Tuesday, December 27, 2011

10 Best Photos of 2011 by Scott Thompson

It's that time of year again, where I look back and review the best images I shot over the last 365 days. 2011 was a great year for my photography business. I kept very busy shooting for clients, exhibiting in art galleries, and I added a ton of photos to the virtual galleries on my website. 

Last year I posted my best photos of 2010 and it was a very popular post. So, here are what I feel to be my ten best photos of 2011:

1)  This is a classic view of Donner Lake in the town of Truckee, California where I live. The alpenglow was incredible that evening, it was also incredibly cold shooting it:

"Alpenglow at Donner Lake 2" - This alpenglow was photographed above Donner Lake and Truckee, CA.

2)  I sell out of a gallery in Reno called the River Gallery. Every third Saturday of the month they participate in the downtown Wine Walk and I can usually be found at the gallery helping out.  Sometimes after the event I'll take a walk with my camera and have some fun:

"Downtown Reno 4" - This Reno, The Biggest Little City in the World sign was photographed in Reno, Nevada at sunset. The effect was obtained in camera by long exposure mixed with intentional camera movement.

3)  For a little while in 2011, I exhibited at a gallery in Marin, CA. I traveled there a few times for gallery events and I got this photo during one of the trips of a bridge I have fond childhood memories of.  Here's a previous blog post about the shoot - Golden Gate Bridge photos

"Golden Gate Bridge Sunrise 1" - Photograph of San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise. San Francisco can be seen in the distance.

4)  I had been out fishing all day with no real photos to speak of. But on my drive home, I pulled over and got lucky with this soft sunset on Lake Tahoe. My boot got soaked while I was lying down to shoot it but it was so worth it:

"Lake Tahoe Pebbles" - These pebbles were photographed at sunset just north of Idlewild, Lake Tahoe, CA.

5)  Captain Pete invited me onto his fishing boat many times this year and I got many great photos from the boat. But this one of the sunrise and a fishing pole is my favorite from the boat: 

"Sunrise Fishing on Lake Tahoe 2" - This trolling fishing pole was photographed at sunrise on Lake Tahoe.

6)  Everyone that sees this photo thinks it's the famous Bonsai Rock, but it's not. I found this little bonsai like tree on a boulder near Speedboat Beach. I actually got tons of great photos from my kayak in the area, here's more about Speedboat Beach on a previous blog post -  Speedboat Beach Boulders Photography

"Tahoe Boulders at Sunrise 13" - These boulders and bonsai like pine tree were photographed at sunrise near Speedboat Beach, Lake Tahoe. Photographed from a kayak.

7)  I got to experience a first this year and photographed from a hot air balloon for the organizers of the Great Reno Balloon Race. It was incredible! Here is a fun tilt shift photo I got that makes the Reno homes and the balloon look like toys. More info about this shoot can be found on this previous blog post - 2011 Great Reno Balloon Race photos

"Balloon Over Reno 2" - This hot air balloon was photographed over Reno, Nevada during the 2011 Great Reno Balloon Race. The "toy" like effect was achieved using a tilt-shift lens.

8)  And again, I got to experience another first in 2011. This time, I got to shoot from a tiny experimental class seaplane with the door removed.  A happy client decided to bonus me by flying me over Truckee and Tahoe for some photography fun. Fannette Island in Emerald Bay has been shot thousands and thousands of times but rarely do you get to see it from this angle. More about this incredible adventure can be found on this previous blog post: Lake Tahoe and Truckee Aerial Photography

"Fannette Island, Lake Tahoe Aerial" - Photograph of Fannette Island in Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Shot from an amphibious seaplane with the door removed. The "Tea House" can be easily seen in the photo.

9)  In 2010, I got a photo of the eclipse that happened on the winter solstice. It was incredibly popular and went viral. This year, I got a photo of the December lunar eclipse over Downtown Truckee, CA.  It didn't go as viral but I actually liked the image a lot better:

"Lunar Eclipse over Downtown Truckee, CA. 2" - Photograph of the December 10th, 2011 lunar eclipse over Downtown Truckee, California.

