I hardly ever shoot event photography, however, this weekend I happened to hear about the Lake Havasu City Balloon Festival, and thought it might be kind of cool to go and shoot their ‘Night Glow’. Lake Havasu is only a little over an hour away from my house, so its not like it was way out of my way. I’m glad I went! Not only did it present some awesome photographic opportunities, it was just down right spectacular being that close to these massive, colorful balloons being lit up by fire at night. It also gave me some tips I can pass along to you, hence the title of this post.
Shooting special events can be quite challenging. Moving bulky photographic equipment and tripods around in a large crowd of people (not to mention setting up), is difficult to say the least. This leads me to my first tip. Shoot before the main event begins. Most often, a large event such as this one requires a tremendous amount of setup time. The crowd is usually much smaller at this time, giving you a lot more room to work. This is the time to go wide with your shots, as the crowd is much easier to manage in your compositions. That is exactly what I did in the image above. This shot was taken about a half an hour before the main event started. The crowd was small, yet everything was set up exactly as it was for the main event. It required a lot of patience though, waiting for all of the balloons to light up at the same time. As an added bonus, I still had a little of the twilight cobalt blue sky left, giving another dimension to the image.
Tip number 2: After the main event begins, and the crowd closes in around you, switch over to a telephoto lens. Look for more intimate close up scenes where you can minimize or exclude the crowd from your shot. Depending on the type of event you are attending, these shots can include abstracts, close ups of the performers, lighting etc… The key here is be creative. There is a lot more around you than your eye immediately sees. The shot above was taken with a telephoto lens, standing almost under the balloons on the field. Angling the camera up, and looking for patterns and symmetry, I was able to capture a very unique view of the balloons when they lit up. It also adds one more element to telling the story of what you experienced.