I’d not been to Canberra since I was at school: after all, what’s there that would motivate me to go? Yet, as a photographer, and member of the Fairfax News Clique forum, I had the perfect reason to head up there this weekend: a photographic workshop held to the backdrop of the 2016 Hot Air Balloon Spectacular.

The Canberra Balloon Spectacular runs every year (I didn’t know this), and is considered to be one of the best and longest running hot air ballooning events in the world. It will be running all week, starting on the Saturday just gone. Depending on the wind direction, pilots and crews lay out and inflate their balloons on the lawns in front of the Old Parliament House from around 6:00 each morning, before launching around sunrise.

I met up with the Fairfax photographers and fellow Clique members in front of the National Portrait Gallery in the dark; trying to discern faces with only a glow from a smartphone is an interesting exercise! We then made our way to the old Parliament House lawns to see the pre-launch setup and get some shots of the crews and spectators in the pre-dawn light, occasionally punctuated by the blue and yellow flare of the gas burners. We missed the launches on the Saturday, as the wind would have taken the balloons directly over Canberra Airport, not a great move, considering the relative speeds of the competing craft! I made sure that I returned on the following morning, where more favourable winds treated me and hundreds of others to a wonderful spectacle befitting of the event’s name.

Thanks to Christopher Getts, Edwina Pickles, Andrew Meares, and Karen Rogers, from the Fairfax team; and it was lovely to meet so many interesting and equally curious people from the Clique forum!