10)  This photo is part of an ongoing abstract series titled "Beauty at the Bottom". The series consists of photos of bottles, shot right down the mouths of the bottles. I added many new photos to the series in 2011 but this one is my favorite new one of a Partida tequila bottle. More about how this series was created can be found on this previous blog post - Beauty at the Bottom photos

"Beauty at the Bottom: Tequila Sunrise 6" - This is a photograph of a tequila bottle, shot right down inside the mouth of the bottle.

Well, there you have it, my best photos of 2011.  I hope you enjoyed them and I hope you stay connected so you can see what I'm up to in 2012.  Please look for me on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google+.  Happy New Year!!!

-Scott Thompson

The photos above are available as fine art prints, gift items, and to license and download as stock photography. Please click on an image for a larger view and purchasing options. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Bottle Photos Added to the Website.

"Beauty at the Bottom: Tequila Sunrise 8"

Surprise surprise, I'm back at it again. I created more "Beauty at the Bottom" photos over the weekend. The bottles were piling up so it was time to recycle them into photographic works of art. (More about how this series was created can be found in this post)
Failed attempt at a Sunrise shot.

One of the ideas I've had with this series was to get an actual sunrise shot though a tequila bottle for the Tequila Sunrise photos. After a major failure up on Donner Summit in freezing windy conditions with no color during the sunrise, I came up with an alternative idea. I decided to bring up a sunrise photo I had shot in the past on my computer and use that to light up the bottle. Here's a photo of the set up:

Beauty at the Bottom photo set up with Casa Noble tequila bottle.

And here is the finished bottle photo paired up with the sunrise photo that were used to light up the bottle:

"Beauty at the Bottom: Tequila Sunrise 9" 

"Donner Lake Sunrise 4"

Also, I have shot through many types of alcohol bottles in the past, but this was the first time I shot through a gin bottle:

"Beauty at the Bottom: Gin 1" - This is a photograph of a gin bottle, shot right down inside the mouth of the bottle.

And here's a fun new one of the inside of a red wine bottle:

"Beauty at the Bottom: Red Wine 7" - This is a photograph of a red wine bottle bottle, shot right down inside the mouth of the bottle.

More new photos from the "Beauty at the Bottom" series can be found on my web site's Bottle Photos Page. You can enjoy a slide show there. Images can also be purchased on the site as large fine art prints, gift items, and as stock photography. Cheers!

-Scott Thompson

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lunar Eclipse over Downtown Truckee Photo, December 10, 2011

Wow! That was beautiful. I almost didn't get out of bed but I'm so glad I did.

I just photographed the December 10th, 2011 lunar eclipse over Downtown Truckee, California and it turned out beautiful!

Here they are, enjoy. Click on an image for purchasing options. Available as fine art prints and to license and download right now as stock photography.


"Lunar Eclipse over Downtown Truckee, CA. 2" - Photograph of the December 10th, 2011 lunar eclipse over Downtown Truckee, California.
Photographed with a Canon 5D MarkII, 100-400 lens, ISO 400. f8, 2.5 second exposure, flash, tripod, and cable release were used.

"Lunar Eclipse over Downtown Truckee, CA. 1" - Photograph of the December 10th, 2011 lunar eclipse over Downtown Truckee, California.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Scott Shot prints now available at Art Obsessions in Truckee, CA

There's a new gallery in town. My favorite new gallery. It's not my favorite just because they sell my photography but because they exhibit some incredible work, from some incredible artists, in an incredible space. 
Scott Thompson's exhibit at Art Obsessions in Downtown Truckee, CA.

Art Obsessions Gallery is the new must see spot in Downtown Truckee, California. It is located in a beautiful historic building that greatly enhances your art viewing experience.   They recently received their license to sell wine by the glass or bottle so you can even further enhance your viewing experience.  Plan on staying a while as there is a lot of art to view.

