Glowdeo, 2011

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You’ll want to take a nap after Mass Ascension, then head back to Balloon Fiesta Park before dark.  Once the sun sets, a whole different kind of fun begins at the Fiesta.  It’s called Glowdeo, and as the name suggests, it’s all about basking in the warm glow of inflated hot-air balloons, lit by the propane flames from their burners.

I arrived at Balloon Fiesta Park with time to spare before the balloon glow was scheduled to begin.  The weather wasn’t quite as beautiful as it had been, 12 hours earlier.  There was some concern that windy conditions would cancel the glow.  For a while, I waited and watched, as nothing happened…

… then finally, a few balloons started to inflate.  Spider Pig was one of the first I spotted.

Before long, it was in the air — though it remained tethered to the ground.  During the balloon glow events, the balloons don’t take off.  This event is purely for show.

The Balloon Glow was invented in Albuquerque in 1979. A few balloon owners inflated their aircraft on Christmas Eve — lighting them up as a way to say thanks to the community.

Once again, I was running around, taking pictures non-stop.  These conditions were even trickier for photography, than in the morning.  Less light meant longer exposures, which could lead to blurry pictures. Also, I had to time my pictures to correspond with the burners, which would fire for just a few seconds, then remain dark for a minute or two.

I resorted to using a tripod to get my photos to turn out, then used trial-and-error to get the best exposure.

Just like in the morning events, you’re free to wander around the field, and get fairly close to balloon crews as they fire up the burners.

I will include more pictures from the Glowdeo in my photo gallery of Balloon Fiesta pictures.

This glow could have been just slightly more beautiful, if the sky wasn’t so dark.  But I’m not complaining — bad weather later in the week forced the cancellation of some of the other glows.  I’ve heard it said that this is why Balloon Fiesta spans two weekends: because you can always count on the weather ruining one of them.  In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Plan to spend a few days at Balloon Fiesta, so you get at least one good day.

There’s one more good thing about taking pictures at night: since the balloons don’t fly, they stay in one place, allowing you to frame up some nice shots.  Just like in the morning, the Glowdeo is “shooting fish in a barrel”, and you’ll come away with dozens, if not hundreds of pictures.

The Zia Sun symbol balloon is, of course, especially popular at Balloon Fiesta, since it also appears on New Mexico’s state flags, state quarter, road signs, and license plates.

Several special shape balloons were inflated for the glow, including one of the popular twin bees, and the butterfly.

Once every few minutes, an announcer on a loudspeaker would count down, then all the balloonists would fire their burners at once.  This is perhaps the most magical moment during a balloon glow, when the roar of propane fires and the glow of brightly colored balloons completely surrounds you.

You can find the schedule of all Balloon Fiesta events at its website. There, you’ll also see the results of the Balloon Fiesta photo contest, which may help you figure out how to take better photos of the balloons.

Location

Balloon Fiesta Park is on the north side of town, west of Interstate 25.  Take exit 233 and head west on Alameda Boulevard (or follow the traffic — some roads may be shut down or reversed to allow for the inflow of vehicles).  Parking is $10 per car, and admission is $8 per person (as of 2011).  Check the Balloon Fiesta website for package deals and other specials.

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