The Temple at Burning Man

Tales from the Tour Bus

My latest recommendation is to watch this super funny show. Mike Judge had the brilliant idea to capture stories from musicians and then animate them in clever ways. Here’s the promo for it.

Daily Photo – The Temple at Burning Man

Here’s a photo I recently processed of The Temple at Burning Man. I think this was in 2016? I don’t remember. Too many drugs. Anyway, I did happen to capture this photo. I have strong opinions on the design of each temple, which varies from year to year (it’s always burned on the last day). For me, this one was definitely in the top three. I try not to look on the Internet about upcoming designs, but I heard the one for this year is another Asian-inspired theme.

The Temple at Burning Man

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-09-02 12:31:42
  • CameraX-Pro2
  • Camera MakeFuji
  • Exposure Time2.1
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length27.4 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias


Burning Embrace

Android Jones Video

Here’s another video from one of my favorite artists, Android Jones. We happened to be at the same place at the same time at Burning Man. I love his interpretation of the scene.

First, I can share my “Before” photo of Embrace, before yet another genius, Matthew Shultz and the Pier Group completed the work with its burning a few days later.

Embrace 2014

Daily Photo – Burning Embrace

Schedules are a little bit lax at Burning Man, to say the least. I think this was originally meant to burn right at sunrise, but it took a few extra hours to actually get going. No matter. It gave us all a chance to sit down and have some good conversations with whoever happened to be seated beside you.

Burning Embrace

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2014-08-30 03:32:53
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/2500
  • Aperture4.5
  • ISO160
  • Focal Length70.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias



Full Burning Man Portfolio

I’ve recently updated my entire Burning Man portfolio over at Smugmug, so be sure to go have a look. Now there are more than eight years of Burning Man photos in there for ya!

Daily Photo – XOXO Jump

I can’t believe there aren’t even more injuries at Burning Man every year. People get up and do the most athletic-looking maneuvers in the most sketchy situations. This is one of Laura Kimpton’s pieces. She puts new letters out there every year that say one thing or another… they’re always a magnet for this kind of jumpy action.


Photo Information

  • Date Taken2017-08-29 14:28:35
  • CameraX-T2
  • Camera MakeFuji
  • Exposure Time1/6400
  • Aperture3.6
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias


Trey Ratcliff’s 30 Favorite Photos from Burning Man

BULLETIN: I have a few Burning Man pieces going up at an auction soon to raise money for other artists. 100% of the money goes to Burning Man artists (not me, even though I am technically a Burning Man artist). You can attend the event in San Francisco via the Artumnal Gathering website. Remote bidding is available too, so you can take part in the auction here.

My 30 Top Photos from 2018’s Burning Man – I Robot

This was year number eight in a row for me, but every year feels like the first. This was a very cruizey year for me. No problems… smooth as silk all around, which is something I never really expect. Rene and Jonatas were two awesome roommates with great energy the whole time. I swear to god we have never laughed so much in our lives!

Also, I had many personal revelations and artistic breakthroughs. It sounds a bit too solipsistic to describe these in detail, but, they were amazing! I’m already a high-energy positive guy, but the event really takes me to the next level. And everything I see inspires me for the other 51 weeks a year. I’m so humbled by all the incredible art and all the awesome people out there.

I took over 8,000 photos this year and wanted to share my favorite 30! Feel free to share with friends and loved ones. We had another great photo walk and over 280 signed up for the Facebook event. But only half were able to stumble out there after doing god-knows-what. But it was still an amazing event that even included a proposal while thousands of photos were being taken!

Anyway, if you like what you see, you can see my Burning Man Album of favorites for the last 8 years.

Or you can see 200+ more photos from Burning Man 2018.

If you or your art is in any of the photos, feel free to email [email protected] for the full-sized file. 🙂 I do not currently sell prints for Burning Man, but there are other options over at


#30: “Embracing while we let go as the temple burns”

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A crystalline hug at Burning Man , 2018.

#29: “Black Witch of the Desert”

Black Witch of the Desert

Everyone at Burning Man is in costume all week long while the event is going on. I remember in his first year, my friend Rene was wearing just like regular clothes from The Gap when he went to Center Camp. Let’s just say that it didn’t go smoothly for him, but it rarely does anyway. This is my friend Linnea Berzen, she puts in a little more effort than Rene for sure.

#28: “Two Days before the Great Train Wreck”

Two Days before the Great Train Wreck

This is called the “Great Train Wreck” and on Thursday night, the two trains smashed together in quite the spectacle.

