Thunderdome – Blood on the Sand

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Daily Photo – Thunderdome – Blood on the Sand

I was only partially injured while getting this photo from the wild sands of Burning Man.

A group tenderly called the “Death Guild” erected a Thunderdome in the desert city here at Burning Man. I was riding home on my customized Mad Max bike (thx for making it for me +Cliff Baise !), and I saw hundreds converging on the Thunderdome for a massive fight. Screaming hordes started climbing the super-structure to get a closer look. By the time I arrived, the observers were 10 deep on all sides, everyone crushing in to get a view of the big fight.

I jumped off my bike, grabbed my tripod, D3X, and 14-24 lens. I ducked down and crawled through legs clad in leather and spikes to get just inside.

There were latex-clad women with billy clubs and spiked cudgels roaming the perimeter, keeping people from coming inside. I gave one of more severe-looking gals the international nod of, “Hey, everything is cool, let me stay here – I’m here with purpose.” This is a hard look to communicate with words, but I have perfected it through hundreds of iterations. Anyway, I settled down low to the ground.

Heavy metal music started blaring and the master-of-ceremonies-in-leather came in to announce the combatants. The screams of the fans mixed with the music in an aggressive cacophony. People mashed harder into my backside as another climber used the legs of my tripod to launch himself up into the super-structure.

I was rained upon by bits of rock, sand, and occasional strange fluids while the combatants got locked into their flying harnesses. These were complex bungee-systems designed to let them jump and fly in any direction. It seemed the only inevitability was that they harnesses would get slung around one another in a death-spiral where the fighters would just wail away at one another until one gave out.

I finally got everything set up (+1 EV, f/4, 14mm, ISO 1600, with shutter at 1/20th of a second) and fired away as they backed up then flung themselves at one another. It was brutal and the crowd was going absolutely crazy. Even more debris rained down on me from above as the crowd jammed me more from behind and above. I gathered a series of shots, watched more of the amazing desert violence, then crawled out, barely keeping my wits about me.

The ground shook and the air crackled as the metal bent and strained around my body.  The screams went animal and blood fell folded back into the sand.

One Week Till Burning Man!

All Burning Man Photos

See all the Burning Man photos from this category by clicking that link… enjoy!

Another Batch

I’ve put together another set of photos… each of them is captioned below for you.

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A few steampunk partiers get ready for the night of the burn.


Everyone on the playa is in costume. And, if you’re not in costume, then you’re the one that is standing out. This is one of the only Japanese people I saw there… but she certainly seemed really into the scene!


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Every night as the sun is setting, these lamplighters come out with lanterns and hang them high along the main roads in the make-shift city.


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One of the hundreds of art displays all over the playa. This one was in the very middle… alone and interesting.


Almost Burning Man Time

All Burning Man Shots

Just visit the Burning Man Photos here on the site, and you’ll be in good shape!

An Unexpected Camera

I love trying out new kinds of cameras! I was afraid to use my main Nikon equipment at Burning Man because of the bitter conditions, but I did end up using a special camera for most of the shots! A guy from Olympus sent me a PEN E-EPL1 and I ended up running that thing into the ground! I used it to take 95% of my Burning Man shots, including the first one below. It takes RAW photos, and I was able to convert these in HDR with no problem… anyway, I thought you would find that was interesting.

Daily Photo(s) – Almost Burning Man Time

I’m getting ready for another big year at Burning Man.  Thank you for all the camp invitations – I am still deciding!

I put captions below each photo to give you a bit of context…  enjoy!

On one of my first mornings, I walked away from my camp towards the middle of the playa. This gypsy was dancing around in the sun and having fun… I smiled and squatted down low to grab a photo.


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Center camp is a mecca for all kinds of artistic activities. Artists set up canvases, jugglers toss knives, and dancers gyrate around the court. It’s really a feast for the eyes… and there was never a dull moment for my camera!


