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Photographer's Note

For my 100th posting to TrekEarth, I took a while to decide what to post, but eventually decided on this composition which combines two of my greatest interests – photography and hot-air ballooning. I have hundreds of photographs taken from balloons, but few of them are outstanding because in the main you are just looking down on the ground, and often you wouldn’t know whether the shot was taken from a plane or a bridge. So I decided to post this one of other people ballooning.

This photograph was taken in Yangshuo about one hour before the one that I posted yesterday. I had set my alarm early to get up to catch the sunrise over the Li River, and when I opened the curtains of my hotel room, I could see these two balloons taking off from the river bank on the other side of the river. It was still quite dark, but I grabbed my camera and shot about a dozen frames as they were lifting into the sky. Whenever one of the balloons would fire its burners, it would light up the full colour of the balloon which made a spectacular contrast against the still quite dark pre-sunrise sky. I waited for the two balloons to fire their burners at the same time, but they didn’t, so I had to be satisfied with this shot of one in full colour.

Those of you who are familiar with hot-air ballooning will know that the reason balloons take-off as early as possible in the morning (usually as soon as it is light enough to see) is that there are only a couple of hours after sunrise until thermals start to develop, at which time flying a hot-air balloon is much more difficult. Whilst there are no thermals around, pilots only have to worry about the katabatic currents (which is cold air traveling down the sides of hills and mountains) and these are much more predictable and easier for the balloon pilot to handle. A balloon pilot can only control the height of the balloon. Firing the burner heats the balloon envelope causing it to rise. The balloon will descend when the air has cooled, or the pilot can release some of the hot air through a flap in the balloon envelope causing it to descend faster or arrest an ascent. The direction of the balloon is determined solely by the wind, so the skill in flying a balloon is knowing how the air currents are going to behave around the landforms in the area that you are flying (and also making sure you don’t fly into any power lines when landing – probably the biggest hazard of flying a hot-air balloon).

PP: Cropped, slight adjustment to levels and USM. Please don’t tell me I have cloned the coloured balloon onto this – I know it looks like that, but I swear I have not cheated! I have not done any selective desaturation of this photograph - this is exactly as it looked on that misty morning.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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