This past Friday, I set up a little demonstration for Truckee's First Fridays. I brought my camera and set up a "Beauty at the Bottom" photo shoot. "Beauty at the Bottom" is a popular series of photos that I shot down inside the mouths of wine, beer, or other spirits bottles. More info about that series can be found by Clicking Here. It was fun explaining this bizarre abstract art to people and I've been asked to demonstrate again. Look for me there during future First Fridays...

Scott Thompson's "Beauty at the Bottom" demonstration at the gallery.
Please enjoy a slideshow of the gallery below. The photos don't really do the vibe and feeling of the gallery justice, you'll just have to check it out for yourself. Please be sure to stop by the next time you're in Truckee, CA and check out my exhibit. I have many framed prints and canvas prints of Truckee and the Tahoe area on the walls as well as many unframed prints for sale ranging from size 8"x10" to 30"x40".  You can also order any of my prints there and not pay shipping.   For a list of other artists exhibiting at the gallery, please check their website www.ArtObsessions.com. They are located at 10052 Donner Pass Road, Truckee, CA. 96161 across from the downtown fire station. (530) 550-9688 www.facebook.com/artobsessions See you there, cheers!

-Scott Thompson

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Great photos for Christmas and Holiday Cards.

And Scott Shots Holiday Gift ideas.

My family and I took our Holiday card photos over the weekend and it got me thinking. Taking a holiday photo on self timer can be difficult and frustrating. And not everybody lives in a beautiful town like Truckee, CA where we have early snow and incredible natural backgrounds to choose from. For these reasons and many more, some people prefer to give Christmas and Holiday cards without a picture of themselves on it.  I can help those people out...

"Snowy Candy Cane in Truckee" - This snow covered Christmas candy cane was photographed in historic Downtown Truckee, CA.

There are many Scott Shots that would make great Christmas and Holiday cards. Did you know you can order greeting cards right through the www.ScottShotsPhoto.com shopping cart? Just click on an individual image in the website or on this blog and look for the "buy photo" button above the image.  The shopping cart with purchasing options will pop up. Look for the "products" tab and you will find all kinds of gift items, including greeting cards, that would make excellent Christmas and Holiday presents. 

"Snowy Christmas Tree in Truckee" - This snow covered Christmas tree was photographed in Historic Downtown Truckee, CA.

Items available through the Scott Shots shopping cart that would make great gifts include:
  • Greeting Cards
  • Photo Puzzles
  • E-Clings (laptop and iPad covers)
  • Small Prints
  • Canvas Gallery Wraps
  • Ceramic Mugs
  • T-Shirts
  • Playing Cards
  • Mouse Pads
  • Coasters
  • Refrigerator Magnets
  • Key Tags

Below are more images that would make great snowy scene Christmas and Holiday gift items or greeting cards. When purchasing at www.ScottShotsPhoto.com, use the coupon code HOLIDAY for %10 off any one purchase (Expires 1/1/2012). Thank you and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

-Scott Thompson

"Snowy Truckee River in Autumn 1" - Photograph of snow covered cottonwood trees along the Truckee River in Downtown Truckee.

"Snowy Truckee River 1" - This foggy and snowy scene of the Truckee River was photographed in Downtown Truckee, CA.

"Icicles 3"- Photographed near Alder Creek in the Tahoe Donner area of Truckee, CA.

"Shack near Brockway Summit"- This old shack was photographed along Hwy 267 near Brockway Summit, CA.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A walk back in time, when everyday life was a bit scarier.

2011 Truckee Haunted Historical Tour Photos
(and "how to" shoot a ghost photo)

"Ghost in Truckee 1" - Photograph of a ghost at the 
 2011 Truckee Historical Haunted Walking Tour.
BANG!!! Gunfire right from the start gets you in the mood. "Fussin', Fightin', and Fornicatin'" were normal everyday Truckee experiences in the late 1800s. During the Truckee Haunted Historical Tour, you get to experience that way of life up close and personal. Gunfights, yelling, drinking, town secrets, ghosts, music, and ladies of the night. 

The Truckee Haunted Historical Tour is an annual fundraiser for Tahoe Trails and Vistas and for the Truckee Historical Society. I shot some promotional photos for the event last year, but this year I was lucky to shoot the whole tour.

