Before or during a hot air balloon event, the balloonists often display the wonderful colors of their canopies at night by igniting their burners simultaneously. It’s called a "balloon glow", and it is definitely photographically challenging.
In the low light, you would think a tripod is necessary, but since the balloons are slightly moving (even though they are tethered to something on the ground), long exposures would produce blurred pictures. Therefore, when I shot the images you see here I raised the ISO to 400 and hand-held the camera in the twilight lighting.
I quickly discovered that manual exposure mode on the camera was required to get good exposures. When the burners were ignited, they were so much brighter than the environment that the camera’s meter responded by underexposing the photos (in trying to make the brilliant fire middle toned as all meters are programmed to do) With no burners turned on, the exposures were fine.
By using manual mode, I let the burners become very light while the intense colors of the balloon fabric and the cobalt sky were saturated and well exposed. It took a few trial and error shots before I settled on the best f/stop and shutter speed combination. The two pictures you see here were taken at 1/60th at f/4 with a 24mm lens.
Note: Jim Zuckerman is an instructor in online photography training at BetterPhoto.com.