Notes on Kite Aerial Photography: Photo Gallery

Bicycles and Their Shadows
Burning Man 2001

Lone cyclist on an unmarred stretch of playa. I think of this as one of the better images to emerge from the trip and must offer a tip of the hat to the master of shadows - Craig Wilson. I have posted a larger than normal version here  (Canon 24-mm, August 2001).

So many shots, so little time. One theme emerging from my daytime wanderings across the playa was photographs of bicyclists and their marvelous shadows. The playa surface provided an interesting and visually clean canvas for figure / ground work. This first image was my entry in the 2002 Aerial Photography Contest sponsored by the Japanese Kite Aerial Photography Association, winning 2nd place. I have also posted it on for comment. It is a sweetheart of an image if I do say so myself -- very sharp, subtle in texture and color.

Black Rock City, site of Burning Man, is sufficiently large that many folks use bicycles to get around. It is quite the fleet of vehicles too. I would send a camera up between 10 and 30 feet above the ground and photograph folks as they pedaled past. Occasionally I would assume a carnival barker persona to persuade a photogenic cyclist to make another pass, occasionally I would chase a cyclist down the esplanade. The whole enterprise had the serendipitous nature of fishing (or at least my version of fishing). 

A quartet of tightly framed bicycle images. The upper left could qualify as a miss -- the bicyclist herself is clipped -- but the shadow itself is strong and well framed.  Upper right is a fine end of day shot. The bicycle shadow in the lower left is quintessential Burning Man as is the 'visually choppy' image in the lower right with its multiple traces of bikes, cowboy hat, and tattooed derriere (Canon 24-mm, August 2001)

It was just plain fun taking these shots. I would watch folks as they approached on their bikes. About half would be oblivious regarding the presence of the camera. I often marvel at how one can hover a camera immediately over folks heads without them being aware of it. It is said that our eyes scan a horizontal (foveal) plane and pay less attention to what's above. I suppose if we were exposed to aerial predation like mice we would be more aware. In any event those who noticed the caera would try to figure out what was going on as they pedaled below and those that figured it out would often loop back for another pass. As the bicycles rolled past I made a conscious effort to frame with shadows in mind.

More bicycles on the playa. The guy on the upper left made a playful grab for the camera -- I though he was going to get it too. On the upper right we have a cyclist that conveys the 'mud man of Borneo' look that so befits the midday playa experience. The women on the lower left were gregarious and beautiful. The lower right image was taken from the ground.  (Canon 24-mm, August 2001)

You may well have noticed what appear to be color shifts in these images. I have begun to shoot most of my film work in slide form. For the Burning Man outing I took an assortment of different 'professional' slide films from Kodak and Fuji. The old slide scanner I have been using seems quite sensitive to film settings and, unfortunately, I did not bring an accounting of the film type with me to the scanning session. I will need to rescan at some point methinks. All things considered the bicyclists were a fine theme. I look forward to taking more of these at Burning Man 2002.

Bicycle parking Burning Man style, note the variety of bikes and the woman center image adopting what I began to call the Burning Man pose (it was very common in my shots and not dissimilar to the pose of the effigy). The righthand image is a young woman on a unicycle (Canon 24-mm, August 2001)

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