Sunday, March 20, 2011

Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Festival 2011

Yes, like the crowd of a million photographers, or more so of photographer-wannabes in Kuala Lumpur/Selangor region I joined them to generously contribute to the massive human flood at Putrajaya for the International Hot Air Balloon Festival, happening over this weekend. I went with a group of PEN Lovers (Olympus Micro 4/3 Pen users) arriving at the venue at an ungodly 6.30am in the morning, just before the sunrise. The first 200 visitors with "professional" photography equipments are allowed to enter the setup and preparation areas for the hot-air balloon, allowing the photographers to get extremely close while the early works were in progress, even before the start of the day. Such opportunity was much appreciated, perhaps, a little too widely spread that every tom, dick and meow-meow cats in the neighborhood with a (blame the decreasing price of entry level DSLRs) DSLR would fight their way into the event.

Firing up a balloon. At such close range, I can literally feel the heat blasting on my face. Intense !!

Spreading the opening to the balloon open for the hot air to move in.

A flat balloon, a semi-inflated balloon, and a raised up ready for flying balloon.

Still in its original fabric form.

The weather was unfavorable just before the sunrise, with patches of ugly clouds hovering all around, until just before sunrise the sky cleared up a little, and it was actually blue for a little while. Not too long after that the clouds returned to haunt the event and it became just all-white for the remaining morning, and rained rather heavily just before noon. The lighting was not exactly good enough for any dramatic effect, but morning side lighting has always been good for any photography subjects. The only gripe I had was that most of the composition angles that I preferred were positioned in the place where backlit situation against the sky cannot be avoided. We all know that Olympus is not exactly the champion when it comes to dynamic range, so I chose to expose my subjects and left the sky overblown in this session. Well, to be honest, in this particular event, the sky was rather plain and boring anyway.

In a process of making one balloon coming to life. It is a combined effort of many men, working together !!

A balloon against a man.

Do you know how many people you can fit in one of those balloons?

Holding it steady

Finally, it is SUNRISE !!

It was quite an eye-opening experience especially if you are a first time visitor to KL, seeing the numbers of people holding DSLRs. It was as if the existence of compact point and shoot camera has ceased, and no longer matter. You will also notice that not only the volume of DSLR users are unbelievably enormous, the lenses mounted on their DSLRs are nothing short of spectacular. All those giant ultra wide angles, bazookas such as 70-200mm, and I even spotted more fisheyes that I could keep count in my head. I understand how why there was a limit for first come first serve basis for the entrance to the preparation areas, or else, there would be no room left to even breathe !!

In this session, with my Olympus E-5 I only brought two lenses out, the Zuiko 8mm F3.5 Fisheye and the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 telezoom lens. Since I was allowed to get extremely close to the field, I decided to only use the 8mm fisheye for almost the whole morning. Little need did I find for the tele lens, since the wideness of coverage is more important, fitting more into one frame. However, having the 180 degrees coverage of the fisheye lens proved to be more of a challenge than I initially expected. There were just too many clutters and unwanted distractions that accidentally ended up into the frame, and avoiding them is not simple. One of the unwanted distractions would be the earlier mentioned enormous amount of DSLR users flooding the place, I just cannot isolate my subjects without fitting many of them into my frame !!

Don't you just love how the fisheye fits everything in?

Met the two brothers, Bing and Tong.

Everything is so bright and colourful !!

More and more balloons are going up.

Taking flight.

Up, up and away !!

The design of some of the balloons were rather interesting, though there were also plain and ordinary looking ones. The crowd favorites were the Darth Vader and of course, Doraemon, a Japanese Icon. Due to the earthquake and subsequent traumatic events in Japan, the Doraemon, symbolizing the unfortunate country has garnered cheers and overwhelming applause from the crowd. It was really nostalgic having the theme song of Doraemon being blasted loud through the speakers, seeing the balloon coming to life, being raised up into the air. The scene was very uplifting, and that only shows how much the people here in Malaysia do care and support the beloved Japan and its beautiful people.

Mid air hanging.

Ying and Yang.

Can you feel the force? Darth Vader's head filled with hot air.

Doraemon !! My childhood memory lives again. Japan, we, Malaysians are with you.

PEN Lovers rocks !! There were more of us, but I could only catch this few for this photo.

This was of course, my first time such an event. I have always seen hot air balloons through newspapers, magazines, paintings, television shows, or even the Internet. I have not really encountered a life on myself. Being there having an opportunity to capture some shots through my own camera was quite a satisfying experience. Did I go for a ride? No, not really, not because I was scared of heights, but I just did not think lining up with hundreds (possibly thousands) of people for the tickets was a very attractive idea. If you have seen the queue, you would understand what I am saying here.

This International Hot Air Balloon Festival is an annual thing, if you have missed it this year, do check it out next year !!


  1. Great shots.
    I like Your photos, which are great.
    I use Olympus E-5 too, it's the great digital camera.


    Regards from Poland:)

  2. Hello Lucas from Poland !!
    Thanks for the kind words !! Glad to find that you also use the Olympus E-5, I am sure you are loving it. It is indeed a great camera.

  3. i got tickets, you should have tell me earlier that you want it :p

  4. Gerald,
    I never said I wanted it. LOL.

  5. In almost every photo in this post, there're at least 5 people holding DSLR. Haha.