Burning Man – Stuck in Customs

My Trip to Burning Man 2019, Part 1

I took over 5,100 photos this year, but that’s not really the point. Well, it’s part of the point, at least for me. I really enjoy being off by myself with my camera and enjoy random connections with art and people. This is year #10 in a row for me and I’m slowly figuring more and more and more about the event and about myself! I went again with my two roommates (Jonatas from Brazil and Rene from New Zealand), and this year I brought my virgin friend: Hugh Howey! We call people virgins who have never been to Burning Man before, and you’ll see a photo of him below. You may know him from his Wool series of books… we got to be close friends recently when we hiked the Camino de Santiago together. Anyway, if you can’t tell, he really enjoyed himself!

I spend about 8 hours a day sleeping, 8 hours a day taking photos, and 8 hours a day involved with molecular compounds to expand my mind and consciousness. Of that, my roomies and I do a 50% mix of “fun” molecules and 50% “spiritual, personal deep-dive” molecules. The latter creates perhaps the most interesting journeys, as we now have a lot of experience in understanding the nature of reality, love, and fearlessness. I could talk forever about this… don’t get me started! But I do have a whole chapter about it in my new book towards the end.

To another end, I’ve been working with a group of friends in Silicon Valley and beyond to help bring this kind of consciousness to the world. If you want to read more about the latest successful experiments and upcoming FDA approval (to treat depression, PTSD, and others) at Johns Hopkins Medicine, read this article entitled “First Major Center for Psychedelic Research Opening in the U.S.”. It features my friend Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress and fellow Camino to Santiago pilgrim), Tim Ferriss, and others. If you find this intriguing, there is a deeper dive you can do with Michael Pollan’s new book, “How to Change Your Mind,” which is on my recommended book list!

Anyway, enough with that, let’s look at some photos and hear some stories! 🙂


Here is “Folly,” one of the most awesome art pieces at Burning Man this year, as the Monaco sailed up for a visit. It was one of the first giant works to burn. I would have taken photos of it burning, but my two crazy roommates and I decided to go dance at the Opulent Temple instead. It’s hard to explain… I don’t take photos ALL the time there, even though I got several thousand over the week.

This year I brought a virgin! His name is Hugh Howey (Pictured here with my friend, the fully clothed Joe Azure) – and you may know him as the sci-fi author of Wool and many other books. We hiked the Camino de Santiago recently and I slowly convinced him to join my friends at Burning Man. I’m super persuasive… ya know? Anyway, he didn’t bring a lot of clothes, but that seemed to work for him. He’s an awesome friend and it was a really good chance to bond and blow his mind via various molecular compounds. More to come about that… I know he got ideas for some new fictional works! I look forward to seeing what comes out of that brain (and shorts). Haha… yeah… he basically kind of owned Burning Man in his first year. Well done, Hugh, well done… *all 80,000 people there giving him a golf clap…

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Here’s my friend Eleanor Preger hanging out in the saloon at Folly out in the deep playa. It’s so strange meeting friends there because 98% of the meetings are completely by accident. I often intend to meet 20+ people out there, but since no one really uses mobile phones to communicate (thank goodness), finding your friends is almost impossible. So, you can imagine the surprise when 1 out of 80,000 people shouts out your name! I was over here taking photos and Eleanor screamed out my name! It’s always an exciting time to connect in this incredible serendipitous manner. She was here randomly serving free drinks (all drinks are free at Burning Man) to whoever came by. As soon as I arrived, she had just finished a fine bottle of Pinot Noir.

