I had finished my assignment at St. John's College in Santa Fe and, cruising the web, discovered that the next morning there was a big balloon launch 50 miles away in Albuquerque. My flight wasn't until 11. The balloons launch at 7. I could do this.
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is, by some accounts, the most photographed event in the world. The place most photographers seem to want to be is on the launch field. It's also where 100,000 other people like to be at too. This did not sound like enough fun. I wanted my own take of the event, not like the shots that show up in a Flickr search.
I looked at Google Earth and figured out, roughly, where I'd want to be if I wanted balloons against the sunrise and the Sandia Mountains. I left early enough (4:30am) so that I could scout on the ground when I got here.
Traffic was backed up for a mile on the freeway, at 6am, for the launch field exit. Using my car GPS, I navigated in the dark on roads west of the launch area. Several balloons were taking off in the dark, looking spooky as they blinked off and on in the night sky. They gave me a fix on where the field was.
Once it got light I finally found a warehouse district with a decent sight line, along with locals who knew that this was the best viewing spot. The balloons lifted, and I got the shot that I had planned.
Other photos on my Flickr stream.