These pictures were taken at the Great Reno Balloon Race in Reno, Nevada in 2009. It is the largest free hot air balloon exhibition in the nation and the 2010 race was this past weekend. I didn't go this year, but it is a great opportunity for photography and the wonderment of getting close to these hot air balloons.
When I say close, I mean that the pilots will actually let you inside the balloon while it is inflating with the fans only (which they use before the propane fire breathing blasters). You can walk through the field of 100 balloons rising at once with no restrictions or cost. I have a stop action animation of the mass ascention at this link.
It is an easy drive to Reno from the San Francisco bay area and it is possible to avoid the downtown casinos all together if you want.
Plan on getting up early if you want the "Glow Show" and "Dawn Patrol" pictures. They start at 5am. The entire 3 day event is over by 10am each day.
For more information, see the Great Reno Balloon Race web site.
Another similar but bigger event takes place in New Mexico, October 2-10, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta with more of everything. I've never been there but this is the mecca, according to the balloonists I talked to. Good luck getting a hotel room at this date.
Well, thanks for playing.