Saturday, November 27, 2021

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2021


After the 2020 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was cancelled -- well, for legal liability purposes they're claiming it was "rescheduled" -- due to the Covid pandemic, there was a lot of anticipation around this year's Fiesta, which was held in early October.

Balloons were able to fly on seven out of the nine scheduled days of the Fiesta, and on four of those seven mornings the winds brought the balloons up to our neighborhood.  So for me it was a balloon bonanza, where all I had to do was walk over to a huge open area near my house to photograph dozens of balloons as they flew over and/or landed.

Each morning's launches begin with Dawn Patrol, a handful of balloonists selected to fly in the dark to confirm the weather conditions, wind direction at different altitudes, etc.

Then, if all conditions are good, the 400-500 balloons at the field begin to take off.

Eventually, when the wind is right, they make their way 6-7 miles north-northwest across the Rio Grande to the village of Corrales, where we live, and the sky is filled with balloons!

When the winds are right at different altitudes -- as they were for most of the days this year -- the balloons overfly our neighborhood going north, then drop down to catch the wind at the surface to fly south, which brings them back to land in the big open space near my house.

The overflights are dramatic and beautiful:

As they descend on their return, the balloons swoop down over the tops of the houses:

Gliding to a landing, they provide more dramatic views:

And if you're in the right place, you can say "Good morning!" to the passengers in the basket as they float right over you:

With a lot of skill and a little luck, some balloons manage to land in a large arroyo where there is reasonably good access for chase crews and plenty of room to lay down the envelope safely and pack it up.

Others, however, land in the scrub and have to wait for their chase crew to arrive:

Frequently that means keeping the envelope inflated enough for the basket to float just above the ground so it can be walked . . . or pushed . . . to a driveway, a road, a cul-de-sac, or any area where there's room to lay down the envelope safely for folding, rolling, and packing:

Eventually, the last balloon comes in for a landing:

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Tour de Acoma 2021


Back in September I had the opportunity to photograph portions of the 20th Tour de Acoma bicycle event held on the Pueblo of Acoma, one of the 23 Native American tribes and pueblos in New Mexico.

Due to the pandemic, all Native American pueblos have been closed to everyone except residents since mid-2020.  And last year's Tour de Acoma was held virtually, with participants submitting photos or videos of their rides.  This year, however, the event was once again held in person, and included 100-mile, 50-mile, and 25-mile courses.  (The 100 was the 50-mile out-and-back course twice.)

Nevertheless, because the pueblo was still closed to the general public, only the participants, race officials, and residents were allowed on the course beyond the start/finish area at Sky City Casino.  Through the courtesy of the event organizer,  I was allowed to photograph at a couple of locations on the course.

As you know from my many posts on this blog, I am primarily a landscape photographer.  One of the photographic virtues of  landscapes is that they don't move except on a geological time scale -- eons rather than hundredths of a second -- and outdoor natural light doesn't change very quickly, so there's always plenty of time to find a good composition and manage camera settings.  Needless to say, photographing bicyclists whizzing past at 30 to 60 mph was out of my comfort zone.  But getting out of your comfort zone is how you stretch and grow.  

The course is mostly flat, with some mild rolling hills, at an elevation averaging 6,100 feet above sea level.  For comparison for  those of you in New England, the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is 6,288 feet.

It begins at the Sky City Casino on the Acoma Pueblo reservation . . .

Start of the 100-mile ride

But about 19 miles into the course, there's a 7.7-mile climb from 6,143 to 6,690 feet -- an average grade of 1.3% -- and then a steep drop to 6,253 in the space of 1.5 miles -- an average of 5.5% . . . with the steepest grade of 11.7% for about 1/10th of a mile in the middle.  (It's labeled Kuumi on the map above.)

Vertical vs. horizontal not to scale

Here's a distant view of the hill highlighted in this image:

Super fast going down . . .


excruciatingly hard going up.

And the hundred-milers had to do it twice!

After the giant downhill, the course flattens out across a wide valley bounded on the far side by huge sandstone monoliths.  Here's a view of the valley from about halfway up that steep uphill/downhill stretch:

In the valley, riders could cruise along at 30 mph . . .

 . . . or take a more leisurely pace to enjoy the scenery and take backlit selfies:

A few -- like this guy -- were even taking selfies as they rode:

I spent a fair amount of time in the valley documenting riders as they rode past the monoliths and a beautiful field of wild sunflowers, and got some waves, some peace signs (V), thumbs-up gestures, and a few signs I didn't recognize that were offered in good spirits . . .

And some riders I happened to capture more than once on the out-and-back course, including this cheerful couple going out . . .

. . . coming back . . .

. . . climbing the hill . . .

. . . and nearing the finish line . . .

I did not stick around for the last finishers, but captured some of the riders as they crossed the finish line.

Some put on a final sprint . . .

. . . while others crossed the finish line casually with friends . . .

 . . . all having conquered the course and declaring victory in their own way:

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.