When the tour started, a local lawman dressed in old western clothing told my group that "there is a gang of criminals on the loose" and the lawman's partner showed us an old wanted poster.  Our guide then took us on a stroll through Downtown Truckee to the Art Obsessions gallery (a gallery where I sell my photos) where we heard stories,  drank libations, and were even offered a lady of the night. The old creepy building and basement downstairs that used to be a saloon were a perfect setting for a haunted feel. Next, a little further down the road, a pianist treated us to some jokes and played a drinking song on a very old beat up piano that has been around Truckee for ages. 

Visits at different sites throughout the town got us even more stories from historically dressed docents, gunfire, and even more offers from "working" ladies. Jiboom Street, hidden behind the more respectable businesses,  had quite the history of being a red light district.  Eventually we made our way to the old Truckee jail.  Truckee had a lot of people go through it's jail back in the day, even some famous outlaws like Baby-Face Nelson. We got to see one of them break out and escape! And then we saw a local lawman shoot and kill him... The performance was a lot of fun for the senses,  a bit of chaos, interesting old clothing, loud bangs from guns, and the smell of gun smoke.

No historic tour of Truckee would be complete without a visit to one of the many bars in town. We gathered at the Tourist Club for more ghostly stories and shots of booze. I don't usually drink on the job, but it was almost the end of the tour, so cheers! A little whisky helped me forget my fears of all the haunted tales. 

2011 Truckee Historical Haunted Walking Tour
One last stop at the Train Depot was unforgettable. A long time friend of mine gave a great performance about the sad tale of a tiny circus sideshow woman who died during a huge snowstorm while in a stuck train near Truckee. She also sang "Amazing Grace." I had no idea she could sing that good! It was the perfect ending for an educational and entertaining evening. 

More information about the Truckee Haunted Historical Tour can be found at www.TruckeeHistoryTour.com. Next Halloween season, you should treat yourself to a walk back in time, when everyday life was a bit scarier.

Please enjoy this slideshow of images from the 2011 Truckee Historic Haunted Tour. Prints are available, click on an image, then click "buy photo" for purchasing info.

How to create a ghost photograph:

There is more than one way to create a ghost image, but for a similar look to my Historical Haunted Tour ghost photos, I recommend doing the following.

  • You'll need low light for the photo shoot, either indoors or if you're outside, shoot it at dusk or night. 
  • Use a DSLR or a camera capable of shooting in manual mode.
  • Use a tripod. You're going to use a long exposure. A shutter release cable is preferable.
  • Use a flash, second-curtain synchronization is preferable but not necessary. You'll probably need to adjust the power a littler lower than a normal proper exposure calls for.
  • Set your ISO to 50 or the lowest setting that you can
  • Set your shutter speed to 2 seconds as a starting point.
  • Set your aperture to f9 as a starting point.
  • Have any "ghost" models walk during the exposure, the flash can help freeze the ghost but the movement will make it appear see-through. A little bit of light on the model during movement will be necessary for any ghostly streaks of color like in the image below.
  • Any non-ghost models need to remain perfectly still during the whole exposure. 
  • Adjust your shutter speed, aperture, and flash power level as needed.  It usually takes me at least a few photos to dial in the exposure perfectly. 
Any questions about this method? Please ask in the comments area below. Also, I'd love to see your ghost photos, please post a link. Happy ghost hunting!

-Scott Thompson

"Ghosts at the Richardson House" - Photos of ghosts at the Richardson house during the 2010 Annual Historical Haunted Walking Tour in Downtown Truckee, CA.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lake Tahoe and Truckee Aerial Photography

-My Aerial Photography Adventure (and Photo Tips). 

Happy clients are great. But when they are a pilot and they are so happy with your work they decide to bonus you with a flight around Truckee and Tahoe in a small experimental class amphibious seaplane with the door removed for some photography fun, priceless... 

