Why I Love The New Jersey Balloon Festival

Every year QuickChek hosts a huge hot air balloon festival here in New Jersey, called the Festival of Ballooning.

The Friday before the event starts, the hot air balloons set up and do test flights. At 6:30am the fest is open to media, photographers and other press like TV stations.

The idea is to get the word out about the fest, so QuickChek doesn’t charge for the event. They just want people to enjoy it, and talk about it.  Just like I am right now.

I know many photographers who go to the event with the intentions of making money by selling photos or whatever. Which you’re not supposed to do according to the media event rules.

To me the event is about hanging out with my friends and having a good time.


Hot air balloons are so fun to photograph, for so many reasons.

  • They are colorful
  • There is action (setup, launch, breakdown)
  • There is struggle
  • There are victories
  • There is more than what is obvious


I see so many photographers getting the same photos over and over of the balloons. The same photos I have, and you have and the next photographer has. There are well over 100 photographers at this event, so the chances of getting the same photo as another person is pretty high.

And that’s no big deal.

But I like to think outside the box (or balloon)


So that is why I go for photos like these. Of people setting up. Of the baskets. Of the ropes. Of the struggles and challenges.

Of the colors and textures and patterns.

Not just the balloons.


But sometimes the balloons.

This year, the Darth Vader balloon team also brought along Yoda. And they were set up and took flight right next to each other.

Funny story nerds would enjoy… My friend Daryl was talking to Joe and I about something. His back was to the Darth Vader balloon as it was being inflated, and he while talking he was also using his camera.

So he was a little distracted.

At one point Vader was getting so large that it was inches from Daryl’s back so I said to him, “Daryl, you’re about to lose a fight to a Sith.”

True story.

Vader's Footing

And then there are geeky photo discussions and techniques being tried, and new apps being used, and gear being admired.

My friend Joe was periscoping so I had to photobomb it. Why not, right?

These are the reasons I love the balloon fest. Because I get to enjoy photography with my friends, at 6:30am on a Friday morning.  And also see some amazing balloons take flight.

Good times.

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