I’ll just get right out with it now: hot air balloons are fascinating photographic subjects. They hang out in the sky like little candies of varied shapes and colors. For those of you unacquainted with the most photographed international event in the world, I would like to introduce to you the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (AIBF). Every October for nine days, hot air balloon enthusiasts of all types, all ages, and all nationalities show up in the “land of enchantment” to hold a supremely organized hot-air-balloon extravaganza. This and the next three posts will highlight some of my favorite spectator views from the just concluded annual event.
Other than the challenges of lighter-than-air flight, the pilots contend with the legal and logistical limitations for landing a balloon safely. If the box wind is not in effect, balloon pilots must maneuver skillfully to land in open spaces; homeowners’ yards or business’ parking lots. If they leave the Balloon Fiesta Park in a southerly direction, the FAA restricts them to landing before I-40; avoiding air traffic at the International Sunport, Albuquerque’s airport. Further south they reach the Isleta Indian Reservation. In the north westerly direction, balloonists sometimes land in Corrales, which isn’t fully developed and has large open spaces. Rio Rancho lies on a mesa sitting higher than the park and so combined with the rapid private land development, there landings are challenging. The Sandia Reservation to the north is also a place they can’t land. In the northeast section of the city, other than the Sandia Mountains, we observe landings in our neighborhood parks, parking lots and over and inside private yards. That can be really exciting while the children are watching while waiting to board their school buses!