#27: “Blind Yoga”

Blind Yoga

Here is Kate Swarm, one of the yoga teachers at the camp. This year she brought her 9 and 10-year-olds. That’s a great age to bring kids out here… I think in eight years of going, I never have seen a teenager (14-20 or so). I’ve always kind of wondered why that is… but I think that age is such a crazy time for the ego to develop that most are embarrassed and overly consumed with what everyone else is thinking about them (hey, it’s the same way with a lot of adults… see Instagram). Anyway, Kate here is wearing this awesome mask (like a one-way mirror where you can only see out) that was made by my friend at CrypticNine.

#26: “Ambulances arrive at the Thunderdome”

Ambulances arrive at the Thunderdome

There are fights every night in the Thunderdome at Death Guild. My neighbor, Julie, is actually part of Death Guild and she would come back every night with the grisly injury reports. Ambulances are common. Cleanly broken wrists, eye gouges, man, you name it.

#25: “Watch Out!”

Watch Out!

Ride… RIDE!!!

#24: “Makeup”


A lady puts on her makeup outside on a dusty mirror outside her tent before burn night.

#23: “Our camp’s art cars”

Our camp's art cars

Here’s a collection of cars from our camp, Camp Walter. We’re in line here for the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). My friend George says there are over 800 cars that go through the DMV every year to get clearance to drive around the playa. There’s a huge history behind each of the vehicles in this photo. Much of it centers around the big VW bus, Walter, as a material instantiation symbolizing the concept of second chances.

#22: “Carrots should be afraid”

Carrots should be afraid

At the Billion Bunny March, some of these carrots are smart to be afraid of some of these bunnies.

#21: “A Lonely Walk to the Airport”

A Lonely Walk to the Airport

One day I went out to the airport at Burning Man to try to register my drone. It was a really windy day and a lot of people were hunkered down. The airport is quite a long way away, so it’s always a bit of a fun mission. There’s sort of a desolate place in between Black Rock City and the airport where I saw this guy.

#20: “I Have Dust”

I Have Dust

There were a lot of awesome windstorms at Burning Man this year that kicked up all sorts of interesting scenes. Some people chose to stay inside during the storms, but I almost always jumped on my bike to see what clever stuff I could find.

#19: “The Temple”

The Temple

The beautiful temple from above. Every year it is a new design… this one was one of my favorites.

#18: “Trees grow out of air”

Trees grow out of air

On Saturday night, the party and the fire keep going all night long. This was taken about 15 minutes after the man fell down and was being consumed. The burning reminds me of this wonderful little physics nugget from Richard Feynman. This might be from his book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. Anyway, he makes a nice description that trees don’t grow out of the ground, but they mostly grow out of the air. They get a few nutrients and some water and stuff from the ground, but 99% of the meat of the tree is made from carbon. The leaves grab the carbon dioxide and then use the sun to slice off the C from the O2. It hangs on to the carbon and it becomes the wood. The tree then gets rid of the O2 because it is waste. Later, we take that wood and make it super-hot with fire, which makes the carbon re-connect with the oxygen, creating carbon dioxide once again. And then the cycle starts all over as it floats over to a nearby tree to go through it all again. All that fire, then, can be seen as stored sunlight. Anyhoo… that’s the kind of stuff I read! Haha… you can probably search on YouTube for “Feynman Tree Growing out of Air” and see more. He has so many great little physics thoughts like that. Wow, I really end up boring whoever sits by me on burn night.

#17: “The Mirror Ball at Night”

The Mirror Ball at Night

The Orb at Night. Me, Rene, and Jô would end up here almost every night, just staring at the spherical reflection of the unreal world around us.

#16: “A Walk in the Park”

A Walk in the Park

Out of the 8,000 photos I took, I’ll probably only publish 20-30 on social media. I end up adding the rest to my overall Burning Man portfolio. By the way, most of those 8,000 photos are complete garbage! I usually try a lot of different things until something works… so 98% of those are utter failures!

#15: “The Dissolution of the Ego”

The Dissolution of the Ego

On Day 6 of Burning Man (always a Saturday night), we burn down the man himself. Everyone kind of takes their own meaning into it, or perhaps no meaning at all. For me, it’s a reminder that the dissolution of the ego is the greatest creative gift one can give oneself.

#14: “Book Club”

Book Club

Here’s Baba Yagas Book Club by Jessi Sprocket Janusee. You can’t have a book club in the desert without some robotic chicken legs holding it up!

