Balloon flight over north Hampshire

Last year for her birthday I bought my wife and I a flight on a hot air balloon somewhere over north Hampshire. With the weather being so awful from July onwards we didn’t get a chance to go on the flight last year, and finally booked a slot for this week. We got up at 3am yesterday morning and made our way to a field in Winchfield Park, Hartley Wintney, a little way off junction 5 of the M3. When we arrived we ‘helped’ set up the balloon (although I’m not convinced we were of enormous use) and went through a rough landing exercise (we got in the basket and the crew tipped it over), before we got set up properly and floated calmly into the sky.

This is the first time either of us had been in a hot air balloon and it was a unique experience. As we were flying so early – we got into the air around 5.30am – the atmosphere was very peaceful. We were surprised at just how much ambient sound we could hear – cockerels crowing, dogs barking. Perhaps things would be a little different flying once the day was underway proper. As it was, it was breathtaking to float above the world as it woke up and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It was also a great opportunity for photography. We were lucky to have perfect conditions – great visibility but with enough wisps of cloud to give the sky some interest as the sun rose. There was also plenty of low-lying mist to add to the ethereal quality of the scenery.

On a technical note, I had worried for a few days about what equipment to take with me.. I knew the basket was going to be cramped so I couldn’t rely on my normal method of bringing everything with me. Advice I found online suggested that changing lenses on board wasn’t going to be practical and this turned out to be spot on. The best idea, so the advice continued, was to take two cameras fitted with lenses of different focal lengths, so you could respond to what you saw with minimal faffing around. In the end I took the 5D with 24-70 attached and the 60D with 70-200 attached – with the crop factor giving it a bit more reach (equivalent to 105-300). This worked out perfectly; the 24-70 was wide enough to capture some beautiful vistas but long enough to focus in on particular areas, while the 70-200 allowed me to pick out great details in the land below us. For anyone embarking on the same sort of thing, I can thoroughly recommend this setup.

This concludes today’s Geek Corner.

Dawn over North Hampshire

View above Winchfield Station towards Sandhurst

Mist over Tundry Pond

Parkfield Copse, Wallmead Copse and Elvetham

Landscape layered in morning mist

Field, tracks and tree

Field symmetry

Boundary of four fields

View across Holybourne towards RAF Oakhanger

Balloon flight above Alton


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