Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

Table of Contents for
Burning Man 2001

In August 2001, my friend David Wagner asked if I would be interested in attending Burning Man. For the uninitiated, Burning Man is an occasion that gathers thousands of folks in the middle of nowhere to engage in various forms of creative self-expression. These celebrants make the journey to the Black Rock Desert for one week out of the year to be part of an experimental community that challenges its members to rely on themselves to a degree that is not normally encountered in one's day-to-day life. All things considered it promised to be a hoot. I immediately signed up. Background information on Burning Man is available at their fine WWW site.

These images from June 2000 were taken during a previous project with David Wagner. The left image shows one of David's bright red Rokakus over the desert floor. In the portrait shot at the right, David is in the 9 o'clock position (Canon 24-mm, June 2000).

I had previously worked with David to take aerial photographs of his Red Line project - an installation of deep red kites and banners in the elemental setting of the Ivanpah Dry Lakebed in southern Nevada. From that experience I had gained an appreciation for the simple palette of the desert and the wonderful way a lakebed can provide a simple ground for figure/ground studies. 

So, a week after deciding to attend, David and I arrived at Burning Man just in time to see the Black Rock sunset on Thursday. We camped at a theme camp entitled the Department of Tethered Aviation (7 and Esplanade) and were made welcome by a fine group of folks including Purple John, Mort, Mistress Barbie, Bill and Mary. Once there, I started to ponder the photographic possibilities. Five themes emerged: 1) Black Rock City, 2) art installations, 3) the Burning Man effigy, 4) bicycles and their shadows, and 5) the citizens of Burning Man. The gallery pages linked below will expand each of these themes.

Black Rock City is a temporary settlement made of tents, motor homes, campers, and automobiles arranged on an ancient, flat lakebed. The city plan is sprung from the Burning Man effigy, located at the center of the plan. The 'man' is surrounded by a circular open space containing art projects and then a series of concentric streets housing camps or communities. In 2001 the scene featured an almost omnipresent haze of fine, talcum-like dust. 

Before heading to my aerial photographs you might want to take a quick look at the city map and an aerial photograph from the fine site of Thom van Os. I can also recommend the largely ground-based photographs of fellow KAPer Neil K. from Vancouver. Neil's earlier exploits at Burning Man with balloon-lofted cameras caught my eye a while back and contributed to my interest in Burning Man. I was lucky enough to meet Neil and his friend Jennifer during the trip to BRC.

The first page goes on a bit about dust and illustrates the point with a few aerial images.while the second shows Black Rock City's Center Camp and my local hangout - the Department of Tethered Aviation. I have also added a page that describes the texture of my day-to-day experiences at Burning Man 2001.

On the left is a eastward-looking, ground-level view taken during our approach to Black Rock City. In the middle left of the larger jpg you can see vehicles entering Black Rock City.  On the right is a aerial shot of Black Rock City's Esplanade -- the dividing line between settlement and the inner playa (Canon G1 digital left and Canon 24-mm right)

Art Installations dot the central playa of Black Rock City. The credo of Burning Man is participate and for many this means the development of art in the form of structures, installations, and vehicles. This section contains aerial images of several of these efforts. The third Burning Man page provides a look at some of the art installations that graced the inner playa.  Looks like I will post four pages in this category:

Art Installations #1 -- Mort's Door, Nautilus Tent, Sunflower Field, Lamplighters
Art Installations #2 -- Dragons, towers, fish, and playground
Art Installations #3 -- The Mausoleum and the CatBus
Art Installations #4 -- Scarab beetles, the 3D Maze and more 

Ground-level and aerial views of a lovely, nautilus-like canvas structure out on the playa (Canon G1 left and Canon 24-mm, August 2001)

The Burning Man Effigy itself was the subject of a few rolls of film on the afternoon before the burn. As mentioned before the effigy is located at the exact center of the Black Rock City plan. It was lit by neon at night and featured a vaguely Mayan base. Its tenders were a little anxious about my camera getting too close to it.

Aerial views of the Burning Man effigy just hours before the burn and the spot formerly occupied by the effigy as seen the next morning (Canon 24-mm, August 2001)

Bicycles and their shadows became compellingly evident as a Burning Man photo theme. During the harsh light of midday, low-level shots of people and bicycles became one of my diversions. The clean canvas of the playa made a great background for the bikes' graphic shadows.

An early morning ground shot of bicycle, scrim, and shadow and a midday aerial of bike underway (Canon G1 left and Canon 24-mm, August 2001)

Citizens of Burning Man comprise the last major category of my photographs from the playa. I took around 200 of these images. It was great fun. Basically, I would walk around with the camera floating about12 feet above the ground. Folks would ask the inevitable KAP questions -- a floating camera far exceeds the power of dogs, or even babies, as a catalyst for meeting strangers -- and I would recruit them for my "Burning Man Kite Aerial Photography Portrait Series.". 

On the left we have a typical Burning Man subject -- a motorized hobby horse ridden by a cowboy accompanied by a woman in a bare slip complemented by dust mask and goggles . The right hand image makes a case for the parasol as solar protection and a fashion statement (Canon 24-mm, August 2001)

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