Brad Templeton's Photography
Burning Man 2004

Burning Man 2004

Each year I go for longer to Burning Man. This year we arrived at midnight when the gate opened, later than planned because it took too long to pack up our way-too-many projects. For more information on Burning Man in general, check out my essays of prior years such as 2003 and my Panorama Intro Page and in particular my 2004 Panorama Page

Projects this year included the Panorama wall, of course, and shooting the new panoramas and these photos. Then there was the Free Phone Booth and the Star Map of Revised Constellations. Plus photos for the Black Rock Gazette, the Free Speech Zone and the now traditional Save-the-Man protest. Time to do more spectating and less participating.

I foolishly organized a sub-camp in the Embassy, camp Save-the-Man with a group of 26 good friends and new friends. We'll continue this in the future.

This year also featured my first chance at a plane ride over BRC and a chance to use a cherry picker to shoot my panoramas from right in the keyhole at center camp.

You can read a recent essay on thoughts on the nature of Burning Man.

Are you in here?

If you're in one of these shots naked and don't want to be, let me know and I'll see if I can find an alternate or blur you. I wasn't always able to get permission on group shots.

The Protest and the Burn

We had a great time at the protest and this time had a whole camp to help and make up signs. We also had 2 or 3 other joiners with their own signs. This time the crowd seemed to expect us and chanted "Save the Man" with us, instead of always shouting "burn him" against us. There were also far fewer calls to burn the signs in the post-burn protest. (It's not too late, it's just a flesh wound. Doesn't anybody need to pee?)

The burn was great this year, not over the top like last year. The Man was the star of the burn, not the structure under him.

Help me find 'em: I am looking for the names of these burners I met on the Playa. If you know their names, please mail me at btm @ Click on thumbnail for larger image.

Photography & The Wall

Photos again were taken mostly with the Canon D60 and newer Canon G5 which replaced the S50 stolen at last year's Burning Man when we foolishly left it on a bike. Most panos shot with my 50mm and 20mm prime lenses.

I decided to upgrade the panorama wall in two ways this year. First, I covered it with Plexiglas instead of vinyl. The vinyl always gets ripples and I have always been shocked at how much better the pictures look when we remove it. I wanted plain plexi but actually got the low-glare kind as they were out of stock.

The plexi turned out to be a mistake. Mounting it was a major chore and required drilling into some photos. It cracked anyway in a couple of places, mostly on the edges. It got some space between it and the photos (due to the curve) and that meant the low-glare plexi reduced detail in the images. But worse, dust kept getting under the plexi which was hard to clean (though later we found an air compressor could do the job.)

I also did new lighting, with 4 lights mounted above the panels. This was much better in that people did not cast big shadows as they got close to the wall at night, as they did when I had the 2 lights on poles at a distance. Mounting these lights was a lot more work of course. Due to an error, I had two lights that were redder and two that were more blue (fluorescent lights of course to conserve power) which looked a bit odd but still worked.

I will repeat the lighting but not the plexi, at least not in the desert. The wall was a big hit as usual, though I didn't spend as much time at it due to all the other projects.

The Weather

This year had poor weather to start, with a scorching Monday and major white-outs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but then a great weekend. It did slow construction of some art like the photo wall and the free speech zone. I wonder do people come to Burning Man because the harsh conditions keep the yahoos away, or in spite of the harsh conditions.


I felt the music was a lot better this year. A lot more live music, and less techno, just as I asked. Even the rave camps seemed to be playing better music. The only downside of the move to more live music was that there were several Karaoke camps. I sometimes think Karaoke is Japan's revenge for Nagasaki. Alas, one was right next to my camp.


Some of you read my essay on desert power My charger worked well, and it turned out my RV's battery system was very poor so it came in handy. Alas, I wasn't pure to the ethos though, because others in my camp ran generators a lot and of course I tapped into them when they were on.

Light Boxes

We did two items in light boxes this year. The Star Map and the sign for the free speech zone. Looks great at night. I picked up cheap lighted sign boxes from eBay, where people sell old bar signs. These are not very sturdy, but they did survive the desert -- mostly. It was harder to mount the graphics than expected, so if you do this, get one well in advance. In one case we put a 12v fluorescent inside to run off battery instead of using the 115v one that comes with these.

I paid for fancy lightjet graphics, which are about $13/square foot. Kinkos will also make inkjet graphics, actually for more. Truth is, if your light is bright enough, you can get away with plain old thin paper, so you might want to consider that.

These beer-sign boxes do not light super-evenly, so I wouldn't use them for fine art photos, but you can get them for just $20 to $40 compared to hundreds for a pro lightbox.