Brad Templeton's Photography
Burning Man 2008

Burning Man 2008

Each Burning Man is different. 2008's American Dream was "average" in success, ranking it well ahead of the Green Man, but behind the better themes like The Floating World. Next year's theme of Evolution looks promising.

This year may be most remembered for its worst-ever playa surface, which was too soft to bike on (and even difficult to drive on) due to a dry winter. This also resulted in dustier storms. Since the ability to have a bike and art car city is one of the prime benefits of the playa, this is no minor issue, and we all hope it doesn't repeat.

New for me this year was my art car, which I write about in the My Camp & Art section. I also returned the ATM, which I had planned to retire, as theme art. And my group and I split off from Camp I Am to have our own, smaller camp. We did however still join with them and many others in the Entheon-driven "power village" sharing a giant generator.

For more information on Burning Man in general, check out my essays of prior years such as 2006 and my Panorama Intro Page and my 2008 Panorama page which features a shot of the temple burn, and the city from the tower of Babel.

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.

Photography & The Wall

Photos again were taken mostly with the new Canon 40D and Canon IX 870, plus a few with the old Canon G5. I brought the 20D to have two bodies but never used it. Most panos shot with my 50mm prime and the 10-22m super-wide-angle lens designed for the 40D.

With 10 years of Burning Man to represent, even my 288 square feet of wall space could not handle it. A number of pictures were shrunk down, and for the first time I left one year off (2001) as it is not a favourite. In the future it will no longer be possible to present so many large photos, and so a new plan must be made.


Some of you read my essay on desert power. After moving to a giant shared power grid, I wrote a different essay on a giant generator power grid. While this worked well in 2005-7, 2008 saw problems arise, which I will add to the essay.


We joined with several camps to share power with "E" village, a generally very advanced and well organized camp. E decided not to be on the Esplanade, but instead to take a large block of the "A" street, while the power grid would cover several camps along the Esplanade. Since our camps are not loud-music types, this was going to work fine since E had also decided -- or so they thought -- not to have an amplified music space.

But no battle plan survives contact with the playa, as the ancient wise man Sun Tea has said. Factions in E both decided to have a loud music space, and also arranged (without our knowledge) to get a 10' by 150' chunk of Esplanade, taken from our space and our neighbours, to make a walkway into their space. They had also done this last year, and when I saw it then, I thought it was an excellent idea. Many camps wish to be on the Esplanade, but some are so large this is not practical. Having a pathway into such camps and placing them behind other camps looked like it made sense.

What nobody realized was that vast numbers of visitors would come to visit the large camp behind us and they would come on bicycles. And so they would constantly pack our front of camp art area, and other areas, with their bikes, no matter how many signs and barriers that might be put up. Some would lock their bikes to art installations, and regularly block an art car's path to the street. There was no stopping it, and people asked to park their bikes in bike racks built on the other side of the Esplanade or to otherwise move them generally were rude and uncooperative. There was pointless emotion in what should be a happy space, and much time wasted trying to move bikes. No doubt those who came out to find their bike moved after they had parked it in front of a sign saying "no bike parking" were also subject to temporary panic.

I write this mainly to encourage anybody who wants to plan a walkway into a camp behind them to consider how to deal with the bike and traffic problems. (For unknown reasons, E also put up a confusing sign on their walkway, causing people to come in regularly to all the camps on the block to ask where it was. One camp, not ours, put up a sign in their camp saying "Don't even ask us where E is.") We contemplated, not too seriously, putting up a sign saying "Community bike donation station."

I haven't named the camp, though most will figure out who it is, because I don't think these problems were the intentions of the managers of the camp, but rather the result of the usual chaos on the playa.