Balloon Man

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Bend’s “Balloon Man” was at it again recently in Central Oregon. Since his first flight in 2006, Kent Couch has taken to the sky a handful of times in basically a lawn chair affixed with hundreds of balloons. This time he had a passenger, and they hoped to set multiple world records for cluster balloon flying. Weather conditions unfortunately cut the trip short, and after blowing around in circles for about 7 hours, the pair had to land.

It was an incredible experience to watch the events of the launch unfold. Volunteers filled over three hundred balloons with helium and attached them to little more than a platform with lawn chairs on it. Having not seen any of Couch’s previous flights, I had no idea what to expect. The movie Up was probably the first thing that came to mind. After photographing awhile at the launch site, I was fortunate to go up in the air myself, in a small plane, as the paper arranged for me to capture some of the craft’s ascent against the background of the nearby Cascades.

Definitely an amazing assignment and vantage point. Photographing the balloons from the open window of a two-seat airplane is about as close as I’d want to get to what appears to be the terrifying beauty of a cluster balloon flight.

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