Colorado Springs Labor Day Liftoff

For photographers, the Labor Day Liftoff is one of the best events in Colorado Springs. Cap off your summer with unique and fun hot air balloon shots.

The long running Labor Day Liftoff at Colorado Springs Memorial Park is one of my favorite local events. The Liftoff takes place Saturday, Sunday and Monday over Labor Day Weekend. The event was previously known as the Colorado Springs Balloon Classic.

Don’t hesitate to get up early to watch the hot air balloons of all colors rise into a cool September sky. And cap off your summer with the balloon glow, when the balloon operators fire their burners and light up the night with colorful shapes.

For photographers, the Labor Day Liftoff is one of the best events in Colorado Springs. Keep reading for ideas and tips to get you started shooting.

Shapes and Colors

During early morning, when the balloon operators are heating and filling their balloons, you’ll have many opportunities to look inside. For the brightest colors, find a balloon backlit by the rising sun.

Also make sure you ask permission from the balloon operator, and don’t get in the way!

Fire It Up

The burner is the engine of the hot air balloon. An operator uses the burner to fill the balloon with enough hot air to achieve buoyancy, relative to the ambient conditions.

You can watch and feel the heat as pilots fire their burners and get the balloons into launch position. Get ready with your camera (set faster shutter speed) and catch the flames in action.

Up in the Sky

Wait for the magical moments when the balloons achieve just enough buoyancy to lift off. This will happen slowly at first. But when the balloons begin their launch, it will happen fast, all across the field. Keep your camera at the ready and look for compositions above, in the sky, with other balloons, and with the sun and mountains.

Over the Lake

If the winds are right, you can watch the balloons pass over Prospect Lake, with Pikes Peak in the background. Experienced balloon operators sometimes enjoy an extra thrill and do what they call “kissing the lake”, or dragging the basket bottom across the water.

At Night

The Labor Day Liftoff normally culminates with the balloon glow at dusk, on Sunday and Monday. Weather and wind permitting, the balloon operators join forces to heat their balloons, getting them into position. When the time is right, all operators fire their burners in unison.

For the best photos, you’ll need a tripod. Get there before dusk, and you can set your tripod and camera on one of the small hills in the park. You can also try the opposite side of Prospect Lake, to catch the glowing balloon reflections in the water.

The balloons move about in breezes, but you can freeze them in motion with a higher ISO and shorter shutter speed (no longer than 1/30 seconds).

Colorado Springs Labor Day Liftoff

Have you been to this event? Does your town have a similar event to feature hot air balloons? How does it compare to your own? What about the Albuquerque Balloon Festival? Do you have your own tips to help capture unique photos of the hot air balloons in action?

Let me know via my contact page or Facebook, and I’ll feature your tips here. Thanks for reading!

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