Some of these spots are Extremely Difficult to get into. I’m not kidding. I have to get my body in positions that are not only downright awkward, but seem patently inhuman. The instinct is just to get the shot and get out of there. It’s not a game of inches — it’s a game of millimeters. When I am in these delicate spots, I try really hard to make sure that the tripod is exactly right and the framing is exactly right. If things aren’t perfect when you take the shot, sometimes you just can’t save it in post!
Daily Photo – Exploring Caves in the Valley of Fire
Is this place hot?
Did I dump a bottle of water on my head every 15 minutes?
Was I completely dry for 14 minutes between each dumping?
Usually I light up the road at night with my headlights, but I figured out this strange trick by accident! I was parked, facing the other way, and the tail lights were illuminated because the headlights were on. There was barely any red visible on the road itself, but the long exposure ended up making everything on the ground and walls a wondrous red!
Daily Photo – Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas
Here is another recent photo from my trip to the desert. This was a very long exposure from a beautiful road in the Valley of Fire. Those glowing lights in the far distance? Those are the lights of Las Vegas, plainly visible even though it is still 60 miles away!
Anyone else out there use Google Drive? I’m having a pickle of a problem where I’m getting duplicate folders… I can’t figure it out. I only have one folder on my computer, but inside the web interface I have duplicates. It’s so confusing and it gives me a headache whenever I try to work out what is happening and then reverse-engineer the whole thing so everything is synced. Maybe I am alone with this problem!
Daily Photo – Driving through the Valley of Fire at Night
This was my first time through the Valley of Fire just north of Las Vegas, and I spent so long taking photos through the day and into the night that I ended up staying right through the dark. When I drove through here, the headlights looked so magical against the rocks that I threw it into reverse to back up and take a photo. One of the strangest things about this place is that after the sun set – it was completely empty and I never saw another car.
You can visit the Full Burning Man album here on SmugMug. (BTW, isn’t the new SmugMug so cool? Check out my updated SmugMug Review right here for more.) I keep adding to it, and I’ve front-loaded the portfolio there with mostly new photos from 2013. This is my own little personal artistic contribution to Burning Man… I still have many more photos to edit and I will of course share them here on the blog as well.
Photo Equipment in the Desert – Questions?
Would people like to see me do a longer post about photography equipment handling in these crazy conditions? I’ve heard a few questions about this… but not sure if it is something everyone wants to know about. I’m happy to write more about it… just let me know! As for these photos below, these were all shot with the Sony NEX system… For newcomers, see my Sony NEX-7 Review here on the site.
Post-processing the Burning Man photos and Lightroom Presets?
This is a common question! If you enjoy the style of some of the photos below, you might want to grab some of my Lightroom Presets – they are here on the site in the Get Cool Stuff area.
Burning Man 2013
This is my fourth burn in a row, and this time I brought my wife and 12-year-old son. We camped with one of my best friends Cliff Baise and his wife + 12 year-old son. You can see him below as the alien, and, no, he doesn’t normally look like that. We were also right by my good friends Curtis Simmons and his wife, who were first-timers along with our wives… so it was fun to have so many “virgins” out there!
Wait, what IS Burning Man, anyway, I hear you wondering. It’s a magical event in the desert every year where over 50,000 artists, musicians, and explorers come together to build a temporary city that is just on the other side of reality.
We had an amazing time, and I can see all the questions forming now… WHAT? You brought a 12-year-old to Burning Man? Yes, oh yes. I’ll tell that full story soon. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite photos from the event this year.
This will be A M A Z I N G ! I can’t wait to walk around the desert with all of you and see what there is to be seen and see beyond that. Come alone or bring a friend (no worries, you’ll make new friends too!) — we will have a great time.
When: 6 PM on Wednesday Aug 28. Where: Outside of Center Camp – between Center Camp and The Man
Are you just a beginner with a small camera or mobile phone? No worries – you are more than welcome! This is a very friendly group, and we will walk around for a few hours through the sunset and see where the winds take us. Just look for me and Cliff Baise… we’ll be there and ready to go!
For our 2013 calendar, we’ve teamed up with some of the best authors in the fantasy genre: Peter S. Beagle, Ray Bradbury, Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Jacqueline Carey, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robin Hobb, N.K. Jemisin, George R. R. Martin, Terry Pratchett, and Patrick Rothfuss.
