What’s good: Chasing a hot air balloon

A hot air balloon lands at dusk.

When I left work in East Brunswick, it was drizzling and pretty chilly. As I got closer to home the rain stopped and I could see the clouds were starting to break in the west. I saw something strange in the sky and drove a couple of blocks out of my way to see what it was.

There was a hot air balloon floating to the west. They aren’t uncommon, the country’s largest summer balloon festival happens about where the balloon was flying. But they usually aren’t around this early in the year.

It was about and hour before sunset, so I went home, took care of the dogs and went out to find the balloon. I knew about where it would be, so I headed out as the sun was setting. I spotted it a couple of times and then I lost it. I went to the airport where it probably took off and all was quiet. I stopped to shoot the late sunlight hitting an old abandoned farm silo. Not a bad shot but I thought I would find something better after sunset.

I looked up and there was the balloon off in the distance. It was about five minutes before sunset, which is when they no longer can legally fly, so I knew it would land soon and I wasn’t very close. I drove through several neighborhoods trying to get on the east side of it so I could have the colorful western sky behind it.

About five minutes after sunset, I spotted it low over the trees and I still wasn’t close. I thought it was landing so I just kept driving. I pulled out onto Lamington Road and there it was, floating well above the trees over an former horse farm, looking for a place to land. I pulled off the road a couple of times and made some shots. I finally came to where the chase vehicles were and watched as the balloon crossed the road to land in an open field. I love riding in balloons and watching them is almost as much fun.

A fence row on Villettown Road in Tewksbury, NJ.

I was close to a hill that I ride my bicycle up quite often and I thought there might be a good shot there. It is a fairly steep hill for around here and there is a house on top that looks neat during the day. I’ve never been there after sundown, so I thought I’d take a look. I drove up the hill and saw a dramatic rail fence. Bingo. I spent the next 15 minutes kneeling in the wet soil to get the right angle. Two silhouettes in two days, rare for me, but I like them.

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