#13: “She Flies”

She Flies

Flying in the wind… One of the cool things about the flat, dried out lakebed at Burning Man is the sizeable mountains that surround it on all sides. They form a really nice background for certain kinds of shots like these.

#12: “Boring”



#11: “Burning Man Hugs are the Best”

Burning Man Hugs are Best

This is called, “In every lifetime, I will find you”.

#10: “Dinner Time”

Dinner Time

This reminds me that some of the best ideas for art out there are the most simple: Giant Human Puppets, Enormous Mirror Ball, Green Tree, Dock… Moon.

#9: “Our Female Overlords”

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I finally got these Japanese robots to stand still in formation.

#8: “Temple Sunrise”

Temple Sunrise

Higher up this page I shared a photo of the beautiful temple from above. Here’s what it looks like from the ground during sunrise.

#7: “Henry Chang’s Supercar”

Henry Chang's Supercar

There are about one hundred different art cars rolling around at Burning Man after they are approved by the DMV (Department of Mutant Vehicles). This one is absolutely incredible, made by Henry Chang. I didn’t even need to ask if he’s a fan of H.R. Giger. Sometimes, you’ll go an entire week without seeing certain cars… they appear like unicorns… but I got lucky on night number eight at the propane burn off.

#6: “On 9 o’clock at noon”

On 9 o'clock at noon

Another random happening I found while pedaling on my own bike down 9 o’clock on the way to 3 o’clock.

#5: “Time to Get a Brazilian”

Time to Get a Brazilian

A Brazilian lady visits the statue called “In every lifetime I will find you”. Luckily, I had Jô Eridani (he does all the web development for us here), who is also from Brazil, to do all the translation. I first made Jônatas stand like that to show her… I didn’t take a photo of him because he looked absolutely ridiculous. But he quite likes that as you can see in his Barbie photo on his social media.

#4: “Good, Clean Family Fun”

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After the photo walk ar Burning Man (thanks again everyone for coming!), I went out on a mission to rescue my broken bike that became a bit addled halfway through the walk. I had to abandon it to keep the Lawrence of Arabia mission moving forward! Anyway, it was pitch black when I went to go find it, but it was a good mission. It’s fun to have missions out there, even if they are silly ones. Anyway, I finally found it and was returning to camp when I saw this awesome family. I dug out my camera and took a quick one for them. Every year there are over 1,000 kids that come out with their parents… I did this about seven years ago when I brought out Ethan and Tina, but I don’t think we could have talked Ethan into wearing angel wings… but we probably could talk Isabella and Scarlett into it quite easily!

#3: “The Mayan Warrior Tractor Beam”

The Mayan Warrior Tractor Beam

Here’s an alien tractor beam at the mighty Mayan Warrior melting down the mirror orb. I went up top and met the awesome Pablo Gonzalez Vargas who gave me a little tour and some wonderful, special gifts. We got to play with all the lasers and the flames and do all kinds of fun stuff. We’re all just big kids up there!

#2: “A White Witch in the Desert”

A White Witch in the Desert

Randomly, by chance, I saw my friend Linnea Berzen twice out in the desert. It’s almost impossible to have a set meeting anywhere out there because mobile phones don’t really work. This year we were smart and left a little whiteboard outside the RV so people could leave messages. Some anonymous girl wrote how attractive Rene was, and he took about 100 mobile phone photos of that, having reached peak-Rene. I take a LOT of people photos there, and for this year, this one might be my favorite.

#1: “In every lifetime I will find you.”

In every lifetime, I will find you

Who will you find in every lifetime? This is the last photo I took at Burning Man this year. You probably won’t believe me, but I had a transcendent vision of this four nights prior, two days before I even discovered this place. If I were to try to describe either what I saw or how I was in a state to envision it, you would probably think I am crazy. But I told my roommates the next morning what I saw, and then I emailed them this photo a few days later and they were like HOLY CRAP. If I ever meet you in person, I can try to describe the whole experience. I’m not sure I can, but I know it was real.


Adding a Gradient in Luminar

New Presets

Hey, you guys DO have my new Festival Presets, eh? If not, you gotta get them! They are so fun! Anyway, today for Passport Members, I show how to add an additional gradient on top of the preset to give it a special look. Enjoy!

Here’s a promo for the new presets… Thanks again to Stephan for doing such a fun edit on this!

Gradient Fun

Sometimes I like to have a “transition” in my photos. A common thing I do is have a conversion from warm to cool colors. This quick little tip shows you how to make that happen.