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Here’s a photo of Root Society, one of the 100+ camps where DJs play music all night and all day. This is one of the bigger ones that can hold over 1,000 people. Well, they are all outside, so they just kind of expand out into the night winds, so the numbers can go way up. It’s a great time to go out and dance because at night it really cools off and there is an incredible breeze. This year was not as cold as others. Sometimes it gets down to below freezing! I’d usually go out with Rene and Jonatas and other random people that get attached to our little silly crew. We jump around to about half a dozen camps per night… we’re big on the comedy along the way, always cracking one another up with some of the most ridiculous commentaries you’ve ever heard…

Here’s a fun little story from Burning Man if you don’t know much about the thousands of events that happen out there. This one is from the Bunny March (a fake protest of faux conflict) where about 5,000 people dress up like bunnies and hop across the desert to The Man. Waiting there, in secret, are a bunch of children – about 100 little Black Rock Scouts dress up like “Animal Control,” running around and trying to catch the bunnies with huge nets. The grown-ups give them a good run but always end up getting caught. After you’re caught, you are given a giant syringe full of tequila to cure you of your faux conflict for one more year. Kids get to pose with the bunny they caught and we exchange necklaces and hugs and then hop off into the desert.

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Here’s the giant 747 that made it out to Burning Man this year. It was converted into a huge dance club that would taxi across the playa every night to a different location. I took this just before sunrise. This year, I think I saw about 80% of the sunrises which was a new high for me! On this particular night, the plane had taxied way into the deep playa out near Michael Benisty’s work, “Broken Together”. I have a photo of these two together that I am still working on…

I always spend Temple Burn night by myself, out in the deep playa, several miles from the rest of the city where there are pieces of art randomly scattered. This piece is by Michael Benisty, who you may remember from last year (he did the two chrome figures hugging entitled “In Every Lifetime I Will Find You.” I knew he had a new work out here somewhere… I finally found it late in the week and this one is called “Broken Together.” Actually, I wasn’t totally by myself. There were two other people here… and it reminds me that I randomly meet some of the most interesting people in the world here. You can see this gentleman here, who was also out taking photos. He was with his wife. 16 Burning Mans for him (10 for me… a common question amongst burners). Anyway, he used to be a Southern Baptist Preacher. I talked with them for a while… I said, “I assume after a few burns you were no longer a man of the cloth?” He nodded his head and laughed… saying yes…yes…you know… and then we gave one another a hug and went off into the night.

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Workflow Fun on Passport Sunday!

Well, I try to make workflow as fun as possible today for Passport Members. Today, you see the process I went through before Burning Man to make sure I had a clean library for the event. I did this again before Africa!

Speaking of Burning Man…

Here are a few of my favorite photos for you!

There in the gypsy’s creation.  It pulsed around us like a thick red vein; a timeless conduit that promised to hold a time machine between worlds.  And, I’d have it no other way, as every time machine should come appointed with the comforts of the sultans as they slowly wind throughout the edges of the Orient.  The colored lights cast new tones and shadows upon the rich, supple textures.  Small windows around the edges gave outward portal-glances to worlds and times that whizzed by, each one inviting a new pause to the story.  The light, I noticed, did something unexpected as it tumbled and flowed and rolled across the skin, drifting over small sinuous shapes as the crimson rays slid up and over the flowing curves of a dune in the middle of a faraway desert.  The lines would only stay a moment before the wind blew them into a new form.  The light tore time away from the shapes, and I could not figure out what was happening until much later in the story.

The ground shook and the air crackled as the metal bent and strained around my body.  The screams went animal and blood fell folded back into the sand.

Now on with the show…

Workflow Fun on Passport Sunday!

This is another common question I get: how do I set up different LR Catalogs for the road? Well this shows what I did to set up my catalog for Burning Man this year!

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Way Above Laucala Island

Burning Man or a Toddler?

Here is a list of 18 things that are identical if you are attending Burning Man or parenting a toddler! How funny and true! 🙂

Daily Photo – Way Above Laucala Island

Every day I stayed on Laucala Island, I got the quadcopter up as many times as possible. Charging batteries is always a pain, so I had to make sure I saved enough charge to fly at sunset. Almost every sunset was perfect, and this was one of my favorites.

Way Above Laucala Island

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-01-24 22:39:35
  • CameraFC2204
  • Camera MakeDJI
  • Exposure Time1/15
  • Aperture3.8
  • ISO320
  • Focal Length8.6 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
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A Pixel Panorama

Documenting Burning Man interview…

Right before I headed out this year, I did a fun interview with Steve Brazill on his podcast called “Behind the Shot.” Check it out below – thanks again Steve!