Scott Thompson after an aerial photo adventure.
Last Saturday morning, I woke up ready to go shoot the "golden hour" from an amphibious airplane. Unfortunately, the fog was so thick, the early morning flight did not happen. But mother nature did it's thing, the fog eventually burnt off, and I got to do something most people will never be able to check off their bucket list:  fly in an amphibious seaplane and touch down on Lake Tahoe!

The whole experience was incredible. The plane was a tiny two seater with no room for even a camera bag, and it was only 80 horsepower. Taking off with the door removed was a little unnerving, but I immediately was presented with photo opportunities and I quickly forgot all feelings of fear. 

"Downtown Truckee Aerial 1" - Downtown Truckee photographed from a small amphibious seaplane with the door removed. Donner Lake can be seen in the distance.

After shooting Downtown Truckee, we made our way slowly to Donner Lake. I had flown with the pilot before in his Cirrus but the "amphib" was a much slower ride. It was a perfect speed for photography.  Donner Lake was looking gorgeous with the fresh little bit of snow we had above it. 

"Seaplane over Donner Lake" - Photograph of Donner Lake in Truckee California. Shot from an amphibious seaplane with the door removed.

Next, we made our way to Lake Tahoe! I got some nice photos along the shore and we eventually made it to our goal, Emerald Bay. Again, incredible photos!  Then Pierre, the pilot, wanted to check out nearby Fallen Leaf Lake, I wasn't going to argue. This is where things got even more interesting. 

"Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe Aerial 5" - Photograph of Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, shot from an amphibious seaplane with the door removed. Cascade Lake can be seen on the left.

After getting a few great photos, Pierre decided he would show me what it's like to "touch down" on the water. We couldn't stop because at the elevation we were at, we wouldn't have had enough horse power to take off again with both of us in the plane. So we skimmed along the surface on the plane's pontoons for a few hundred feet. I had no idea I would be getting to experience that when I stepped into the seaplane a little while earlier. The speed, the splashing, the noise... it was an incredible rush, one I would probably never experience again. 

I was wrong. We had a little trouble gaining altitude out of Fallen Leaf, but after corkscrewing our way up out of the little "valley", we were on our way. We headed back to Lake Tahoe, Pierre had so much fun showing a rookie a "touch town", he decided to do it again. This time in Tahoe! I will never forget that moment, not too many people have had that experience. Thank you Pierre!

Here's a short video clip of us touching down on Lake Tahoe:

At this point, I knew I had priceless photos but we weren't done yet. On our way back to the airport,  I was able to get aerial photos of Tahoe City, the Truckee River, and more of Truckee, CA. Landing was a bit scary with the big pontoons and the tiny little wheels on them. But Pierre is an awesome pilot and of course everything went smooth.

I shot over 500 photos during the flight, here's a slide show of some favorites:

Available as fine art prints, gift items, and as stock photography.

Photography tips for shooting Lake Tahoe from an airplane with the door removed, should you ever get the chance:
  • It seems obvious, but check and re-check your seat belt/harness. I was leaning partway out of the plane for most of the photos, if there would have been a problem, I might not be here to write this post...
  • Dress warm. Tahoe can be cold in the morning, flying 60-80 mph at altitude with no door was cold. I wore my ski jacket and that worked well but I wish I had some thin gloves with grip on them. My hands got very cold and stiff, to the point that it was a bit hard to operate the cameras.
  • Use your camera strap and think twice about changing your lens. You don't want to end up dropping your lens like this person did. I brought two cameras so I had two lenses ready to go.
  • A huge zoom lens is not necessary when flying at low altitudes. I find my 24-105mm lens works great for just about all the shots I want. A 200mm lens could work but the 400mm range is probably overkill. I also used a 17-40mm lens to get some shots of the pilot and interior of the plane
  • Lens Shade??? I used mine and would again. But the wind was so strong, the lens shade acted like a little parachute. It was actually hard to zoom the lens out and I did get a little nervous that it might fall off the lens.
  • Shoot fast. Most of the photos that were shot at a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second were tack sharp, a few weren't. All of the photos I shot at 1/1000 or faster were tack sharp.
  • Shoot while on speed priority mode. I tried to shoot on manual mode like I usually do, but the lighting and scenes change so fast, I decided I would get more photos if I switched to speed priority. 
  • Polarizer??? I skipped the polarizing filter. The blues were incredibly blue already. A polarizer can often make the blues of Lake Tahoe look fake if it is already a very blue day for the lake. 
  • Tissues. I should have brought a tissue of some kind. The cold winds can cause a runny nose, I had to clean the back of my cameras after the shoot. Gross, I know.
Hope you enjoyed my story and aerial photography tips. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments area below. Thank you.