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Daily Photo – Out by the Temple

Here is one of my Burning Man photo that uses the technique I shared in the expanded Passport part of this post.

Out by the Temple

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2012-08-31 13:45:13
  • CameraNIKON D3S
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/500
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length23.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias+1


The Black Rock Lighthouse

How-to Edit

If you are one of our esteemed Passport Members and want to see today’s photo edited, then go visit the previous Passport entry from a few weeks ago! It’s kind of a looooong edit at 15 minutes, but I think you’ll enjoy it! It’s a little hardcore, but I think you should be able to follow along with no problem.

Burning Man Photo Walk

Don’t miss it! Here’s the Facebook event for Wednesday at 6:30 PM at Center Camp. It’s a free event as always… hey, of course… everything is free at Burning Man! You’ll even get a hug. 🙂

Updated Burning Man Kit

If you pop over and see all my gear and goodies on, you’ll notice a Burning Man area. It’s actually not just for Burning Man, but any kind of music festival… It’s good to be prepared for these sorts of things!

Daily Photo – The Black Rock Lighthouse

Just editing this photo got me all excited about Burning Man again. I don't want to miss anything, but I still miss so many things. Well, everyone does. Now that I've been eight times, I really understand how MUCH there is to see and experience there. I don't really feel bad about missing things, because it is physically impossible. I'd conservatively say that I miss over one-thousand awesome experiences per year. But I still have over a hundred, so that's not so bad. If this ratio was the other way around, I'd be rather bored.

The Black Rock Lighthouse

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-09-01 12:16:06
  • CameraX-Pro2
  • Camera MakeFuji
  • Exposure Time1/10
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length34.2 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias-0.33


Burning Man Photo Editing

This Week on Passport

Today’s how-to video for Passport Members is a bit longer than usual. I usually try to keep them under 5 minutes, but this one clocks in at over 15 minutes to edit a single photo. You’ll see everything from alpha to omega. I do a lot of detailed work on this one… probably a bit overkill, but I hope you enjoy!

Some favorite Burning Man Photos

Speaking of Burning Man, I thought I’d add a few from my //Burning Man Portfolio// over on SmugMug!

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Here’s how I edited a photo of the Black Rock Lighthouse. You’ll see me begin with Aurora HDR to make adjustments then end up in Photoshop to align and create some margins for artistic purposes. You’ll also see a lot of content-aware + clone-stamp action to clean up some of the mess!

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The Next Week, More Burning Man Photos

Well, maybe you are getting tired of these by now? Here’s another set along with captions.

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The tree in the middle of the desert glowed all day and all night. One evening, there was a 70-piece orchestra here and a ballet where they performed The Rites of Spring. It’s the first time I ever heard of a production like that at Burning Man.

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Quick visit to this secret camp!

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This is one of my favorite random photos. It’s one of those quick 3-second stories from Burning Man. We were biking in separate directions. He was heading home to Glamcocks (which I can only assume is an alternative-camp). About 25 meters from me, in a gust of wind, his hat went inside out and so did his umbrella. I whipped out my camera to take a picture and he stuck a playful tongue out at me.

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That’s one of my favorite art pieces from Burning Man in the back ground… I have photos of that coming soon. I was here at the end of the Billion Bunny March, and this lively couple was really living it up out front… posing and enjoying the moment.

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Here’s another photo taken with my trusty little FUJI XT-2. I’m going to update the review on my blog to add in all the favorite photos I just took with it. But, I can attest that this camera is just as rugged and weather-proof as people say. I never had a single problem with it!

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In the middle of the day, I rode off into the deep desert and saw someone else trying to be alone.

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How amazing is this mask? I saw this gentleman up on the 2nd floor around the man. Great job burner, great job. Kudos!

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A plane crash in the desert? No… just more fun random scatterings of art around the white sands. I WAS almost in a plane crash here one year in an experimental hand-made plane. Right after we landed, a huge gust of wind came and blew us off the runway. Whoa that was exciting… seeing this brought back those heart-stopping memories!


New Week, More Burning Man 2017 photos!

And here we go again! Here’s a link to all the Burning Man posts here on the blog. Enjoy!

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It was her first Burning Man and I told her she looked like a pro! I’m not sure her name… I got the contact info for her and her boyfriend, but I bet someone on the internet knows who she is.

