Brad Templeton's Photography
Burning Man 2001

Burning Man 2001

This year we camped again with Oregon Country Fair Embassy at 7:15 and Esplanade. It was a great location, though once again OCF was packed to the gills with tents while our neighbours had plenty of space.

This was the first year we made it on Monday (if late.) We had planned to do it in a tent, but we ran into a guy from Parc who rents out RVs privately for quite a bit less than the rental companies, so we got a lovely class A (bus style) RV for a great price and loaded it up.

This year, we would be able to mount my 24' panoramic picture wall in a nice place right on the Esplanade in camp. I've found ever since putting up an art installation that a great way to experience Burning Man is to sit by your installation and meet and talk to the folks who come by. It's the sure way to meet many of the residents of Black Rock City. Plus my pictures create an automatic talking point, as people love to share their memories of where they were and what they did during each year that is displayed.

I've explained what Burning Man is and my impressions of it in the essays for 1998 and 1999, so I won't repeat that here, but rather say what was different.

Of course my real photographic goal is the Panoramas. So be sure to check out the new 2001 Panoramas, and of course the 2000 Panoramas, 1999 Panoramas and the 1998 Pano.

Too many projects

Once again this year we did too many projects. We had a much more serious and better looking photo wall, with the great help of Andy from OCF Camp and his post driver. We located on the Playa instead of the front of camp due to a lack of space. There are shots of the installation in the albums. I also brought a much brighter light and lots of batteries to drive it, so that people could view the pictures at night, which is when most people come out.

That done, other projects included taking more panoramic and regular shots, several El-wire projects including a return of the Man Suit, glowing BM logo jackets and a dragonfly helmet, the FRS radio channel allocator, the Danger Real World 30-minute-art-installation, the Free Dmitry protest, and what turned out to be a lot of fun, the Save the Man protest. More on this later.

This year there was also a new camera, my Canon EOS-D30. This is a digital camera, but it is an SLR that takes the regular Canon lenses. I shot mostly with that, but also some with the Canon film body, and also with the famous Olympus Stylus Epic point and shoot.

The Dust

One reason I didn't do as much regular photography is that the D30 kit is large, and this year was incredibly dusty. Over the winter, the playa surface didn't get the right combination of freezing and water to make it the hard-pack playground it usually is. A lot of the ground was soft and hard to bike or even walk on. For me, biking is an absolute must. Sadly, the south end of camp was almost impossible to bike on, so I spent less time there.

In addition all that soft dust made everything dustier. Whiteouts were common, dust storms took place almost all the time, and the fantastic truly clear air I've come to know in the Black Rock Desert was rare. (This made it harder to find good times for panoramics.)

It was bad enough that if it weren't a rare event, I would actually put in my vote to leave Black Rock for another less dusty playa. Or at least to convince the BLM that in spite of the plan to give the city the same site every year to make it easier to measure environmental impact, it should be changed if the planned site isn't suitable.

Every night at sunset the wind would die down but then a thin haze of dust would envelop the city. And on Sunday night, the whiteout was so bad you could not even see the Mausoleum at the safety distance where they had put the crowd. Fortunately there was a break in the dust in time for that burn, and for the main burn.

The Temperature

The temperature was finally back to normal (hot) after a couple of years of strange, colder weather. The warmer weather brought out more creativity in body decoration (and more nudity) as that's what people plan for. Last year you needed winter clothing at night. I kept my hydration backpack on a lot of the time.


Burning Man changes every year. Those changes engender the popular aphorism that "Burning Man was better last year." In particular during the years of exponential growth it had to change. There was no way to retain the anarchy of a small Burning Man at a 10,000, 17,000 or 27,000 person Burning Man.

So yes, it's not the same as it was when it was small, which is bad in some ways but good in others. You wouldn't want it to be the smae. It would be nice to preserve the lost elements of character from the past, but it's hard to figure out how to do so without making it elitist and thus losing the character another way.

As such the BRC LLC people do a pretty good job. Not perfect, bit it keeps most of us coming back. Burning Man remains an event unique in the world, and I continue to maintain it will be looked back upon in the near future as something special and defining of our era, as Woodstock is today.

This year, due to the efforts of the company to discourage attendance and a slower economy, it actually shrunk slightly, though you would not know it. One thing you can't fix easily is the physical size. Even in a week it's become too large to really get to know. You can walk every street if you want in that time, but not truly get to know it. You have to focus on a subset and get to know that.

I've been wondering if there's a way to design the city so that the most important street (Esplanade) is not also the shortest street. I haven't thought of one yet.


Electroluminescent Wire was everywhere, even to the point of being passe. In prior years, if you put on some nice elwire, people would stop you all the time to admire and talk about it. Today they just watch you walk by. Sic Transit Gloria Elwire. It will have a successor.

Lots more art cars, and I do have to say there is a real tragedy of the commons here. Maybe I'm getting too out of shape but especially with the Playa hard to bike on, I was aching for a nice vehicle to drive around in for much of the week. But if everybody had a vehicle that would be chaos. That is part of why it is so important to make sure the location is bike-friendly if it's going to be so large.

But the trend is enough to make me want to make an art car next time, as if I don't already have enough to do. I would try to make a good one, of course, but clearly it doesn't scale to have everybody want to do an art car.

The public transit didn't really work. It was rare and more a party than a bus. Even though I was offered VIP status by the organizers as thanks for the FRS radio allocator, I never actually got to ride it.

Don't do so many projects. More spectating, less participating is my motto.