Hot air ballooning with the Canon Collective

We were floating above the hinterlands of Byron Bay in a hot air balloon. The sun was rising over the lush green hills and valleys, lighting up the landscape as we climbed higher and higher. The air was crisp and still, and was so quiet we could hear cows mooing from the ground below. At least 10 cameras were hanging over the sides of the basket, clicking away and scoping out the next shot. Our silence was interrupted intermittently by our pilot turning on the burners in our basket – shooting dramatic fiery flames up into the balloon. Welcome to the Canon Collective – a select group of epic ambassadors who host unique photography experiences all around Australia for budding photographers like myself.

Whether you’re into photography or not, watching the sunrise over the hinterlands of Byron Bay more than 1,000 metres in the air is an incredible experience. I was in Byron Bay for the Tales by Light Festival – a weekend-long celebration to support Canon Australia’s very first TV series on National Geographic Channel and the team at Canon Australia had also included a bunch of Canon Collective hosted events like shooting from a hot air balloon.

I’d never been in a hot air balloon before, but I knew our 4am wake-up call was going to be well worth it. We stumbled out of our Byron Bay digs in the dark, camera bags on our backs, tripods in our hands, and iPhones lighting the way. We made our way to our transportation with Byron Bay Ballooning and headed out to the hinterlands to find the perfect place to launch our hot air balloons. While I slept through most of the drive, it’s all part of the adventure. We had a hot air balloon convoy on the road – our drivers were all talking to each other and stopping along the way to release the super cute ‘piball’ – a tiny helium filled balloon with a light attached to it that helps determine the upper air winds.

Once we reached the launch site, the guys at Byron Bay Ballooning prepared for take off; we climbed into our baskets and got our cameras ready. Some of us professional, some of us amateur, but all of us frothing out on photography. Having only just moved onto the manual settings of my camera that weekend, having the Canon Collective crew and Canon Masters in the basket with me to help me with my settings was invaluable. I was shooting on my Canon EOS 70D using the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM (my kit for the entire trip).

Run by Chief Pilot Thomas Dattler, the crew at Byron Bay Ballooning are first class – they are a local family owned and operated business and know the area better than anyone. Senior pilot Chris Dewhirst is an actual ballooning legend as he was even the first person to fly a hot air balloon over Mount Everest and is the most decorated balloon pilot in Australia.

Take a look at some of the incredible shots on Instagram taken by the talented photographers I was with in the hot air balloons with that day…

Homepage image by @colbaker 🙂

A photo posted by Colin Baker (@colbaker) on

A photo posted by Steve (@steveloughran) on

A photo posted by Colin Baker (@colbaker) on

A photo posted by Amanda (@altimagesphotography) on

A photo posted by Colin Baker (@colbaker) on

A photo posted by Colin Baker (@colbaker) on

A photo posted by Amanda (@altimagesphotography) on

A photo posted by vicki (@mrs_vicstar) on

A photo posted by Emma Desira (@emmadesira) on


What we did:

Stay tuned for the next Canon Collective event with Byron Bay Ballooning or book the same experience without the photography lesson component. One-hour sunrise flight with Byron Bay Ballooning – includes a delicious gourmet champagne breakfast. For adults you’re looking at $325 and children between 4-12 are $175. Details here.

How to get there:

Byron Bay is located in the Northern Rivers region in NSW, just off the Pacific Highway, 800kms north of Sydney, 170kms south of Brisbane (about 90kms south of the Gold Coast). There are two airports in the vicinity with a train station and bus depot located in the centre of town.

Flying to Byron Bay:

You can fly into the Gold Coast Airport, which is located in Coolangatta QLD (45 mins north of Byron Bay). There are a couple smaller regional airports located in Ballina (30 mins South) and Lismore (50 mins West).

Driving to Byron Bay:

With breaks, Byron Bay is about a nine hour drive from Sydney and about two hour drive from Brisbane.

Byron Bay Buses:

Coach travel to Byron Bay is a popular budget way to travel with busses arriving regularly at the Bus Depot located in the centre of town. Most bus companies located on the east coast of Australia have a regular service to Byron Bay.

Details here.

Where to stay:

We stayed at the Apartments Inn Byron Bay – cool apartment style accommodation in the centre of town. Details here.