One of the highlights (for some of us, anyway) of the autumn Enlightened Festival in Canberra is the Canberra Balloon Festival. This is a quick blog from the 2022. Balloon Festival. I have a few photos from Enlightened proper that I might put out in a future blog, but to start with, here are my better photos from the one day of the Balloon Festival I got to this year.

Slow start to the morning…

Part of the reason for such a light-on post for the Balloon Festival this year is that we were a little late getting moving that morning. We did miss the start, which was a shame. Most of the balloons had already inflated before we got there, but we did manage a few shots of them lifting off.

Parking can be a challenge, and this morning was no exception. Being a lot later than we would normally aim for, the usual parking spots were all full to overflowing. However, not very far away and the car parks were mostly empty. It only meant an extra 2 or 3 minutes walk, but no troubles finding a part despite being so late.

Small take-off area.

This year the “main” launch place was from the lawns in front of the National Library. It is a much smaller area than has been used in previous years, and as a result, not all the balloons took off from there. I’m not sure of the other launch places, but we did have one balloon go overhead (from behind us) as we were still walking to the main launch site.

As a result of the smaller area, the launch site was absolutely packed with people. I took most of my photos from the terrace of the National Library, where the crowds were slightly thinner – but even there it was difficult to get a shot without other people’s heads. Several of the balloons had already gone by the time we got there, but even so, the area where the balloons were setting up was still quite packed with people.

Launch location

For a personal opinion, I would say that it was better when they were using the whole of East and West lawns and the area between the National Portrait Gallery and Questacon for launching the balloons. The Enlightened beer garden took up most of the space between Questacon and the National Portrait Gallery this year. I’m sure that was also at least partly true in previous years too, but I think the beer garden was much larger this year than in previous years. The Van Gogh Live exhibition was also taking up a chunk of space between East and West Lawns, which probably limited options a little on that side too.

The balloons felt like they were a bit of a sideshow this year. Doing that, when they are one of the main features of the whole event, seems silly. I hope they can do something better next year. I would be more inclined to swap the areas around – put the beer garden down beside the National Library, and leave the space between Questacon and the National Portrait Gallery open for use by balloons in the mornings. For Enlightened evenings, you could either have some food vans that just set up for the nights and move during the day, or leave the space for picnicers. That’s my view anyway.


Every year, the Festival invites a “Feature Balloon”, which is a special design. They are often quite spectacular. This years “Feature Balloon” was the Sloth. Sorry, I don’t have more details on it. Perhaps not quite as visually spectacular as some of the “Features” from previous years, but still very notable.

Photo results

Because of the sheer number of people in close proximity, I did not get very many good photos. Even fewer are shareable, due to identifiable people. I have seriously cropped several photos to remove people and extraneous obstructions, and I am, overall, fairly happy with the results. They will work alright here, but the cropping has dropped the pixel count, and they are probably too low in effective resolution now for producing large products. I have run them through some upscaling and sharpening software, and I will probably print a test print of a large poster using one of these cropped photos just to see how it comes out.

I was very happy with a few other photos. It has taken (quite) a few years, but I think I am starting to get the hang of capturing the light effects of pre- and early dawn balloon photography.

Anyway, here are the photos for your edification. I will produce some products if you’re interested. Check the shop.

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