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Flying in a hot-air balloon is an exciting photographic experience but most flights do not last very long - perhaps 45 minutes. The propane gas cylinders that fuel the powerful burners are soon exhausted, and a landing must be made before all the fuel has been used. Given the relatively short duration of a typical flight, it is best to make suitable preparations for photographic work well before take-off. A check-list is a good idea because, once in the air, there is no going back for forgotten items.

Personal preparation is a good place to start. Enquire about the temperatures you are likely to experience during the flight. It is usually cooler a few hundred feet above the ground than it is at ground level. Layered clothing is a good idea because a garment can be added or removed as required. A hat of some description is also advisable - particularly one that is unlikely to fall off your head. Wind is not a problem in a hot-air balloon because the balloon moved with the air and consequently allowing the passengers a completely wind-free environment. However, a hat provides some protection from strong ultraviolet light and also shields the head from the heat of flaring burners. The burners are very powerful and a blast of more than a few seconds can prove uncomfortable.

Another consideration concerns the dust and dirt that drops from the balloon envelope when it is first inflated. The loose material is picked up when the envelope is laid out in preparation for inflation, and falls off as the inflated balloon stands upright for the first time. It is worth covering eyes and camera equipment for a few seconds at this point, and hence carrying some sort of cover for camera equipment. A plastic bag serves this purpose well.

Cameras should be checked and set appropriately before climbing in to the basket. Check exposure mode, aperture and shutter speed, ISO speed, exposure compensation, white balance and autofocus and image stabilization modes. Also insert a fully-charged battery in both cameras, and ensure that memory cards have plenty of spare capacity. Finally, if using a GPS receiver, ensure that it is recording.


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