Photograph the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

New Mexico Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Added by Lucas Pols

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an astonishing event of color that stuns the eyes. The festival is the largest of its kind in the world, and once you arrive there, you'll easily see why.

This is one of the most photographed festivals in the world. Professionals and amateurs gather here each year to take millions of photos, and your goal (albeit a difficult one) is to capture a unique perspective at this event. Something that conveys the particular emotion of what the balloon festival means to you.

There are four main areas for you to capture your photograph: Dawn Patrol, Mass Ascension, Evening Glow, and Evening Activities

Dawn Patrol: Dawn patrol is the first launch of the day, when a few balloons cast off prior to the mass ascension to check wind speed and direction. In order to shoot here, you absolutely need a tripod.

Mass Ascension: This is the second launch of the day, and it's by far the most mind-blowing part of the morning as 600 balloons take off into the sky all at once. This is where you are going to get some of the more infamous shots of the Albuquerque Balloon festival.

Evening Glow: During evening glow, many of the balloons will be inflated and still landlocked, which will yield some pleasant evening shots. The balloons do not take off, but rather do a "burn." This causes them to light up, which creates another perspective for you.

Evening Activities: The final event of the day is the evening activities which is a laser light show and fireworks!

Now your goal is to capture something unique at the festival and this is going to take some creativity on your part! For me, this meant boarding a hot air balloon to get aerial views of the event. I knew that this view hadn't been depicted by many other photographers, and with a little luck, I was able to capture images that perfectly conveyed what the Albuquerque Balloon Festival meant to me.

General Tips:
  • Bring warm clothes. The area is extremely cold before the sun comes up, usually around 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit
  • If you are there opening weekend, start heading towards the festival between 2:30 to 3 am. The park doesn't open until 6am but the traffic is outrageous. If you leave any later than 3, it will take you 3-5 hours to get into the park, making it difficult to catch the Mass Ascension
  • There is a lot of food at the festival, but I would suggest bringing water because it can be expensive.

Pack List

  • Dual DSLR's (or one DSLR with a lens that can start wide-angle and end at at least 140mm)
  • 24-70mm Lens
  • 70- 200mm Lens
  • Tripod
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Warm Clothes
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Skill Level:






Adult Beverages
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Handicap Accessible

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4 months ago


I had never seen so many hot-air balloons in one place before. The whole experience is kind of mesmerizing. The ABQ Balloon Fiesta is one of the very few places I actually didn't mind the crowds. Get there before sunrise around 5am to watch the set-up, maybe even help a crew out. I ended up on the Smokey the Bear chase crew, riding on the back of a 1950s fire engine. It was a cool experience. When back at the field it turns into one giant tailgate party. The green chile breakfast burritos at the food stands are a must.

4 months ago

9 months ago

One of the most visually stunning events. Being in the park when the 700 balloons take off is fun, but following them and seeing them against the Sandia mountains and throughout the it is spectacular.

9 months ago

Added by Lucas Pols

Photographer with a passion for culture, travel, and exposing those who do good in the world

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