Hi, Jim Patterson here from Phoenix, Arizona. I’m a college professor and photographer. This is a target rich state for photographers. Although Cave Creek is only about 15 miles north of where I live, going there always seems like I’m on vacation.
I spent a late afternoon and evening in January at Rancho Manana golf course in beautiful Cave Creek, Arizona. The reason was the Fourth Annual Balloon Festival. The good news is the wind was still to about 5 mph. The bad news is it was CCCCOLD!!! One of the coldest weekends I can remember in the Phoenix area as it dipped well below freezing. There was still a fairly large crowd enjoying the festivities. One thing I noticed was how hard it is to control a camera wearing gloves. By the way, this was the last event I shot with the Canon 7D and Tamron 18-270mm lens. I traded them in for the Canon 5D and a few “L” class lenses.
Officials said the balloons would light around 6pm, so before then the band Remedy performed and I had a chance to get close and take some photos. You can learn more about Remedy by going to their Facebook page here. Nice folks and quite happy to have photos taken. So it was nice to enjoy a gourmet dinner put on by the Tonto Bar and Grill in Cave Creek while Remedy entertained. Sure enough, by 6 pm they started to inflate the balloons.
Now, shooting in daylight is much easier. Just put the Canon setting on “AV” (aperture priority), open up the lens to f/2.8 or so, and fire away. Once it got dark, it was much harder. Here, the shots in the dark (sometimes the good ones seem like “shots in the dark” or just by luck!) came from the M or “manual” setting. Many of the photos in the evening were 1600 ISO, f/2.8, and 1/60th of a second. I found the flame of the balloons often gave a lovely golden glow and gave enough light to hand hold photos.
This time, I took my Manfrotto monopod for a bit more camera stability. It also gave me less bulk. One of the sad things about going places and photographing events is sometimes the security people have given me a hard time about bringing tripods in. With a monopod, it’s much easier, plus you can tell them it’s a walking stick and that seems to work. Now the neat thing about this monopod is at the bottom you can spread out three legs! It isn’t exactly tripod solid, but it sure can help when you need a bit more stability.