For those who don't know, Burning Man is the colloquial name for an annual arts festival in Black Rock Desert Nevada. It occurs annually in the week before Labor Day and last year was attended by nearly 50,000 people.Every year a dense metropolis arises in the Black Rock Desert; every year it disappears without a trace. Tumult and change, churning cycles of invention and destruction - these forces generate the pulse of urban life. Great cities are organic, spontaneous, heterogeneous, and untidy. They are, like Burning Man, magnetic hubs of social interaction. This year's theme [Metropolis: The Life of Cities] will function as a micro and a macro-scope, an instrument through which we will inspect the daily course of city life and the future prospect of civilization.
-BurningMan.com: 2010 ART THEME
There are so many photos that show the incredible public beauty and vitality of Burning Man. (Over 10,400,000 if you believe Google.) There are far fewer that capture the efforts of the thousands of volunteers and participants who make Black Rock City the event that it is. There are fewer still that capture both the environment and the activity of Black Rock City: the tents, domes, yurts, RVs, trailers and other structures that burners live, work and play in.
This year, the theme Metropolis: The Life of Cities begs for that effort and its result to be recognized. It is my intention to photograph as many of the outstanding camps as I can, and to photograph them “in the round” – broad panoramas capturing all of the activity in a space, as well as the space itself, all in an instant. The resulting portfolio will document the effort put forward by these campers and the incredible environments they create.
Panoramic photography is commonly used to capture vast environments. Panoramic photographs (panos) of mountain ranges appear natural when we look at them. The format allows a perspective that can’t be accomplished in a standard snapshot, and reflects the way we perceive the world – emphasis on the horizon, with the sky and land in from of us diminished. Taken indoors, panos distend and distort space. Lines that one normally perceives as straight are curved in direct relation to the distance from the camera to a given point on the line. Something else occurs to though – you gain a new understanding of the environment and how it and the activities within it interact.
There are many ways to capture panoramic photos, from specialized panoramic cameras that have a broad horizontal field of view relative to their vertical to the new “gigapan” devices that automatically drive a camera through a series of dozens or even hundreds of photos in order to build a complete and detailed record of a scene. I use a fisheye lens that allows me to capture nearly everything in front of the camera in a single snapshot, and then take multiple photos in each of the four cardinal directions. Here's an example of the images as they come out of the camera.
Composing the final image requires computer manipulation to stretch the circular picture recorded by the camera into a rectangular format that can be joined to others to form the whole. Multiple shots in any given direction allows me to select for the best capture of activity. Composition requires attention to layering of the various images, and blending between images to account for unavoidable activity and changes in light and shadow. It may take anywhere from a few minutes to prepare a simple shot in a still room to hours for a complex shot with lots of activity.
The final composition can be viewed on a computer as a virtual space, with interactive navigation, but I prefer the impression made when seeing the entire view in a single instant. It is both absorbing and informative. The image below is a near-final image, still needing adjustment for light balance and color.
At this size, they are a bit difficult to see. You can see larger images on my website bp2e.net by following the link "more Panos".
Funding for this project will help defray travel and equipment costs, the cost of prints and preparation of a draft manuscript, and allow me more time to prepare the images. Successful funding will make the difference between doing the work for my own enjoyment and the opportunity to prepare something that can be readily shared.
In case you are new to Kickstarter, here it is in a nutshell: Kickstarter is a new way of funding creative ideas. It is similar to the pledge drives that you’re familiar with from NPR, or PBS, but with a difference. Typically those pledge drives go on and on until they make their goal. Kickstarter, however, relies on a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.
On the right side of this page are a number of underwriting opportunities for this project - different levels just like what you’re used to from listening to NPR or watching PBS. And similar to underwriting an NPR or PBS program, in return for your paid pledge, you will receive a thank-you gift, and have the satisfaction of knowing that that you supported a project that you believe in.
Note: If the project does not get fully funded by it deadline, your credit card will not be charged, the gifts will go away, but you will still have my appreciation for your consideration in supporting me in this venture!
I expect to have all images processed and available by the end of January 2011. I’ll keep my underwriters up to date on my progress, and get the thank yous out as soon as I can!
- (45 days)