Photo Friday: A New Beginning

Posted by Ted on Jan 6, 2012 in Burning Man, Photography

2012 is all about new beginnings and our craziest adventure yet; parenthood.

If you follow my work, you know that I love sunsets. Who doesn’t? But what I find even more special are sunrises. Not being a morning person, I see a lot fewer of the sun emerging out of night than I do of night overtaking the day.

The photo below was taken at 5:30 on a June morning in 2006, on the Atlantic shore of Rockport, Maine, boats gently pitching with light waves.

Maine Morning

I had been in Rockport taking an intensive week-long photography course at the Maine Workshops. That inspiring week was a turning point in my photography career. It was that week that I went from a default of ‘auto’ to ‘manual’, and I started to see shapes and colors and macro photography in new ways. One of many transformative experiences in my life.

Quite a few of those experiences have happened at or because of Burning Man. It is a place of strange and wonderful beauty, and which gives one innumerable chances to explore their personal boundaries. Many years, the only sunrises I see are at Burning Man. Below is a photo of my playa-covered Doc Martens, taken a few months later than the Maine picture, as my Lily and I are lounging in a cupcake out by the trash fence.

Playa Sunrise

(Related photos of Rockport, Maine can be found here.)

(Related photos of Burning Man 2006 can be found here.)

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Losing a Bet with Gravity at Burning Man

Posted by Ted on Nov 28, 2011 in Burning Man, Events

Looking at the back of one’s Burning Man ticket, the opening disclaimer reads;


After 7 years, I failed my saving throw against common sense by trying my untrained feet at the Black Rock Roller Disco on the very first night. At this theme camp, the only shoes that would fit were inline skates, which I had never worn before. Needless to say, my cavalier personality prevailed. I strapped them on and started off.

Lulled into confidence by a few successful revolutions of the dance floor, I came around a corner and whanged my own left knee with my right skate. I stopped, crawled to the racks, and hobbled with friends to the Shipwreck Tiki Lounge where I lessened the pain with a Mai Tai. Back at camp, I made some grilled cheese sandwiches in the back of a box truck, and upon plating my late-night sustenance, I turned around, at the knee mind you, and fell to the floor screaming.

That moment, now 13 weeks ago,
has been a defining moment in every moment since.

I stumbled through the rest of Burning Man using a cut-off piece of PVC as a walking stick, taking care of my knee as best as I could – visiting both the med tent and the Hee Bee Gee Bee healers, icing it when possible, taking tons of IBU, and vaguely trying to keep my weight off of it. At the same time, it was my burn, and wasn’t about to let it impact my enjoyment of experiencing the playa. One of the most painful consequences – emotionally and physically – was my inability to dance to Discofish or go on walkabout wearing bouncy stilts. Even with Acupuncture, it’s now three months later and I continue to take stairs slowly and my knee clicks in a rather disconcerting way.

You might think that counts as a failure, but it was still a great burn. That’s just the way the playa is – harsh, but worthwhile. After walking up to the Temple of Transition for the first time, I wrote the following in my journal;

“It is stunning this year. Beautiful. Moving. A perfect blend of several architectural styles. It brought tears to my eyes. Hobbled with a staff, I felt like a monk as my friends followed me. Suddenly, I asked for a marker and made for a section of wall lit from below. With emotion and conviction, I scrawled “MISS YOU MOM“.

Temple of Transition

Temple of Transition

Needless to say, the Temple was powerful. Every time I set foot near it, emotions welled up within me. The music of the Gamelatron would weave through my thoughts.

The best night may have been the very last. Sunday is usually one of people leaving early and the stressful anticipation of Exodus for the rest of us. It’s always a choice – watching the temple burn or leaving and hoping to avoid spending 8 hours in traffic. For me, there’s never a question. Tears streaked down my face during the burn;

“It was the most perfect burn ever. Each temple structure created its own vortex of flame that shot up into the heavens. As the temple burned, fire devils spun out and danced around, propelling everyone’s wishes skyward.”

What made this year’s burn even better was what happened afterwards. We and a number of our excellent campmates had biked out to the Temple with warm clothes and extra blankets. After the fire had died down we rode out to a perfect spot in the shadow of some christmas trees, threw down our sleeping bags, and had a sleepover. In deep playa. It was awesome. We got to enjoy our second desert sunrise of the week before packing up and returning to camp in order to head home.

