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Hot Air Balloons & More In Rockbridge County, VA!

Spend a Summer Weekend in Lexington, VA, Photographing Hot Air Balloons, Nature and Antique Cameras!

Quick Details

Non-Photographer Companion

As part of our 25th anniversary celebration, Washington Photo Safari (founded in 1999) is pleased to announce the repeat of an exciting 2-day photo adventure for its clients: a weekend in Lexington, VA that includes photographing (and even riding in) hot air balloons by day and by night, a visit to a unique camera heritage museum, a trek to the famous Natural Bridge State Park, and a chance to feed and photograph wild, free-ranging animals up close and personal at the Virginia Safari Park. All photography instruction will be provided by professional architectural photographer and WPS Director E. David Luria.

Balloons floating over the Southwest Virginia Countryside, Rockbridge Co.

Photo by Percita Ellis, MD

Thanks to the cooperation of our host and one of our most enthusiastic clients, Percita Ellis, MD, FAAP (a Lexington resident, very busy pediatrician, Vice-President of the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a former board member of the Hot Air Balloons Over Rockbridge organization) we will arrive Friday evening, July 5, 2024 at our Wingate by Wyndham Hotel in Lexington for a brief orientation at 9 pm, and then be ready to photograph the colorful Hot Air Balloon Festival launches at (ugh!) 6:30 am on Saturday, July 6. The balloon pilots let us get right up to the balloons, even stick our cameras inside them as they inflate for a riot of color and hot air flames, and then we can photograph a flotilla of colorful balloons rising up up and away!

(The hotel is located just a few minutes away from the festival. If it rains on Saturday, we will photograph the balloon launches Sunday morning.)

After the balloon launch, we will go have a complimentary breakfast at a nearby iHop, sponsored by our host, Dr. Percita Ellis.

We then drive in our own cars to nearby Natural Bridge State Park to photograph that famous architectural wonder of nature, and then have lunch.

Fisherman at the Natural Bridge State Park, VA

There is also a $20 option ($15 for children) on Saturday afternoon (4-7pm) to do a tethered ride in a hot air balloon or a $300 ride on an untethered balloon that drifts slowly and silently with beautiful aerial views across the lovely southwest Virginia countryside. The tethered rides are first-come first-served, with the $20/$15 fees paid directly to the pilots.

The $300 untethered flight (lasting about 2 hours) requires advance reservations and payment, which you can do by contacting If you wish to do an untethered ride, you must make your reservations and payment right away because there is heavy demand for these rides. (In the event of rain cancellation, ride refunds will be made by the Balloons Over Rockbridge organization.)

After a bit of rest time, we go back to the balloon launch area to photograph the illuminated balloons glowing at night.

On Sunday morning we will drive our own cars, and then travel by group van through the nearby 180–acre Virginia Safari Park, where we can see, feed, and photograph animals such as zebras, llamas, elk, camels, deer, and anteaters up close and personal, so close that they use their long tongues to sweep food tidbits right off the floor under your feet. (The kids will love this!)

Virginia Safari Park

We then have a picnic lunch, thus giving us time to begin our return home to the DC area. (Lexington is about 200 miles southwest of Washington DC.)

Our final optional stop, just a few miles north of Lexington and on the way back to the DC area we stop in Staunton VA at the very fascinating Camera Heritage Museum, which displays 7,000 camera models going all the way back to 19th century Daguerrotypes to Kodak Brownies (“You push the button, we do the rest…”) to the spy cameras and Speed Graphics used during WWII, to modern day DSLRS and mirrorless cameras.

For a $20/person fee, Curator David Schwartz will lead us through the museum and explain the models on display. It is fascinating to see how far camera technology has advanced since 1826 when the first photo was taken out of Joseph Nicephore Niepce’s attic window in the Burgundy region of France. It took 8 hours to produce that first image of an adjacent rooftop! Compare that to today’s cameras that can do 20-30 frames per second!

Camera Heritage Museum, Staunton, VA

Are you looking for a fun way to spend your July 4th holiday weekend? This will be a spectacular photo adventure, and you are most welcome to bring non-photographer spouses, companions, and children to join in the fun.

Here is a sampling of the images you will get on this safari:

The fee of only $540/photographer and $85/non-photographer companion and $55/child includes:

  • Admission to the Hot Air Balloon Festival
  • Complimentary post-launch group breakfast at iHOP Saturday morning
  • Admission to Natural Bridge State Park, Saturday afternoon
  • Admission to Virginia Safari Park, with van transportation through the park
  • All photography instruction and administration services by WPS

The fee does NOT include

  • Travel to/from Lexington VA and to Natural Bridge and Virginia Safari Park
  • Lunches and dinners and picnic
  • Optional tethered balloon rides Saturday afternoon at $20/person
  • Optional untethered balloon cruises Saturday or Sunday @ 300/person (by advance reservation only)
  • Hotel Accommodations – Group hotel prices are just $89 (plus tax) per night for 2 nights.

(A block of 14 rooms has been reserved at the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel in Lexington, 1100 North Lee Highway in Lexington under the name Washington Photo Safari. Room rates include complimentary breakfast. Call 540-464-8100 as soon as possible to make reservations. Dinner options are available at nearby restaurants such as Applebees, Chick-Filet, Waffle House, and Ruby Tuesdays,)

Registration will be limited to the first 12 clients who register.

To avoid the service charge fees on the website, we suggest that payment be made directly to Mr. Luria at his Zelle address of 202-669-8468 or his Venmo address of EDavid-Luria.

The fees are:
* $540 per photographer
* $85 per non-photographer spouse/companion
* $55 per child (15 and under)

(A full refund will be made for cancellations received by May 1, 2024, after that date all refunds are subject to a 25% surcharge.)

Late-model smartphone cameras are also  perfectly acceptable on this safari.