Nobody is really shy there, and that’s nice. Or, maybe if people are shy, they get over it pretty quick. After a few days, everyone is very relaxed and everything seems okay and natural.


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Huge and fanciful cars trek back and forth across the playa. They always draw a crowd, and they add to the other-worldly nature of the scene…


Burning Man Alive

More Burning Man Photos

To see them all, select the Burning Man Photos category here on the site.

Daily Photo – Burning Man Alive

I’ve been releasing these photos in little batches.  I don’t usually add captions to photos, but I have been doing in these cases.  Enjoy!

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There is a central area in the middle of the camp where people come to do yoga, get coffee, perform magic, or do other carnie-like activities. Some people just go and watch, like this gal here.


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This was my favorite land vehicle. I wanted to ride around in it for a while, but I was too busy following it with my camera.


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One of the many wild custom land vehicles heads out to tour the playa as the sun sets. As soon as the sun starts to go down, everything comes alive in a fanciful way.


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On the final night of the temple burn, a huge sandstorm blew across the desert, blinding all of us out in a dreamy haze.


Exploring the Playa

Have a camp at Burning Man 2011?

Do ya?  I’m homeless and interested in some camps!  I am also completely useless.  The only thing I can do is take photos.  I can’t cook or build things very well.  Everyone else at Burning Man seems to be extremely handy.  All I can offer is my sardonic wit, my camera, and I come with a full load of gourmet chocolate from Europe that I keep refridgerated in my RV.  So that’s not so bad.

More Burning Man Photos

To see the other photos from the big event, click on the “Burning Man Photos” category.

Early Morning ABC Appearance

I’m going to be on in the morning… have to drive into the studio about 6:30 AM, of all things.  Good god man… I’m a blagger.  I sleep then!  But, I gotta go… I missed the last one because of a scheduling conflict and missed my appearance time.  The producer had to call me… it was too late.  I didn’t mean to rockstar-out on her, and I promised I won’t pull another charlie-sheen.

Daily Photo – Exploring the Playa

Here is another set of photos for you! I’m releasing these in small groups, just because I have so many… and it goes against my one-photo-per-day thing. But that’s just a thing you know. Ain’t nothin’ but a thing.

I usually don’t put captions, but I have been for these Burning Man shots… so see below for more details.

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In the central gathering area, I found all sorts. I mean all sorts. I felt woefully regular, but I did have my steampunk stuff on, so I liked paying attention to other steampunk stuff, like this guy. We just kinda stared at each other for a while. It was kinda weird, but kinda cool.


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I was taking photos of this heiro-jeweled skull, and then an Indian gal in a yellow dress came up and started dancing all over it. I have photos of that too, but I ended up liking the skull alone, best. Bejeweled skulls don’t need Indian dancers to make them more awesome!


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The metal dragon-car was my favorite of the vehicles. It wasn’t the biggest, but the fully movable and fire-breathing head was incredible.


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Close to sunset, lamplighters in white robes start to roam the desert. They take these lanterns and hang them high on poles so burners can find their way through the dark of night.


Biking Across the Playa

More from Burning Man

Today I’ll just post one from Burning Man, even though I have been posting them in smallish groups. If you want to see more, explore the Burning Man category here on the site.

Daily Photo – Biking Across the Playa

I think I need a bike this year at Burning Man! And, I need an awesome bike… with all kinds of lights and perhaps some speakers where I can plug in my iPod. The only problem is that I am not handy. I have only a few skills, and none of them seem to include all the things that everyone at Burning Man can build except me. Wherever I go, I’m surrounded by all kinds of nice hand-made art exhibitions… fanciful and crazy stuff is everywhere. Sure, I’m handy with a stylus and a Wacom tablet, but that doesn’t do me much good in the desert.

So, if you come out to the playa and have an extra amazing bike sitting around, let me know. I’ll bring you some Belgian gourmet chocolate for the trade.

