Red Rock Balloon Rally, Gallup, NM, west of Albuquerque

This event is a photographer’s dream, and it is free! This year the dates are Dec. 2-3. We went last year, stayed in a motel, and were up by early morning to see the balloons launch. There were real bathrooms (not outhouses), but no food trucks; however, we had time to go out for breakfast before the gates opened. There were no traffic nightmares or parking far away as at Albuquerque’s fiesta in October.

We were able to get very close to the balloons and talk to the crews.

The shadows on the red rock are phenomenal!

Various views of Castle Rock.

The contrails provided a sense of drama to the sky.


There were not many people there in the morning, but there were when we returned in the evening. At night there were Native American dancers around a bonfire and a balloon glow. We were greeted warmly by managers from the Navajo dancers, and they helped us find good vantage points for photographs as well as saving us a spot until the festivities began.

The dancers move constantly in the pitch dark and smoky air. We experimented a lot to get the photos the way we wanted. We’re so grateful for viewfinders! This was very close up with a flash.

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