Please check out the links below for more of my Burning Man images:
For some terrific photos from Burning Man 2012 by other photographers, try these links:
It's no exaggeration to say Burning Man is one of the world's hippest and most mind-blowing gatherings. It's not quite an art festival, not quite a desert rave, and not quite a social experiment, but something of all three. It's a week-long celebration of free-form creativity and radical self-expression held each year in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.
Burning Man takes place in a temporary "city" some five miles wide that rises out of a dry lakebed toward summer's end only to vanish again after the event is over. For a few brief days, the ephemeral metropolis known as Black Rock City ranks among the largest communities in the state of Nevada.
It's a place of breathtaking diversity—a coming together of freethinking artists, dancers, performers, DJs, musicians, designers, and exhibitionists of every stripe. It's also a place of whimsical art installations, startlingly decorated art cars, pulsating soundscapes and wacky theme camps, all set against an uncommonly beautiful natural backdrop.
2012 marked the 26th anniversary of Burning Man. Though many were expecting 60,000 or more to attend this year, the population of Black Rock City was actually down slightly from last year. The big story leading up to the event revolved around ticketing and the difficulty many longtime burners had finding tickets. But some of the drama was overblown and once we got through the gates, the event unfolded much the same as it always has.
It was a year of wind and dust and even some rain—challenging conditions under which to shoot. But the light on the playa seemed to be constantly shifting and changing during the week of the event, offering up breathtaking perspectives of the Black Rock Desert I had never seen in almost a decade of attending Burning Man.
Shooting on Assignment
This year I photographed on assignment for Rolling Stone. Though my images from Burning Man have been widely published, this was the first time I actually accepted an assignment before heading out to the event. I'd been reluctant to do that in the past because tight deadlines are challenging in a place without reliable Internet or cell phone service. Plus, I didn't want to give up rights to my images. Fortunately, the editors at Rolling Stone were wonderful to work with and gave me wide latitude to cover the event much as I've always done.
You can view a slideshow of my Rolling Stone images online under the title, "Burning Man 2012: Magic Mushrooms, Nude Dancers, Wild Infernos and More." You’ll find two additional sets as well: “More Scenes from Burning Man 2012,” and “Faces of Burning Man 2012.”
This was also my fourth year on the Burning Man documentation team, a small group of photographers invited to capture the event for the organization. Every year we do our best to document the full range of art installations, theme camps, mutant vehicles, and scheduled performances at the event.
After nine years at Burning Man, it's safe to say that my photography has changed and evolved. But the basic impulse has remained the same — to try in some small way to capture the beauty, the creativity, the whimsy, the madness and the sheer outrageous good fun of it all.
I'm always gratified when non-burners appreciate the photos, but my primary goal is to share them with those who were at the event and, to whatever extent I can, contribute a little of my own creativity to the mix.
A Note on Equipment
As in previous years, I shot all the images using Canon DSLRs. I made the mistake of carrying three cameras for much of the week (in order to avoid lens-changes in a dusty environment). The result was that I lost more flexibility than I gained. My bag was simply too heavy and too unwieldly most of the time, and all it did was wear me out.
I shot almost 3,000 frames over the course of 7 days. I brought my trusty Canon 5D and 20D cameras out again this year. It was the 7th and 8th year, respectively, for the two cameras and they both performed flawlessly—in spite of all the abuse they get each year. That said, I relied on a newer pair of cameras (a 5D Mark II and a 5D Mark III) to do the heavy lifting this time.
I get a lot of questions about my gear, and people wonder how I protect it in such a harsh environment. The answer is I don't. For an interesting discussion about this, have a look at the thread on Flickr titled How do you keep your camera from getting dusty at Burning Man? See also playa photographer Curious Josh's Short Camera Tips for Burning Man.
For more on my Burning Man photography — what first inspired me to get into it, how my approach has evolved over the years, and what equipment I use — read an interview I did last fall with Paul Caridad Sanchez in Visual News: Scott London Captures the Magic at Burning Man. Another interview appeared in It's Nice That.
Gratitude and Acknowledgments
As always, I'm grateful to the many wonderful people of Burning Man who freely consented to let me photograph them in the act of dancing, stilt-walking, hooping, making art, or simply being beautiful. I don't take that permission for granted. It takes a special patience to put up with tiresome photographers sticking their equipment in your face—pointing lenses at your tattoos, your necklaces, your derriere. My art, such as it is, would not be possible without that open consent and participation. So thank you.
If you want to be in touch, I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to connect on Facebook as well, where I have a few additional photos and where you can leave comments and criticism.
Photo by D'Milo
© Copyright 2012 by Scott London. All rights reserved.