High Dynamic Range Photo

More Burning Man and Chris Pirillo

HDR Video Tutorial Giveaway by Chris Pirillo

Hurry and visit Pirillo’s blog to enter! It’s very simple, just “Like” his FB page and leave a comment, and you are entered!

The HDR Video Tutorial has been very popular, and we’ve done a few of these giveaways… I’m glad to drive traffic around to nice guys like Chris!

I met Chris in Dallas when we jumped out of a plane together with the US Army. I also met his dad and we talked for a little while… he was a heck of a nice guy too. I guess, with a dad like that, Chris can’t help but to be so likable. Anyway, if you don’t know who the chap is, then this is a good chance to check out his site.

More from Burning Man

This is my fourth or fifth post that has a collection of these photos – to see the others, click the Burning Man category.

Getting in the Groove

I usually don’t put captions on photos, but I did for my last mini-set of Burning Man photos, so I will here too.

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On one of the final afternoons, a bitter sandstorm blew across the playa. It was also the night of the big burn, so people began to amass near the man himself. I saw this fellow photographer setting up on the periphery, bracing himself against the storm.


There they flow, the man and his familiar.  If every human has an animal companion that lurks and smells and protects and admires as we walk through the world then, on occasion, it meets another.  Not everyone believes in this universe of multiple animal daemons, but some do, and that's more than enough. The animal familiars meet one another, when the human souls open and share, and they walk around one another, like galaxies colliding.  They search and crane their necks around the get a sense of the otherness. The animal feeds the human a sense of the shadowself and they fold into one another, as a mountain folds into itself as the dark melts into the crease.

Burning Man is also a week-long costume party. In fact, if you are NOT in a costume, then you are the odd one out. We had a little PhotoWalk while I was there, and these characters came galloping through the middle of it.


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What is more Mad Max than Thunderdome? Not much! This was a great landmark that helped me find my way home around 3 AM… My camp was pretty close by.


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The playa is filled with one performance after another. Groups and troupes work on special performances, costumes, and other routines that they perform at their camps and out in the middle of the desert. This girl was in the middle of a rehearsal when I found her.


Exploring Burning Man

Social Media Awards

Last year, I lost to Gowalla.  Damn that awesome company.  But maybe this year, we can pull it off!  The nominations round has started…  Should you care to support the cause, come Comment on Trey’s Nomination.  Or, you can even nominate others…  just don’t nominate Gowalla.  Or they might take away all my awesome badges.

Too Many Burning Man Photos!

You all know that I normally only post one new photo a day. But I have so many Burning Man photos, that I’m likely to cluster them on occasion… otherwise I’ll never get through them all before the next one!

As usual, to see other photos of a category, just go click on the “Burning Man” at the bottom of the post.

Daily Photo(s) – Exploring Burning Man

Are you looking for something totally unique in this increasingly homogenized world? Try Burning Man!

Look… it’s not for everyone. If you’re kinda right-brained and like to have unexpected stimulation hitting your eyes non-stop for a week, then this just might be the place for you. It’s a nice shock to your artistic self.

I spent the first few days without my camera… just sort of walking around and drinking it all in. I was fairly zombie-like in my wandering. At the same time, I was considering various ways to capture the overall feeling of the place in a series of photos. I don’t usually do this, but I did add a few captions to the photos below in case you want to know more…

The metal kimodo neck bends skyward.  There is only one sound.  It is the sound of a hundred trunk-thick ropes holding back a moored ship.  They rub and tear against one another, the braids and coils tearing free and pulled back into the spiral.  The ropes scream like iron pulled apart by a furnace, and they burn like a soul reaching back for the earth.  Fire from the kimodo rests within and the broiling sea churns and twists beneath the hull.  The head bends back towards the earth, a new tension building in its dire armor.  It tears through the sky for something new to devour.  A heat shimmers from its scalloped visage, a heat that melts the heart of all that pass before.

