as high. Great detail and a languid sale over the city and out of town.

The farmers’ fields outside the city held far more snow than the streets. The city was nearly bare with just a few wet patches. As we slowly moved over the fields, watching cows and cars, we came down in a farmer’s field. Hot air balloons are very much at the whim of the air currents and it’s one thing that people have to check before they plan their flights. We landed in a good two feet of snow and had to wait for the truck to come to bail out the balloon and us. And that’s when I frostbit my toes, standing in snow, in runners for a couple of hours.

I still have pictures of the balloon ride though shots of the balloon are far more interesting to me. If you ever get a chance, go for a ride.

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