Here’s a little screengrab from something I put on Pinterest… where I cropped the photos in that fun cropping factor. Also, I just found out that the first image there is actually a real person – Clare Grant, who I hung out with at a shuttle launch last year. I found this out when she re-pinned it to her board that included photos of her…
More Burning Man Pics
Remember, to see all the Burning Man pics published so far, click on the “Burning Man” category at the bottom of the post!
I added a few captions below each one…
Leah Muse (random model-girl roaming the playa) slinks around the temple in the morning light. Yes, this kind of awesome stuff happens all the time at Burning Man.
One of hundreds of unique pieces of art that emerges in the desert every year. These all look one way in the day, and completely different at night. In fact, this one looks so different at night that I was convinced I had never seen it before!
These stars were laid out in an unusual configuration in the deep playa. I could not figure it out, until I realized these three stars formed Orion’s Belt.
An evil bunny is stalking a rather friendly looking bunny.
Here’s a new series of photos from Burning Man this year. I put captions below each one so you can find out more about what is going on…
One morning I rode out to the main temple to watch the sunrise. Clouds are fairly rare out there, so I was hoping for some nice color situations, but I didn’t expect anything quite this colorful!
That giant pirate ship in the background is actually a huge vehicle that rolls from camp to camp. In the foreground are two of the many people that walk around in the middle of the day with ornate umbrellas.
A fire dancer performs in front of one of the many art displays that is set to burn in just a few hours or so.
I was stuck in the middle of the desert just when a massive sandstorm enveloped everything. I made very slow progress towards my destination. Finally, after about ten minutes of sand-blindness, it opened up a little to reveal the towering Anubis here.
This is the ornate entrance to the gypsy wagon. You can see how ornate and detailed the patterns and lighting is across the facade. And don’t you want to go inside and see what kind of characters have magically appeared?
I really don’t do these very often, but it was getting confusing so we made a page that showed what, when, and where! It’s over on the Photography Workshops page, and I have pasted it below for you. Maybe we should have a punch-card like Subway where you get a free cookie if you come to 10 events! Hehe… we do have one gentleman that has appeared at a few of them and we may see him again!
Location & Date
February 7 – 10, 2013
New Zealand Photo Adventure
5 Days with Trey Ratcliff in a non-stop photography adventure… 3 nights in Queenstown and 1 in Milford Sound.
Midnight in Paris Miss Aniela and Trey Ratcliff thought it would be exciting to combine her dramatic fine art photography with his epic landscapes into an intense hands-on photoshoot experience and workshop. They will share their secrets of how they envision, prepare, shoot, and process their photos.
Discover the Art of Photography
Four part tutorial covering the fundamentals of how a camera operates, properly composing a photo, finding your artistic style and basic photo editing. Perfect for Beginning and Intermediate photographers!
Webinar covers HDR and many other innovative post-processing techniques. There are over 11 hours of instruction across 9 classes covering topics for beginners and moving into intermediate and advanced topics.
Here are a bunch of photos I took at Burning Man a few weeks ago. I put little captions below each one so you can read more about the situation there.
An angel floats above the scene as she glides near center camp. People look up at her as she floats by and she always seems to be waving in slow motion.
Night at Burning Man is a bit like a Massive Multiplayer Online Game. Everyone is in costume, the lights are not of-this-earth, and the entire feeling is that of a parallel universe.
Near the temple, a masked figure assumes strange positions, orienting herself in a particular position in relation to the sun.
There are countless gatherings about this and that. This one comes from the Million Bunny March, where thousands of bunnies got together in a protest against humanity.
A mobile “Home” on wheels is pulled across the playa by a tractor. People sit on the front porch and enjoy a nice cool drink.
While I was at the temple one morning, I saw this girl watching the sunrise nearby me. I asked if I could take a photo. She immediately posed. I found out later, to no great surprise, that she was a model – her name is Eden Muse.
I was on Channel 7 a few days ago in Australia – here is the clip
Backup Camera for Burning Man
My main camera I use nowadays is the Nikon D800, and I was a bit afraid to take that out into the desert. Instead, I took out my Nikon D3S to get some of these shots. It’s one of the six different cameras I used at Burning Man this year. I didn’t get much dust at all inside the camera… but I also never changed the lens or used it too much in sandstorms…
Daily Photo – Sunken Ghost Ship in the Desert
This year, they added to the end of the dock – a sunken Spanish Galleon, which has all the little authentic touches that I’ve come to expect from this crew. See all the rigging? It was even done by the woman who did all the rigging for The Black Pearl for Pirates of the Caribbean.