People spend all year building elaborate land-vehicles that cruise around the playa day and night. This one is particularly awesome, with a fully articulated head that can breathe fire at night (pics of that coming soon!).


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Groups set up special camps with different themes. Here I am inside the “Black Lodge” from Twin Peaks (I’m a fan). It was modeled after the Red Room. I sat in it for many hours, listening to music and looking out this opening. This is one of the many photos I captured.


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Most people roamed the desert wearing goggles to protect ourselves from the sand and sun. For me, everything had an orange tint, so I’ve used the same technique in many of my photos of the event.


Note that all the Burning Man photos do not fall under the Creative Commons license as my other

Burning Man Art

More Burning Man

See other Burning Man photos here.

I have so many photos from Burning Man that I am excited to post!  A lot of them are using a special style that I experimented with while there, even though the one below is one of my standard HDR jobs.

Daily Photo – Burning Man Art

I keep thinking about how much fun I had at Burning Man!

Before I went, I was really wondering…  I’m usually good at imagining what a new experience might be like by comparing it to others and intuitively filling in the gaps.  But, since I am quite open to new experiences, everything flowed very easily there and it was a good artistic shock to my system.

People spend all year creating fabulous works of art that they display on the playa.  At night, everything amps up to a whole new level…  just wandering aimlessly for hours will be stimulating to dark corners of your right brain.

This statue below, by Marco Cochrane, is called “Bliss Dance”.  It’s a 40′ structure made out of an intricate mesh of steel.  The lights around it would cycle through various color mixes every few seconds.

Even though I took many photos of this great piece, this one is my favorite. I felt like to really show the scale and relevence of the piece that I needed to include regular sized humans and the expanse of the playa at the perfect time of the evening. Usually, as you know, I don’t talk about all the elements that go into the photo… I feel like talking too much about the artistic creation of the photo takes away from it a bit… But then again, I’m just not objective about it… what do you think?!i=1096496369&k=YRHkM&l

A World Away at Burning Man

Assistant in Beijing?

I’ll be spending a bit of time in Beijing in the next few weeks. If we have any likely assistants that want to help me out there for a bit, contact us at business at You’ll have to carry a lot of stuff and do various mundane tasks. Being my assistant is not as much fun as it might seem… I assure you. I’m just setting low expectations.

Daily Photo(s) – A World Away at Burning Man

I asked my workshop class in London, “Who has heard of Burning Man?” Less than half the class raised their hands, so maybe it requires a bit of explanation!

Burning Man is a gathering in the desert of Nevada every year that attracts tens of thousands of artists, geeks, hippies, and everyone in between. People stay in costume all week, prepare fabulous art pieces, build extreme camps, drive outrageous art cars, and more.

I wore goggles most of the week to combat the frequent sand storms that come out of nowhere. They bathe the entire landscape in an orange scouring sand that exacerbates the post-apocalyptic scene. Because I became so used to seeing Burning Man through my goggles, I wanted to bring the experience to you as well. Below are a selection of photos with captions underneath.

Burning Man

My steampunk goggles that came in handy when the desert storms ripped through the landscape.

Burning Man

Putting on the goggles near The Thunderdome, one of the many camps and fighting arenas that spontaneously appear in the impromptu city.

Burning Man

The googles fully on... and now you can see what I see...

Burning Man

A traveler rests in front of a massive art structure. The art piece in the back has a hollow trunk that allows people to climb up to the spherical cage on top.

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In the middle of the city is a vast expanse of desert where anyone can set up art pieces. Here, a small booth offering advice was erected. I sat down for a moment and they said I was beyond help.


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Near my camp, a burner walks near the radio tower of Babel.


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Every evening, a group of lamplighters walk through Black Rock City, hanging lanterns atop tall poles to keep the pathways lit for other travelers.


Burning Man

A ranger stands guard in front of the Burning Man tower during a sandstorm on the evening of the burn.

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