IMAGE TALK with Noella Ballenger: What makes that photo work…

As with many things in life, comparisons set an orientation for us. When you are presented with an opportunity to depict that in your photographs, it’s a special moment.

In this photograph, Suzanne Cochrane seized the moment to create an image that moves the viewer’s imagination into another dimension. It is no longer just a hot air balloon, but the earth and the moon seen from an entirely different perspective. Add early morning angled light, cool blue colors and simplicity in design, and the results became stunning.

Earth Balloon by Suzanne Cochrane

IMAGE TALK: hot air balloon with earth from space scene on it - balloon ascending to striated clouds and early morning moon by Suzanne Cochrane.
© 2012 Suzanne Cochrane. All rights reserved.

Subject: Hot air balloon at the Great Reno Hot Air Balloon Race

Conditions: Early morning light with a descending moon and scattered high clouds.


1. Two circular shapes in juxtaposition.

2. Variegated blue background compliments the colors in the balloon.

3. Floating sensation of the balloon emphasizes the floating sensation of the moon.

4. An unusual perspective of photographing from the bottom up.

5. Early morning angled light creates a light and dark side of the earth balloon.

6. Simplicity in design.

Noella’s Comments:

The opportunity to photograph hot air balloons is always a special one. In this image Suzanne has captured the wonderful floating sensation of both the balloon and the moon in their journeys through space.

The circular forms of both the moon and the balloon are similar and their diagonal position within the image frame not only occupies the space well, but emphasizes the contrast of size and distance. Because of the unusual design on the balloon and the angle from which she made the photo, the familiar became the unknown and the sense of reality changed making this image unique.

Changing perspective as you are looking at your photo subject can bring forward the unusual. In Suzanne’s photograph, the background of striated clouds adds to the sense of space, and by looking almost straight up at the bottom of the balloon and including the moon in the image, she has emphasized the weightless sensation of floating through time and space.

The complimentary colors of the balloon against the background of the sky add to the perspective of space travel.

Early morning light is low and creates wonderful shadows. This time of the day was perfect for this particular balloon, giving you the sense of how light or the lack of light naturally falls on earth.

One of the striking things about this image is the simplicity of design. Photography is a “subtractive” art. By that I mean that painters begin with a blank canvas and add the elements they want, but photographers approach their subjects from the other direction. We are presented with many elements from which to choose and our skill in eliminating the unwanted are important creative decisions. Suzanne did a wonderful job of eliminating all distractions until she distilled design elements into an image with great impact.

Super job, Suzanne!

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