|Rick Collier is a travel writer and photographer with a worldwide portfolio.|
Rick writes the travel and photography blog "The Photo Tourist." His images can be viewed and bought at www.RickCollierImagery.com.
The Washingtonian Magazine’s August 2010 issue features one of my photographs on the cover: a hot-air balloon lifting off at the Shenandoah Balloon, Wine, and Music Festival. A couple years ago my lovely bride Nancy brought the festival to my attention. My head immediately filled with dreams of those emblematic photos of balloons filling, lifting off, flying … and all the rest. We booked our favorite B&B in Winchester, the Old Waterstreet Inn. We crept out before dawn and drove the 15 minutes or so to Long Branch Farm in hopes of catching the balloons lifting off at sunrise. It was hard to get up and out before breakfast: We were cold, hungry, and sleepy. Never having been to the site before, I ran around like a mad man for an hour or two. Then we went back to the inn for a fabulous breakfast (and excellent hot coffee!).
As often happens, the photos for which I’d hoped were just not available at this site on this day. High winds were expected aloft so the balloons were filling but not launching. But there was still lots to see and shoot.
I first spotted this balloon from across a field. It was a dull, dark purple and maroon in the morning light. They were filling the balloon on a down-slope at the side a hollow. By now the sun was up; I noticed the stark shadows as the balloon filled. Soon the balloon was off the ground and people were climbing in. I took a guess and ran for my spot. As the balloon lifted, it drifted directly between me and the sun. Just as I’d hoped.
(I originally blogged this photo in a post about our visit to the Balloon, Wine, and Music Festival on The PhotoTourist in August 2009.)