Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise - Jan 16, 2017

I have seen them high above the sky at dawn.

I remember seeing 100’s of them taking off from Marybourgh when I was only a small boy. I can still remember the chilly mid-winter air… The sounds and the orange glow of the burners. Thinking one day I will go up in one of these amazing things. 


Hot air balloons.


“We have a spot and the weather is looking great.”

Now my time to get all my gear ready. I have a spot on a hot air balloon ride over out wonderful city of Melbourne.


What do I take?

How many cameras is too many cameras?

Charge the batteries… format the memory cards… clean the lenses… pack a ‘small bag’


So 3:45am wake up time was set on the phone… why so early? “Well it is the best time of the day” said Kiff.

Sleep came easy to me like normal.. though woke up a 1am with excitement.

Did I pack the right gear… How do I get ‘that’ picture… This is my time to shine and create something awesome and worthy of the walls of the NGV… okay maybe 100 likes on Instagram!

Didn’t get back to sleep!

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

After meeting at the hotel, we hop on the bus at 5am and head to the take-off site… just a little South East of Melbourne in Richmond. This spot Still dark… a little chill in the air.

It was a clear morning... that means a sunrise! I have my chance!

Because I’m bit of what they call an ‘early adopter’ I packed the 360 camera, Osmo, 2 phones and my Olympus camera. Got the camera straps so to have everything on hand ready to go.

Everything starts to get into gear and the baskets are taken off the trailer…the balloon is rolled out and the fans are started.

The balloon starts to come alive with a dance to welcome in the new day. Earning to fill up, enjoy the sunrise and gentle winds as we drift across the city.

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

Then….rush. The burners are turned on giving the balloon even more life and a slightly different dance. 

The sound and the heat from the burners is a welcomed distraction from the thoughts going though my head, around and around trying to make the most of this opportunity. 

I attach my 360 camera to the basket and turn it on. I wonder what it will capture this morning.

The balloon now reaching for the sky brings the basket upright and we all climb aboard ready for something that we have never experienced before.

Heat…sound…heat…sound…heat…sound. All okay from traffic control to take off.

Then…silence as we slowly drift off the ground and into the sky. This feeling of just floating in the air is amazing and a thrill.

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

Higher we climb into the sky as we fly over office workers in cars fighting the traffic into the city. I wonder what they are thinking about us in our balloon.

Am I scared of heights? Well it is way too late now and the view take away all those worries straight away!


Oh I forgot to add in the fact that my main camera decided this morning to not like any of the 8 memory cards (you come prepared) so instead of worrying about it we all know smart phones take pretty good pictures! Though come prepared with a few devices to capture the moments!

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

Over Richmond, the Yarra River heading towards Collingwood we fly. Melbourne looks and sounds so different from up here in a hot balloon. Straight roads… traffic… 1000’s of roofs… trees. Working out where you are based on roads below is not that easy. Street scapes at ground level are so different when in the air at 500ft.


By this stage I have gotten into the groove of what is going on. Cameras are snapping and recording. I can now actually sit back and enjoy the feeling of drifting with the wind.

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

The city gets blanketed in an orange glow of the sunrise as we skim across to the North of Melbourne relying on the wind to control on where we go.

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

Over Carlton football ground, beside the Melbourne Zoo and heading towards Essendon Airport where our awesome pilot Kiff as decided on a safe spot to land this morning. That is one thing that is amazing in this whole hot air balloon flying that relying on the wind and knowing what it is doing at different levels allows you to pick a spot and fly to it…. Years of practice!

We start to descend in total control and land with a very gentle bump on the ground. The balloon starts to sway again like a drunk at the end of the night leaving a pub!

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

Camera gear away as time to get in a help pack up the balloon which seems so big at this time trying to fit it into a small bag. Now time to head off and check out the video I shot and get an awesome breakfast into me.      

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

by Mick Russell

Melbourne Hot Air Ballooning: A Photographer's Paradise

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