While I set up for this photo, a woman in a dress with lights inside came by with her well-dressed man. They stopped to look out across the desert while I took this photo….
I also decided to make it an anthology of sorts, so I included updated versions of the most popular how-to stories like “9 Tips for your HDR Brain to Consider” to “HDR: It’s About the Light,” and I also revisited and expanded some of my popular long-form pieces, like the Chernobyl story.
Enjoy! We’ve been busy publishing new books over there, so be sure to check out the many other Flatbooks authors while there!
Answers to the Trivia
I have the answers here in the variety hour! Jump ahead to 30:30 where I describe the photos and the cameras with which they were shot.
The Camera Doesn’t Matter
I’ll go ahead and state my premise here from the outset.
I believe this is the best time ever for you to get into photography, and I expect my little trivia contest below will prove that a camera that is only a few hundred dollars (like the Olympus Tough) can take photos as interesting as one for a few thousand dollars (like the Nikon D3S) or even one that is tens of thousands of dollars (like the Phase One). There are so many cameras out there, but I try to boil it down to the good/better/best on the Camera Reviews page here on the site.
Hardcore gear-head photographers will get VERY ANGRY at the statement above, but I’d like to see how they do on the trivia test below!
I used many different cameras at Burning Man – everything from one that cost a few hundred dollars to something that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes, I didn’t feel like carrying around a giant medium format camera or a DSLR, and I just wanted to be handy and quick with a little handheld consumer camera like the Olympus or the Pentax.
For all the photos below, I stripped out all the metadata (I think) and made them all the same resolution (4000 pixels wide or high with various crops) so that would not give away any clues as to the camera that made them.
Also note that I have processed all these photos. Look, I can’t help it… This isn’t a pure lab situation… but life is not a pure lab situation. In some cases, I’ve even used Lightroom to add grain back into the photo. That will make your job even more difficult. I didn’t make Lightroom adjustments to make the trivia harder – I just did this style of post-processing on each photo because I thought it was kind of beautiful. And see that one I put in there with the spiral of fire? I DID put that one there just to mess with you a bit.
Anyway, I’ve never made any apologies about my love of hardcore post-processing. I think the photo itself is just the beginning, and then the real magic happens when I can bend the light to my will later.
In that sense, I really quite like this trivia contest. Since I’m not alone in my love of post-processing, it makes an even stronger case that the camera with which you initially capture the light is a smaller and smaller part of the equation. The bigger part of the equation is you, yourself – your personality, your tools, and how you choose to use them on any given day.
Trey’s Lightroom Presets
All of the photos below were simply edited in Lightroom. I used the newly released Trey’s Lightroom Presets in case you want to play with them yourself. I thought I’d get that little plug in there… hope you don’t mind.
And here are the 6 final photos with the six different cameras. I put little captions under each one to give you a bit of context for the story…
While riding by on my bike, I saw these three dancers-al-fresco enjoying the sun. It seemed to be the sort of thing that was interesting and just begging for a photograph, and, well, you can see what happened. And no, none of this was posed… it just happened.
In the middle of the pink party, this girl was at center camp with pink ears and her dust cover. She was a very pretty bunny, so I gave her the international eyebrow-sign of “is it okay to take a photo?” and she lit up happily.
On the night the man burned, 60,000 people crowded around the bonfire of mammoth proportions. Photographers did anything they could to see over the crowd, including this enterprising photographer-wizard.
A girl rides in front of the most wonderful truck I’ve ever seen. Do you know the history behind it?
On the night of the temple burn, millions of burning embers filled the sky like golden dust from the heavens. I aimed my camera up and twisted it with the beat of nearby music.
There are over a hundred art-cars that roam the desert during the day and night. You can get on any one at any time and it will pick you up at a random place and drop you off at another. This little gypsy car was one of my favorites, and the music that flowed out of it was eclectic and relaxing.
Sample Answer (probably not right)
Photo 1 – B
Photo 2 – F
Photo 3 – D
Photo 4 – A
Photo 5 – C
Photo 6 – E
(And you can add some of your thoughts below your answer too if you would like to ruminate on one thing versus another!)
I’ll give the final answer in one week after the initial posting…