monochrome black and white Burning Man portrait of man with cylinder hat and mustache


This year before the event I had an arrangement with few wedding couples that found me via Spark website. I’ve done wedding photography in Playa before. But when putting together ideas about Playa’s personal photo project this year, I decided to take a bit different approach. I wanted to skip conventional approach of Playa art/ art cars/ camps etc. and go for bold and straightforward grungy black and white Burning Man portraits.
Over my 3 previous burns, numerous times I witnessed people dedication and sacrifice that really can’t be described by words. One must experience it to understand it. Visiting “graveyard shit” at the Sanctuary in year 2013 was one of them. (If any of you folks are reading this, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for what you do and give you biggest hug possible. Hundreds of hugs!)
Back to year 2015. I would lie if I say I have arrived to Black Rock City without any idea how I want the final black and white portraits to look like. I did plan in advance and do some testing back at home in Madison, WI.
The idea behind this mini photo project was to show residents of Black Rock City. Without people, this temporary city built in the Black Rock desert, all crazy art and extensive camps would be nothing.
When selecting subjects I didn’t look for any particular appearance. In fact, I didn’t do much selection at all. I would strike a conversation with random by passers, walk across the street and talk to neighbors or just photograph my camp mates and their friends. Anyone was welcomed and everyone got photographed.
During the mini sessions I experienced that people were more relaxed, less aware of camera, more opened up. It often to me to take 3-4 pictures to capture genuine and relaxed Playa portrait and get the image I wanted.
After image was taken, it would automatically transfer to my Android phone via Wi-Fi card. There I would convert it to black and white via VSCO app and send edited file to Fuji Instax Mini printer that I carried with me everywhere.
Each participant would get an actual print. And that was my Playa gift. And people LOVED it!

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I didn’t bring back up this time– one camera, one lens + a ringflash. Not too responsible when considering the fact that I had 3 Playa weddings on my list. My DSLR actually malfunctioned during in the end of one of the weddings (probbaly due to the dust on lens contacts), but who cares. I decided to keep 2015 a very minimalistic and I did it.
So very minimal (however a bit specific) photo gear was used to photograph these Burning Man portraits:

weather sealed DLSR
cheap 35mm lens
Yongnuo YN560 IV flash + Yongnuo YN-YN560-TX radio trigger
Orbis ring flash as a light modifier
4 stop ND filter
30 pack of AA batteries
Wi-Fi SD card


Planning on being in Playa in 2016? Like what you see above and would like to become part of the Burning Man portraits above? Shoot me a message for exact camp location couple weeks before event. I normally show up in Playa about a week earlier.


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