Brian's Photo Blog — Article 244
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Hot Air Balloon Alps Crossing!
Monday 22 April 2013   —   Category: Other Photographers
Crossing the Alps in a hot air balloon has got to be one of the ultimate photo outings! This morning I ran across an article which featured this awesome adventure. The photographer — Oliver Hanka from Germany — writes:
Once in a while during winter, the weather is just about right. That’s when we (a party of four plus the pilot) took off in our hot air balloon to cross the alps from north to south. We started in Germany (near Rosenheim) and touched down in Italy with a very nice view of Venice. It took us about four hours, reaching approx. an altitude of 5,000m (~15,000ft) with top speed around 150km/h (~94mph). Oh, and did I mention the -20°C (~0°f)?

How it works is a jet stream crossing the alps in which the balloon rides. The air comes from the northern parts of Europe, flows over the alps and streams down into the flat areas of northern Italy (Wiki: Foehn wind). The difficulty is that when this weather/wind pattern forms, heavy snow/rain clouds appear on the northern side of the alps where the air hits the mountains and is forced upwards. It usually is a very small time frame between too many clouds for the take off and not enough jet stream to cross the alps. In a regular season (only in winter) no more than four to six possibilities open up.
You can see the rest of his photos, and read about the dramatic ending of their journey, in Crossing the Alps.

Of course, taking a photo excursion across the Alps in a balloon is nothing new. Swiss pioneer balloonist and photographer Eduard Spelterini made his first such journey way back in 1898 — yes, that 1898 and not 1998!

Such high-altitude photography was very difficult at that time, because the camera equipment weighed over 100 pounds, and minimum exposure times were a slow 1/30th of a second. But somehow he managed to capture award-winning photo after photo over a period of 15 years.

Spelterini’s fascinating story and amazing photographs are presented in a beautiful 150-page book called Eduard Spelterini - Photographs of a Pioneer Balloonist. At at whopping $100, it is definitely a spendy book — although it was selling for “only” $75 when I bought my copy five years ago.

For a cheaper peek at his photos, you can always do a Google image search.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 244
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Reader Comments
On May 13, 2015, Mark Yarry wrote:
Don't know if Spelterini's balloon was hot air. It is officially recorded as a gas balloon and to my knowledge the technology necessary to make a crossing without the use of propane gas is to say the least implausible. The acknowledged record belongs Britain Donald Cameron and myself, Mark Yarry, USA, made in 1972.
On May 13, 2015, Brian wrote:
In reply to Mark Yarry’s comments above: I appreciate Mark bringing these details to my attention. In my ignorance of the subject, I mistakenly called Spelterini’s balloon “hot air.” I have now removed those inaccurate words. For more information about the record-making Cameron–Yarry flight, see this PDF written by Cameron.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 244
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