Playa Sunrise

Playa Sunrise

There were many things that made this year a great burn, and most of them involved the exceptional people that we shared the week with.

The people, the art, and the freedom are the reasons we go.

It is that very same freedom that enabled me to walk up to a rack of skates in the middle of the desert and cripple myself. Throughout the burn, and every day since, I have hobbled on a weak knee because I lost bets with gravity and centrifugal force.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

(Related photos of Burning Man 2011 can be found here.)

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Photo Friday: Temple of Transition

Posted by Ted on Sep 9, 2011 in Burning Man, Photography

Many burners would agree that one of the most important structures at Burning Man is The Temple, often more so than the central effigy himself. A tradition started in 2000 by artist David Best, each year’s temple is a massively collaborative project with dozens of workers spending weeks to build it, giving thousands of participants an opportunity to write notes to loved ones in the spirit world, let go of emotional baggage, or simply express wishes and hopes for the future. Whereas the burning of “The Man” on Saturday night is a big party, the burning of “The Temple” on Sunday night is more solemn and contemplative. In 2003, the first temple I saw was Best’s “Temple of Honor“, a paper mâché structure that burned fast and bright.

I have connected with some temples more than others over the intervening years, but this year’s Temple of Transition was something truly special. I approached it the first time at night, expansive and elegant. As I neared, details revealed themselves in the masterful blending of multiple architecture styles and the intricately cut panels which framed the large open doorways. When close enough that the six towers loomed overhead, I could hear the soothing melody of the Gamelatron emanating from the central structure.

We spent a lot of time at the temple this year, honoring parents and pets passed away. Even more powerfully, we found clarity in what our near-future goals are, which will be a path of hard work and compromise, but one in which we anticipate great rewards. On Sunday night, we biked out to the temple, and watched through tears of awe and hope as it burned. Its very design – tall open cylinders with plenty of air circulation – created columns of fire that rose up into the heavens.

Afterwards, our group of a dozen or so campers biked to an area of the open playa, laid our sleeping bags on the ground, and enjoyed our last night, talking, wandering, and waking up to watch the sunrise together.



Photo Friday: Man in the Mist

Posted by Ted on Aug 26, 2011 in Burning Man, Photography

Here in the Bay Area, the usual pre Burning Man buzz is palpable as fabric stores stock up on and sell out of fake fur, and REI sells out of Camelbaks. Almost 20,000 burners have now registered themselves with a new Facebook app called BurnerMap which (may) allow people to find their friends on playa easier.

As an experiment in being more self-sufficient, my wife and I have been prepping for the last couple of weeks, making delicious worldly foods such as Moroccan tajine, Italian baked beans, and Chinese congee and filling up our freezer. New clothes have been either made or picked up at a thrift store, and LED lights have been acquired and tested in order to decorate our bikes, our RV, and ourselves. Tomorrow we do our shopping for perishables and hit the road, spending the night in Reno before heading up Highway 447 in what will surely be an endless caravan of vehicles. I’m already looking forward to Indian tacos.

This photo from 2005 is one of my favorite images of “The Man”, standing on top of a fun house, a light wind picking up some playa along the way.

(Related pictures of Burning Man 2005 can be found here.)

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Photo Friday: Burning Man and the Astronaut

Posted by Ted on Aug 4, 2011 in Burning Man, Events, Photography, Space

This week’s Photo Friday is dedicated to a man you’ve likely never heard of. I certainly hadn’t until I was researching the Apollo 17 program recently. Everyone knows Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. However, Eugene Cernan, a Czecho-Slovakian fighter pilot from Chicago, was the last man to walk on the moonAlmost 40 years ago. His final words as he stepped up into the Lunar Module were;

As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record — that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”


This photo was taken at Burning Man during my second year on playa. It is of the art piece “Moonwalk“, by Jonathan Buchart. This year’s Burning Man has caused a lot of hype due to it selling out for the first time. Tickets that were at most $285 or so are now going for $600-800 dollars on eBay. Thankfully, we have ours and look forward to returning to Black Rock City in just a few weeks.

While we have yet to return to the moon in 4 decades, we do have an orbiting space station, and we have just discovered that there may be liquid flowing water on Mars. How cool is that?

(Related pictures of Burning Man 2004 can be found here.)

(More on the finding of water on Mars can be found on SFGate and Huffpost)

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