-Scott Thompson

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011 Trails and Vistas Photos and Coupon Code

You can help Trails and Vistas by purchasing photos of the event.  10% Off + 10% to Trails and Vistas (details below)

I recently photographed the 2011 Trails and Vistas Reflections and Rhythms, an incredible art hike in the Tahoe area. The Trails and Vistas hike is filled with different art installations, mostly performance art, and takes place along a mellow hike in a beautiful outdoor setting. This year's event was held at Spooner Lake, near Lake Tahoe. 

2011 Trails and Vistas
Trails and Vistas is a very popular event up here in Tahoe. People travel here just to attend the event and many people volunteer to help make the event a success. I've been lucky to shoot it the last three years. I find myself fascinated by how popular and loved of an event it is. Why is it so loved? 

Do people feel a greater connection with performance art than with most types of art? I produce nice fine art photography but I don't think anyone would ever volunteer to help me out with any of my projects. 

I think it might have to do with being able to look the performer in the eye. The performer can express an artistic idea in a way no 2D or 3D art piece can do. You can look in to the performer's eye and read emotion. You can connect with the performer, feel their feelings. Whether they are telling a story or dancing or playing music, you can connect easier and deeper with a performance artist than you can with someone who creates a piece in a gallery. 

I always find myself buzzing with artistic inspiration after photographing Trails and Vistas. I too want to help the event be a success. Therefore I would like to donate a percentage of any Trails and Vistas print sales on my website to the Trails and Vistas non-profit. I would also like to give you a discount when you purchase them: 

10% of Trails and Vistas print sales from ScottShotsPhoto.com will go to the Trails and Vistas non-profit when you use the coupon code: RHYTHMS when checking out.  This coupon code will also get you a 10% discount on your purchase. (Offer expires December 31, 2011)

Please view photos from the 2009, 2010, and 2011 Trails and Vistas here: Trails and Vistas collection

Here's a slide show of the 2011 Trails and Vistas. It's not as good as actually being there, so be sure to check out www.TrailsAndVistas.org and "like" them on their facebook page so you'll know when tickets go on sale next year.

-Scott Thompson

Click on an image above for purchasing information. Available as prints and greeting cards. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

2011 Great Reno Balloon Race, media day photos (and photography tips)

Have you ever wanted to fly in a hot air balloon? Unless you're afraid of heights, the answer is of course yes. Probably since you were a kid. Me too. Today I got to live out that dream...

Photographer Scott Thompson in front of the
 Darth Vader balloon. Scott ran into local photographer
 Stan White and traded quick portraits. 
Photo  © Stan White of RenoTahoe.About.com
3:30 am alarm clock buzzers are hard to do, but today I woke right up and didn't feel tired at all. Shooting the Great Reno Balloon Race from a hot air balloon was on my to-do list. But right when I walked out the front door, FLASH... roooaaar, lightning and thunder. OH NO. I got in my 4Runner and headed down the hill to Reno anyway. 15 minutes later it was pouring rain. What was I thinking, I wanted to turn my vehicle around and go back to bed, this was a disappointing waste of time. 

When I got to San Rafael Park in Reno, it was still dark and slightly raining. The topics of conversation among the pilots and crew were mostly weather related and whether or not they would fly.  A little helium balloon with a glow stick attached to it was sent up into the air and seemed to be moving along more horizontal than vertical. Sigh. 