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Check out this fun new art car! There are over 100 art cars out there… some big, some tiny, and some extra-tiny like this. Even better, this one takes photos! I meant to go for a ride in it, but I never saw it again

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Carla and Kristyna, BFF. This is basically just like me and Rene, but we don’t hug like this in camp. Well, guys kinda hug when they first see one another, and then a 2nd hug a week later when they part. So, well, it’s not like us at all. It’s like us if we were girls, I guess. Okay, the more I talk about it, it’s actually a really bad analogy. Anyway, this is Carla and Kristyna. They’re super-friendly.

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A surprising, gnarly sand-twister came over the desert one day. I chased it for about three minutes. I know it sounds crazy, but they are actually fun get close too because the wind whips your bike around and you don’t have to pedal… just kind of hang on for the ride with one hand, the other one taking photos!

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There weren’t as many sandstorms this year as most years, but it was one of the hottest in the past five. It gets depressingly hot if you just sit around the camp, so the best idea is to jump on your bike and let the afternoon winds cool you off. I did this almost every day, and found other random people doing the same sort of thing. Your camp/RV/tent can be kind of a vortex, so it’s good to get out, ride your bike, and roll around to see what you can find.

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A wonderful Israeli couple had just finished an acro-yoga performance for me. They were amazing and I got some great photos that I still haven’t processed. After they finished, they embraced. This was somewhere around 8:30 and E (that’s how addresses work in Black Rock City… time + letter).


Each Week, More Burning Man Photos

Hey it’s week #3, time for a new batch of cookies!

Tough Decompression after Burning Man

What is a “Decompression”? That’s challenging to describe to people that haven’t spent over a week in an environment like this. It’s not just the heat and survival-factor; it’s also a bit of a mind-shift. I think many people have experienced this in different ways, and it doesn’t need just Burning Man. It’s maybe similar to coming back for a week on an island getaway and getting back into the “real world.”

After you are at Burning Man for a few days, your mind kind of slips away into another state of being. I’m not sure how to describe it. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the drugs or anything. It’s more about being around 70,000 other artists and creatives that, by default, accept you and are non-judgmental. (Maybe this is where it differs from an island vacation where bronzed pool-boys are serving you margaritas.)

Basically, Burning Man is very egalitarian, where all are equal and everyone is giving one another gifts all the time. Random people. And back too that non-judgmental thing. It’s perhaps one of most comforting places in the world, from that perspective. You don’t even notice yourself falling into this sort of peaceful state. Imagine, living in a world where no one cared what the heck you did, what your real-life job was, and everyone, even random people, always had a hug at the ready. I mean, who WOULDN’T want to live in a world like that?

And then, immediately after leaving, you get back into the other world… back at the Reno airport were people are upset, stressed, complaining. You post stuff on the internet and then people find something to complain about, something that doesn’t fit with their particular world-view, and they need to let you know about it. Blah blah blah I could give countless examples, you get it. So then, the challenge is how to take all this open-heartedness back with you to the real world and not be beaten down. It kind of reminds me of what we do to kids. They are so open, free, and creative, and society just kinda slowly beats it out of them over time. Children at least have 16+ years to decompress, all of us leaving the desert only have a few days!

It was especially hard for me because I had to fly to Florida (INTO THE HURRICANE) to make 48 hours worth of training videos with KelbyOne. Then creating a ton of Aurora HDR 2018 training videos for Windows and Mac before launch. I powered through it, on sheer will, but I never really had the chance to re-integrate. Wow I don’t even know if I did a decent job explaining anything there, but at least a few meandering thoughts for you. Oh, forget about all that, how about some photos?!?

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This is @mekithappen hanging out and having a happy walk. Even though it looks sunny now, not long after this a big rainstorm hit so I jumped on my bike to make it home before my wheels got all gummed up.

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One amazing sunset I went out to visit the tree and a naval vessel, the Monaco, sailed up to visit. They seem to have a good crew on there!

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Here’s one of my favorite artworks from this year’s event. She was a giant marionette, operated by a team that would dress her in different outfits every day after she woke up. She walked, talked, and visited her favorite artworks. Even commenting on them. I remember when she visited the Tree of Ténéré, talking about its energy with a light lilted British accent. This was during Burn night, at sun…

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Escaping the heat

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Taking a rest in the shade around 3:30 and C. I was looking for one of my friends; he and I love going out to take photos. It’s almost impossible to make meetings there because there is no mobile service. I asked this girl where he was. She didn’t know. But I asked if I could take her photo so the trip wasn’t a total bust, and she said, YES!

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A wicked fire… Burning Man, 2017 It was really quite the Joseph Campbell quest, and it was great! I took more photos than ever before. Here’s one of the temple burning behind the Tree of Tenere. It was one of my favorite art pieces this year…


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