The 2017 Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta was a fantastic experience. In many ways it all that is best about the United States. Impressive, friendly and well organised.
I arrived at Dawn on the first day for the Dawn Patrol which has a smaller number of balloons permitted to take off in darkness. The burners and colourful canopies roaring to life in the darkness is a spectacular sight. I described it as watching baby dragons wake up all snorting fire and noise.
Then the mass assent takes place as the sun rises with six or seven hundred balloons taking off and you can wander through them lending a hand when asked. It is so good natured and friendly without a hint of health and safety nonsense just sensible people having a good time.
Two things, apart from the balloons, spring to mind. At one point a grandmother had lost her grand-daughter in the crowd of 50,000. She was in a panic but a marshall got on the radio to the police who had her. A kindly visitor had handed her in. It was done so effortlessly it was a joy to watch.
The whole balloon festival is spectacularly well run from courtesy buggies to get you from the massive car parks to the gates. A lack of parking charges (normally $15 but I was never charged) to plenty of places to sit.
I had never been to a balloon event and this was the ultimate experience being among these giants in the New Mexico dawn.
In about a week I’m off to the United States for 9 days to photograph the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta as well as stops along the way at the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and various diners on Route 66. It will be just me, my trusty rental car and a phone full of audiobooks.
Why Albuquerque you might ask? but you need to blame Steve Davey who wrote Around the World in 500 Festivals for the inspiration. A book that’s well worth buying if you are planning a photography-inspired trip
My plan is to focus on sunrise and sunsets and do the driving in the bits in the middle. It should be moderately challenging as I think I’ll be driving 1400 miles but I’ve identified various kitsch diners along the way where I can stop and listen to endless versions of Route 66. I plan to stop in Gallup, Kingman and Flagstaff as mentioned in the song.
I’m not sure what to expect in the current political climate as I’m visiting two red states and two blue. Should prove interesting. I will try and post updates along the way together with various images.
For photography fans I’m planning to work in Lightroom Mobile on an iPad Mini and edit as I go. You can check out my photographic progress at https://www.instagram.com/marklanigan_/