February 01, 2013 - 11:52 AM
For Peter Lepold, chasing hot air balloons never gets old. For almost a decade, he's leapt out of bed on opening day of Vernon's Winter Carnival with camera in hand to watch the gentle giants take to the sky. It's always a mystery as to where they'll launch from, and over the years, Lepold has perfected a strategy for finding them.
"I go to the hotel where they (the balloonists) stay, and, well, I follow them there in the morning," he says. This morning, they took off from the army base.
It's the winds that govern where the balloons, and Lepold, go next. Today, they headed north along Swan Lake.
Lepold says his favourite balloons are the big yellow smiley faces and the rainbow checkered ones because they pop the most in photos. One of his most cherished images is of five balloons hovering over an icy Swan Lake.
"The colours reflected off the ice. It was just beautiful," he says.
Tracking the balloons is straightforward enough if you know the roads well. Despite being from Kelowna, Lepold knows Vernon's side streets well, and is able to weave quite close to the balloons as they come down for landing. Where they land is always a surprise as they ride the winds around the city. Lepold says a balloon once landed on the street right in front of his house.
Lepold's images have been shown on global and have been featured on postage stamps, as well as in the Kelowna airport magazine.
The man has taken thousands upon thousands of picures of hot air balloons.
"I'll probably take a few hundred today," he says.
He encourages the community to get out with whatever camera they've got to capture the balloons.
"You don't need an expensive camera, even a point and shoot will work," he says.
Above all, you have to be flexible to chase balloons. The whole event is weather permitting. They may go up without a moment's notice, or not go up at all. The excitement is in the spontaneity.
Lepold doesn't know where he'll end up today as he traces the shadows of the balloons.
Camera-ready onlookers may wish to check out the hot air balloon glow tonight at Polson Park from 6 to 6:30 p.m. A full listing of Carnival events can be found here.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013