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.
In 2012 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 the freedom to cover the event much as I've always done.
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 in 2012. 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 around.
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 — have a look at an interview I did with Paul Caridad Sanchez in Visual News: Scott London Captures the Magic at Burning Man. Another interview appeared in It's Nice That. And as always, the most up-to-date commentary can be found in my latest notes from the field.