This article was originally published on November 2, 2015 and has been updated to include current product information.
It is so exciting watching colorful hot air balloons inflate. At some of my earlier experiences at Ballooning events, I would run from balloon to balloon as crews laid out their fabrics in sausage-like configurations. Hearing the sound of the 5 or 8 horsepower fan coming to life meant that we only had to wait a few minutes to peek inside the mouth of the envelope, as air mixed up the backlit fabric and created a variety of shapes and colors. Shortly afterwards, the envelope was open and full, ready to add heat from the powerful propane burners attached to the top of the gondola. It is very easy to get lost in the flurry of excitement.
Taking photographs around the aircraft requires etiquette on the field as you wander from balloon to balloon. Never assume that you can go anywhere you want without first asking the pilot or a crew member. There are many vantage points you can use to create magnificent imagery, but if you come near the balloon to photograph and would like to look inside of the mouth, please ask permission. You will most likely be warned to take care when close to:
- The delicate balloon fabric.
- The many Kevlar lines that connect the envelope to the basket.
- The inflator fan that moves huge volumes of air into the envelope.
- The crown line at the top of the balloon.
- The tie-off lines that secure the aircraft to the vehicle or trailer.
- The trailer. Some people climb on it to get above the throngs of spectators.
Never touch, lift or step on the fabric for any reason. This can damage the aircraft.
Special care must be taken if you want to place your camera for a look inside the envelope. The Kevlar cables that lift the fabric have small burrs on them that can cut your skin, so be careful touching these lines.
Because the balloon burners use propane as fuel, there should be no smoking anywhere on the launch field, especially around the balloon basket, which holds about 30 gallons of fuel. Also, the balloon fabric is made of a rather lightweight rip stop nylon that is very sensitive to heat. Tossing a lit cigarette could put holes in the fabric and ground the balloon.