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Photo of the Month - exploring the Story behind the Image...

Hot-Air Balloons over Cappadocia Fairy Chimneys

Hot-Air Balloons over Cappadocia Fairy Chimneys

Year: 2012, Month: May

Turkey > Nevsehir > Goreme

Although I featured a balloon photograph in quite a recent photo of the month, I couldn't resist adding this one as well, as a good example of the usage of strong primary colors in an image.

The scene has shifted from Egypt to Turkey. I had not intended to take another hot-air balloon ride here, as I had already tried this novel method of sight-seeing three times before, and wanted to keep a tight rein on my travel budget. However, waking up early at my campsite on the hills overlooking Goreme one morning, I was amazed to see the sky rapidly filling with hot-air balloons. Whilst in Luxor there might have been 6 or 8 balloons in the air at one time, in Cappadocia we counted over 60. I calculated that this many balloons would result in some excellent photographs, so promptly booked a place (GBP98) for the following day's ascent.

Just after 0500 the next morning, and I was speeding by minibus to the launch site. There were plenty of other people there, and plenty of balloons being inflated with the usual petrol-engined portable fans, prior to the addition of hot air from the gas burners. I was impressed with how few staff were managing the balloons here as compared to Egypt. There, a crew of some 20 men would be involved in the launch, man-handling the basket, laying out the envelope, adjusting ropes and vents. Here in Turkey, with the large number of balloons to be launched simultaneously, that number of staff would pose a problem, so instead they manage each balloon with a crew of just 6.

The balloon held some 20 people, with 4 or 5 to each internal compartment in the basket. As we slowly rose through the still morning air, we were joined by more and more balloons from more and more launch sites. Later, I was to hear that a friend on the ground had counted over 80 balloons that morning! From a photographer's point of view, the chance for good images were excellent. As mentioned in my Photography from a Hot-Air Balloon tutorial, one for the articles in the 'On the Road with your Camera' series, some of the best shots whilst ballooning are those taken of other balloons. The morning weather conditions were ideal: bright and sunny with a light breeze that varied from level to level. As the balloons rose over the level of the eastern hills they were lit up by the morning sun, and showed off the primary colors of the balloon envelopes to their best advantage. With so many balloons next to each other, there were some excellent opportunities for multiple balloon shots, and this 'Photo of the Month' shows one of these.

The photograph's main point of image is obviously the three hot-air balloons, shown floating just above the lip of a canyon that contains the pinnacle-like 'fairy chimneys', made of volcanic 'tuft' rock, for which the region is so famous. With their bold primary colors, the envelopes present a compelling image that easily holds the eye. A shot with three balloons was chosen rather than two or four, as the uneven number is more satisfying visually. Some space was left to the right of the canopies for the eye to move into. A sense of depth is achieved by the boldness of the foreground elements in comparison to the faded outlines of the distant mountains in the upper right of the image.

We had a very pleasant 60 minute flight, and both my cameras were kept busy as the variety of different shots presented themselves. Eventually the time came to descend, and after my experience in Egypt I was expecting that at least 20 men would now be required to bring the basket and balloon envelope under control as it was deflated and steadied so that the passengers could safely disembark. What actually happened took me completely by surprise. The chase car with trailer was contacted by radio, and brought to a suitable clear landing point just downwind of our descent. Using the ropes that control the upper canopy vents, the pilot brought the balloon slowly down and then landed the basket exactly on top of the trailer. One man took control of a rope that brought the top of the canopy away from the basket, and kept it clear of the passengers as it finished venting the remains of the hot air. The passengers climbed out of the basket using the small cutout footsteps built into the sides of the basket, and re-gained their contact with terra-firma, to be greeted by a slice of cake and a glass of the local sparkling wine. The balloon crews of Egypt could learn a lot if they studied some of the skills exhibited by the staff in Cappadocia.

Latest News - October 2012: I am very pleased to hear that Footprint Travel Guides External link opens a new Browser window have selected this photograph as a winner in their 'Travel Photo of the Week' competition. Here is a webpage snapshot taken 2012-10-25:

footprint travel guides travel photo of the week competition winner

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