But after a while, the sun started to rise, the weather calmed down, the clouds started to clear and it was announced that the balloons could launch, if they wanted to... The pilot I was matched up with told me right away he wasn't sure if he was comfortable flying in the winds we were still having. He had a frog shaped balloon that was a little harder to fly and land in questionable conditions. 

A little while later, he made the call, we would not fly today. NOOO!!! I thought but said "I understand and thank you for keeping me safe." Then I quickly found the event organizer I was shooting for and told her I would not be able to get her the photos she wanted unless she could find me another ride. She worked her magic and found me a balloon that the CNN crew was supposed to be in. It was a maybe, if the crew showed up, I was out of luck.  

Standing around waiting, I was able to get some photos of the famous Darth Vader balloon. It's the first time it has been in the Great Reno Balloon Race. A stormtrooper stood guard, I don't think he liked me getting pictures of it, I might be a spy for the Jedi...

"Stormtrooper and Darth Vader Balloon 1" - This Star Wars stormtrooper and Darth Vader hot air balloon were photographed at the 2011 Great Reno Balloon Race in Reno, Nevada.

After what seemed like an eternity, my new pilot said we needed to get going and I was in the balloon!!!  YES! As we took off, I looked at my two cameras, looked at the balloon lifting off, and I felt one of those child like feelings you get on your birthday or Christmas morning. We were floating.

"Take Off" - This photograph of a hot air balloon firing up and taking off was photographed at the 2011 Great Reno Balloon Race. Photographed from inside the hot air balloon basket.

We floated around for about a half hour. Stan, a Reno resident and my pilot, explained how he could navigate a bit by flying in different air currents at different heights. He told me how he had trained and certified a bunch of the pilots out there that day and I suddenly felt a lot more relaxed. I had plenty of time to get some really fun photos:

"Balloon Over Downtown Reno" - This hot air balloon was photographed from a balloon during the 2011 Great Reno Balloon Race.

"Balloon Over Reno 2" - This hot air balloon was photographed over Reno, Nevada during the 2011 Great Reno Balloon Race. The "toy" like effect was achieved using a tilt-shift lens.

"Ballon Over Reno 4" - This hot air balloon was photographed from a balloon during the 2011 Great Reno Balloon Race.

The Great Reno Balloon Race is incredible from the air, but it is just as incredible from the ground. Hot air balloons provide some fun colorful images like these I shot of the event in 2008: 2008 Great Reno Balloon Race.  I'm planning on taking my family out this Saturday to catch the Dawn Patrol and for more balloon photos.  You should get there as well!

Here's some of my photography tips for shooting hot air balloons:
  • Getting up early is worth it. The photos at the Glow Show and Dawn Patrol can be incredible. And parking can be a nightmare later in the morning. 
  • A tripod can help capture the Glow Show and Dawn Patrol but remember the balloons are moving. Too slow of a shutter speed can create a blurry balloon. 
  • Dress in layers, you'll probably be cold when it's dark and hot as soon as the sun comes out. 
  • If you arrive when it's dark, have a flashlight. Not just to see your camera but there is little mud holes and mini streams throughout the park. 
  • A tilt-shift lens can be a lot of fun and can give you a "toy" like look to your balloon photos
  • Don't be afraid to go right up to the balloons for photos or to talk to the pilots and crew when they are on the ground. That's one of the things that makes this event so cool. But move out of the way if they need you to. 
  • Reflections on nearby ponds can double the amount of balloons in your photo like this balloon photo from 2008
  • Only pack your photography gear, there are food booths available. They could use the support and your spine wants to support a lighter backpack. 
  • If you get to shoot from a hot air balloon, pack minimal gear. Most of the baskets are small, I'm glad I left my big backpack style camera bag in the 4Runner. 
  • Also, the landing can be a little rough, protect your gear. My cameras bumped around a bit when I crawled out of the basket that ended up on it's side. 
  • Have fun!

Hope you enjoyed my story and tips. Please enjoy the slide show below. If you have any questions about shooting the event, please ask in the comments area. More info about the event can be found at www.RenoBalloon.com Thank you!

-Scott Thompson

Click on any image above to order fine art prints, gift items, or to license and download as stock photography.