Burning Man and the Dust

My Full Burning Man Gallery

Is slowly getting updated with this year’s photos integrated into the flow in the Burning Man Portfolio on SmugMug. P.S. Wondering what SmugMug is? Check out the SmugMug Review here on the page!

Burning Man 2014 was Incredible!

Wow what a great year! This is year number five for me, and I feel like I’m starting to merge more and more of Burning Man into my real life. Thanks again to everyone I met and spent time with. It was so incredible and I can hardly wait for next year! I’m adding some of the new photos from this year in today’s post below.

Burning Man and using Cameras in the Dust

I’m gonna make this short and sweet. I get this question A LOT whenever I post photos, so I’m just gonna boil it down.

My Burning Man Recommendations

  • I recommend taking an older camera that you don’t mind breaking. Let’s face it, you rarely use your old cameras anyway, right? You can put them into an amazing environment and not really worry about them!
  • For daytime shots, a smaller compact camera is quite alright. You might be surprised to know how many of the shots in my Burning Man Portfolio (linked above) were taken with an Olympus Pen camera. Also, compact cameras do great in the dust β€” never had a problem!
  • If you do take your DSLR or interchangeable lens-system, try not to change lenses outside for the love of god. There’s always a little dust flying around… Charm your way into someone’s RV to change lenses if you must!
  • I recommend putting on a good general purpose lens (24-70mm) and then put a ziplock around the whole thing. Tape it on.
  • You can also put some tape around where the lens attaches to the body if you wish.
  • I have heard of photographers who have their cameras completely broken at Burning Man, but I don’t personally know any. I think the Burning Man website does a good job of REALLY SCARING you into over-protecting your camera. That is fine, better safe than sorry, I suppose, but I don’t do 10% of what it recommends. Mostly, it really seems to scare people because my posts are filled with comments like, “OMG I Can’t Believe You Took Your Camera Out at Burning Man!”
  • #1 Recommendation: Don’t worry so much! You may get some dust in there, but just get it cleaned! You’re probably spending over $1,000 to get to Burning Man, so just be cool with paying to get your camera cleaned at the end!

My Personal Burning Man Camera Experience

  • In the first four years of Burning Man, I never lost a camera. I never used any protection. I was a bit Olympus-PEN camera centric in the daytime and DSLR at night. I never even used a baggie or tape or anything… But I would often put my camera back in my camera bag during big sandstorms.
  • In 2013 I used almost all Sony NEX cameras and never had any problems with the sand or heat or anything.
  • This year 2014, I took my Sony A7r and my Sony A7s. This year was CRAZY with sandstorms. I basically shot with the Sony A7r the whole week with no problems until the end on the final day. This time, I did NOT put my camera away in the sandstorms and decided to shoot like a madman because it was so incredible then! I think it was honestly TOO MUCH sand in those sandstorms, again, the likes of which I have not seen in the last five years. The camera is a “little” bit broken. It’s a strange problem in that it actually works fine, but I can only take photos in the 2-second timer mode now! Strange! Anyway, I just sent it back for repair. No biggie. I did not have much dust inside either.
  • My Sony A7s performed flawlessly. Upon that, I had a Leica 35mm f/1.4. I did put tape on that. But I had no probs and no dust inside either.

On this day, I shot for about 8 hours inside a sandstorm here on another blistering day at Burning Man. While going through the middle of it, I came across a formal Japanese tea ceremony. It was amazing. The man in red on the left had a pure white face and bald head. His movements were slow and measured with the ceremony.
Just after he finished serving the woman on the right, he invited me over to sit. The whole process took about five minutes. He intricately folded red napkins to clean off the stirring brush, put matcha green tea into a golden bowl, added another tea drink (I cannot describe the taste), and then, in the end, he used chopsticks to pull out floating bits of gold from a small box of water. The first piece of gold flew away in the sandstorm, so he got another and put it all the way down into the tea. I then drank the whole thing at once. It was so amazing. I bowed and said thank you very much in Japanese, then I went away back into the sandstorm.


The Man was absolutely huge this year… It towered over all of us and could be seen from anywhere in Black Rock City.


I heard there was a lot of dramadrama over the construction of the Temple this year. I don’t know the full story, but the resulting temple was absolutely incredible when they got it up. Every year I am amazed that they burn something so beautiful to the ground.


I saw this amazing scene when I turned around during the Temple Burn.


Wonder what Burning Man looks like from above? Here’s a scene I saw when approaching the city from over a ridge. At the end of the burn, this all disappears and goes back to the white sands again…

This photo is special to me because I feel like it is me and my two little girls. I can’t wait to show them some of the art from Burning Man. Isabella is the middle one, always paying attention and very gently looking at things. That’s Scarlett in the front, just dancing freely in the wind.


Just one of the 65,000 interesting people that roam around the playa for the week.


Everyone at Burning Man rides bikes around to see the huge expanse of the impromptu city.


A little yoga session I came across!


I chased a sand tornado across the playa one day until it started ripping through the Pink Heart camp. I stayed right with it as it twisted in a counter-clockwise motion. I didn’t even have to pedal as the tornado pushed/pulled me along!


Daily Photo – Embrace

This is just about everyone's favorite art piece at Burning Man this year. What a bold idea! I took this on the first night when one of the couples that helped build it was embracing down at the base.


Photo Information

  • Date Taken2014-08-25 16:05:52
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.3
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO2000
  • Focal Length24.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

  • Rick Schwartz

    Wow, that’s one mega post. Awesome photos and thanks for the tips on the dust. Was very curious about that.

  • susan ratcliff

    Wow – all your burning man photos are stunning – love love!! πŸ™‚

  • Great shots of Burning Man!

  • treyratcliff

    Thank you ! πŸ™‚

  • JacobTamaney

    Jeaz! Those are great.

  • Mariamichelle117

    Great idea to use an older camera at events like this. I hope your camera makes a complete recovery!

  • Numinous

    “In 2013 I used almost all Sony NEX cameras and never had any problems with the sand” You are lucky! I moved to the Arizona desert in July and by August I got a sticky on/off lever, sticking shutter, and most dust speckles that I had ever seen in any of my cameras. My Canon DSLR and my Sony R1 are still fine in this climate.

  • treyratcliff

    Maybe this is because I only spent a week out there and you spend the whole year.

  • Fluid Light Images

    Great post! I use an Outex cover for my a7r underwater and it works pretty well, I would think that it would be a good option for the Playa.

  • Numinous

    I moved here the end of July and had issues by mid-August. I hate to think what would happen after a year. πŸ™‚ I just learned that the NEX is best left to days without any wind in my area. By the way – as always – enjoy your work tremendously,

  • louis

    Great post,nice pics,reminds me from my army days building security fences in the Desert so no one could get to the diamonds.

  • Amazing Photos Trey! I hope to make it out there some year. Such great visuals!

  • Mark Laussade

    This is some of your best work, IMOP. Thanks for sharing the experience.

  • Jean Perrin

    Unbelievable photos, thanks for sharing, I will there next year!

  • treyratcliff

    Thanks Jean! πŸ™‚

  • Joshua Hubert

    Hi Trey, do you recall taking a photo of me wearing an LED vest right before the Embrace Burn. Did you use an external flash on tripod with orange base? If it was not you I’m looking for the photographer who does similar shots like you and Eric Schwabel are doing with backlit shots compensatino with a powerful external flash. Any help would be great. The photographer looked kinda like you but with glasses.

  • treyratcliff

    Not sure that was me! But let me think β€” I may have been out of it !:)

  • Andrew Lipsett

    Amazing photos Trey, and great tips. I am going for the first time, this year. Beyond excited!!!

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