September 22nd, 2010

The rainbow after the rain

The city gates were closed for several hours during and after the rainstorm, so as to avoid both stuck vehicles and damage to the playa. That left plenty of time for photographs.

Our tent

Rachael picked up this tent several weeks before we left, and I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for a tent for any purpose other than backpacking. It's a Coleman Instant Tent 8 (14'x10'), and it held up beautifully on the playa with only ordinary 9" stakes, even during very high winds, once the guy lines were staked down. It has an innovative one-piece design, not requiring either a separate ground sheet or rain fly, and it sets up in just minutes.

Marco Cochrane's "Bliss Dance" sculpture

This sculpture (funded by an anonymous patron) was a big hit at Burning Man this year: it's 40 feet tall, weighing 7000 pounds, and required the full-time efforts of four welders for an entire year.

The Mant Farm

It's a replica of an old-style Uncle Milton's Ant Farm which people, rather than ants, can walk around in.

The Neverwas Haul

Although many Burning Man participants bring creative art cars to this event, the Neverwas Haul pictured here is one of the best of those meant to be appreciated during the day (i.e. which doesn't depend for most of its beauty on artificial light).

Burning Man at night

I've never succeeded in taking a picture which captures the majesty of Burning Man at night, and this photograph certainly comes nowhere close to doing so.

In person, its effect is that of being in the middle of an enormous city of light of every color, and fire, surrounding you in every direction seemingly to the horizon. No two parts of it look the same, and neither do any of the brilliantly lit art cars traveling in every direction. Compounding this is the knowledge that the purpose of everything you see is to delight, and that all of it was created not for profit, but out of the simple joy of creating something interesting and beautiful.

I'm aware of nothing like it anywhere else on earth.

By the way, one innovation this year was illuminated remote control planes, i.e. flying works of art.

"The Crossroads"

This sculpture, by Seattle's Iron Monkeys Art Collective, was the centerpiece of their work "The Crossroads." The work as a whole provided a popular place for folks to gather and converse on the playa at night.

Opulent Temple at night

Shortly before leaving with me on this trip Rachael unfortunately sprained her ankle, and her ability to walk to all of the art was limited. So, when out on my own I tried to photograph all of the works of art I thought she might like but might otherwise miss.

Fortunately, she was able to see Opulent Temple at night at least once: there's something very special about good music in the desert at night, particularly when the music's high points are underscored with the heat blast of an overhead flamethrower.

A typical residential area in Black Rock City

I should add that Burning Man is a strict "leave no trace" event, indeed the largest in the world. Once the event is over, in only a short period of time everything you've seen so far will be gone: indeed, apparently the standard defined by the event's license with the Bureau of Land Management is no more than a square foot of debris per acre, and furthermore strict rules must be followed to insure that fire causes no damage to the playa surface.

Just before dawn, the day of the Burn

I woke up very early on Saturday morning to watch the sunrise. At my back was the Opulent Temple camp, which played a remix of the Pink Floyd song "Comfortably Numb" just as the sun rose.

The device you see to the left of the picture is an enormous mechanized birthday cake driving toward the sunrise, carrying six or seven people.

My shadow at sunrise

To compose this photograph I positioned myself directly between the rising sun and the "Man" which would be spectacularly destroyed later that night.

The Bliss Dance sculpture at sunrise

I love how this photograph demonstrates the brilliance of Marco Cochrane's sculpture, i.e. that it has no internal skeletal structure and hence light can be seen through it from any angle.

I'd been considering taking up photography as a new hobby, and so it pleased me to no end that apparently (based on my having posted this same photograph to my flickr.com account on September 5) Marco Cochrane ended up seeing this photograph and liking it; last week a member of his crew wrote to me asking permission to use this photograph on their sculpture's web site, which I of course granted.

At the end of Burning Man last year, my take-away was a newfound interest in danceable electronic music; this year, I think my take-away will be a renewed interest in photography.

A slightly self-indulgent photograph

This is the inside of the smaller of Root Society's two music domes. I didn't get any pictures of it last year, and I was given to understand that this might be Root Society's last year here, so I wanted to be sure to take away some kind of memento.

This photograph's only real significance is that I was looking at these lamps at Burning Man last year when I discovered what became an appreciation for modern electronic music.

The lamps

These line the streets leading to the "Man" along three cardinal directions, and line the interior of the residential areas (i.e. the semicircle closest to the Man). Lighting them at dusk is done as part of a bit of a ceremony, with the people involved wearing white robes.

The point is that volunteering to be one of the "lamplighters" for an evening is one of the easiest ways to volunteer at Burning Man, and in my opinion doing at least one volunteer activity, on at least one day, is an essential part of feeling like a part of the event.

Dome Sweet Dome

I camped next to these folks last year. They were great people, and kind enough to invite me over for dinner a few times.

The "Man" on the night of its destruction :)

Its destruction serves as the climax of the Burning Man festival, and fortunately Rachael's foot was in good enough shape for her to walk to it with me. Less fortunately, there was a severe dust storm going on at the time which lowered visibility and made conditions generally uncomfortable.

Leaving Burning Man

Rachael and I had struck camp and packed the car before leaving to see the "Man" burn, so we were able to leave immediately afterward. According to Rachael, the dust storm had turned my hair completely white.

One advantage of leaving when we did is that we avoided the huge traffic jam which would occur later. Another is that we didn't have to sleep that night covered in dust :)