12.16.18: The glow

Hot air balloons participate in the post-sunset glow at Beulah Park, Grove City, Ohio.


Technical information

Aug. 9, 2008,
9:17 p.m.

39°53'20.5" N 83°5'58.859" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 40D

Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM (18mm) 


0.4 second


Balloon festivals are fun events to photograph.

First, there’s a lot of color. It’s relatively easy to get interesting photos when colorful balloons combine with a blue-sky day.

Then there are the balloons themself. Not all are the traditional inverted-teardrop balloon shape. I’ve seen balloons shaped like Darth Vader and Yoda, like cakes and ice cream cones, fish, footballs, soccer balls and Elvis Presley.

It’s a visual cornucopia.

But the best part, by far, is "the glow."

"The glow," for those who have never attended a balloon festival, is an incredible sight. The balloons are tied down and inflated after sunset, the flames from the propane burners illuminating each balloon from within. This creates a collection of giant, colorful, glowing bulbs standing tall against the night sky.

It’s almost like being surrounded by a string of huge Christmas tree lights blinking on and off as a large crowd watches. I have a number of photos of bright balloons against a night sky.

But this photo of the glow, captured during a 2008 balloon festival in Grove City, Ohio, is a bit different. Instead of showing a group of bright balloons, only the balloons in the background are glowing, casting light on two neighboring dark balloons and on the spectators in the area. It was shot during what’s known to photographers as the “blue hour,” the time when the sun is a significant distance below the horizon and the residual sunlight takes on a blue cast. The evening sky transitions through increasingly darker blues until it becomes a black night sky. In this case, the deep blue sky outlines darker clouds, providing an interesting background for the balloons. 

I attended several Grove City balloon festivals as it moved through names and sites: Balloons Off Broadway in a lot beside a school, and Balloons & Tunes and the Grove City Hot Air Balloon Fest at the Beulah Park horse race track. Both the balloon festival and the race track are no longer in Grove City. There’s another large balloon festival at an airport in nearby Marysville, Ohio, each August, but the site isn’t as photo friendly as the Grove City sites had been. I attended the Marysville event once and will probably return sometime in the future, but it isn’t on my “must photograph” calendar like the Grove City festival was each year.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.