Aerial Photography: Hot Air Ballooning in Dubai

Dubai Hot Air Balloon – Photography Experience

Aerial photography has long been one of my fascinations. Seeing the world from above; the patterns, formations and colours of nature, it’s like mother nature has creatively laid out all her goods ready to capture.

While I haven’t yet been totally won over by the idea of drone photography (I love the results just not the buzzing sounds), I usually stick to traditional methods of getting high such as helicopters, seaplanes and climbing mountains…actually let’s be honest, I spent more time struggling to climb mountains than I ever did on the actual peaks.

One mode of transport I’d never taken was a hot air balloon. A floating basket high above the ground with no way of steering and only the wind to guide the way…yikes. But, last week in Dubai I couldn’t resist and since it was my birthday, treated myself and my camera to a balloon flight over the desert. Romantic.

I’ll be sharing a post all about camera settings and what gear is best for taking photos from a hot air balloon but for the moment, I just wanted to share a gallery of images. I don’t operate so well before about 8am so with a 5am sunrise, I’m so surprised and happy with the photos I captured. Actually, so surprised in fact that I can’t actually remember taking some of them…I’m pretty sure I was still half asleep for at least the first 15 minutes because some of the photos I have no recollection of taking. Professional I know.

Dubai Hot Air Balloon Ride

Rising at 3am to drive west of Dubai we arrived to a thick fog that hovered above the take-off site. It was apparently the first fog of the season but it also meant we were unable to fly until it cleared. Instead we waited at a gas station nearby and watched as the giant red ball of sun rose over the Al Hajar Mountains in the distance. While inside I was secretly wishing we were up in the clouds photographing this magic, I’m also a total wimp and was more than happy the team took the ‘safety first’ approach. Within minutes of the sun rising the fog began to clear and we were whisked off to the balloon and were suddenly up, up and away.

Not even realising we were flying (again, possibly because I was sleeping while standing up), the balloon rose from the sand dunes and the incredible landscape appeared below.

The glow of morning sunlight was creating patterns and shadows across the dunes. The warm tones of fog blending with intense heat and desert colouring was everything I had hoped for.

Along for the ride was a falcon who perched himself beside me for the trip and turned his beak every time I lifted my camera, just incase it was quail.

After drifting over the dunes, watching camels below, gazelle’s jumping and zipping over the sand, we landed just beside a goat farm, to the utter surprise of the goats.

I have to say, as a photography experience, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. If you’re into aerial photography of landscapes and natural patterns, a desert balloon ride is for you! Also afterwards, for the car enthusiasts you’re transported by vintage Jeep to breakfast in the desert…pretty fancy!

Take a peek below at a collection of photos I took from the balloon with my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II paired with the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens and then the wider shots are taken on the OM-D E-M10 Mark II paired with the 7-14mm f2.8 PRO lens. Yes, I was clearly THAT person who took all their gear around their neck and snapped away the entire flight…it was the best! For aerial photography adventures you don’t want to miss a moment of the scenes that pass you by so it’s best to be prepared 🙂

Thanks to Ballooning Adventures Emirates for such a smooth flight.

Read more – The Best Photography Locations in Dubai


Dubai Hot Air Ballooning - Aerial Photography

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Lisa Michele Burns

Hello! I'm the founder and photographer behind The Wandering Lens. With 14+yrs experience as a professional travel and landscape photographer, all advice found on this site is from my personal experience on the road. I hope it's useful for your own travels and would love to hear in the comments about your trips and experiences around the world.

Blog Comments

Your photos are fantastic! They have atmosphere in them and you’ve captured the beauty of this balloon ride perfectly. I would even say that it’s probably a very romantic ride as well.

Stunning photo! I absolutely love this style of photography. Thank heavens for the drone invention too! The photos are magical! I now want to go on a hot air balloon!

Those pictures are simply magical! The fourth one is stunning, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it! I’m tempted by a hot air balloon experience too (but in Mynmar) and I was wondering: was it possible to ‘move’ in the basket? I mean, if you wanted to switch from one side to the other, to take different pictures?

These photos as fantastic, as always! What an experience! I love the shots with the people parachuting beneath the hot air balloons. Are they skydivers?!

Looks amazing. I love hot air balloon rides, after going in one over Lake Bled this summer in Slovenia. PS I have a drone but I barely use it cause of those damn sounds. Much prefer being in a hot air balloon and taking the shots with my actual camera 😉

Ohhhh, I love the photos!! Amazing <3

Thank you for the photography guidance! I definitely need that hahah. I’ll have to check them out when I’m in Dubai!

I have only taken one balloon ride and that was over the beautiful Hereford countryside in UK. Warm sunset photos with the low light highlighting ancient hill forts dating from iron age. I got some amazing photos including one of the tree tops waving as we brushed them with the basket!

That sounds beautiful Nick! I can imagine the English countryside would be an ideal location for hot air ballooning.

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