Daily Photo – A Pixel Panorama

I was visiting some friends over near Jack’s Point for a dinner and I walked down on the beach around sunset. I didn’t have my big-boy camera with me, but I did have the Pixel 3. I often use it to take a series of vertical photos and then I stitch them together later using Lightroom. I don’t like using the panorama mode in the camera app because it doesn’t produce as high-res of an image.

A Pixel Panorama

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-03-28 19:49:04
  • CameraPixel 3 XL
  • Camera MakeGoogle
  • Exposure Time1/120
  • Aperture1.8
  • ISO68
  • Focal Length4.4 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramProgram AE
  • Exposure Bias

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The Three Sisters in Fog

Burning Man Bike Stolen and Taken to New Zealand!

This is a great story about my friend (and camp-mate at Walter!) who had his bike stolen. Read the story here!

Daily Photo – The Three Sisters in Fog

Here’s a new photo I recently finished from Shanghai, China. I woke up early to get a sunrise photo, but it was too smoggy/foggy for any good light. I figured, well, as long as I am awake, I should try to be productive… I walked around for a while and the only interesting thing I could see was this… so I launched the quad to get a photo of three of the tallest buildings in China.

The Three Sisters in Fog

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-11-19 07:07:13
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Tsuruga-jō Castle in Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima

Behind the Shot

Steve Brazill (@SteveBrazill) asked me to join him on his Behind the Shot podcast (@BehindTheShotTV) to take a look at how I made this image from Burning Man. We also have a little contest to win a “How to Build Real Influence” class I did with @laurenepbath. Check it out here!

The Boshin War

I BET you don’t know much about this war… neither did I until researching this spot in Japan featured in today’s photo. Below is from Wikipedia:

The Boshin War (戊辰戦争 Boshin Sensō, “War of the Year of the Yang Earth Dragon”), also known as the Japanese Revolution, was a civil war fought in Japan between the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate and supporters of the Imperial Court from 27 January 1868 to 27 June 1869.

The Tokugawa Shogunate’s handling of foreigners following the Opening of Japan during the 1850s and decline from increasing Western influence in the economy disillusioned many kazoku nobles and young samurai warriors, who sought to return power to the Emperor’s Imperial Court in Kyoto after 683 years of Shogunate rule. An alliance of court officials and western samurai, particularly from the domains of Chōshū, Satsuma and Tosa, supported by the United Kingdom secured control of the Imperial Court. Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the sitting shōgun, abdicated political power to the young Emperor Meiji hoping that the House of Tokugawa could be preserved and participate in the future government. Military movements by Imperial forces, French support, partisan violence in Edo, and an imperial decree abolishing the Tokugawa promoted by Satsuma and Chōshū led Yoshinobu to launch a military campaign to seize the Emperor’s court in Kyoto. The conflict rapidly turned against the Shogunate, and Yoshinobu personally surrendered after a series of battles culminating in the surrender of Edo. Tokugawa loyalists retreated to northern Honshū where they joined the Northern Alliance against the Imperial faction, but were defeated several months later and fled to Hokkaidō. In January 1869, the Shogunate established the Republic of Ezo on Hokkaidō to continue their rule as a separate state and sued for peace. The Imperial faction invaded Hokkaidō and defeated the Shogunate at the Battle of Hakodate in June, ending the war.

The Boshin War made imperial rule supreme throughout the whole of Japan, completing the military phase of the Meiji Restoration and establishing the Empire of Japan. The victorious Imperial faction abandoned its objective to expel foreigners from Japan, and instead adopted a policy of continued modernization and industrialization to eventual renegotiation of the unequal treaties with the Western powers. Tokugawa loyalists were shown clemency due to the persistence of Saigō Takamori, a prominent leader of the Imperial faction, and many former Shogunate leaders and samurai were later given positions of responsibility under the new government. Around 120,000 men were mobilized during the conflict and of these about 3,500 were killed, and over time the war has been romanticized as a “bloodless revolution” because of the small number of casualties.

Daily Photo – Tsuruga-jō Castle in Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima

Believe it or not, I got really good at saying all these super-long Japanese names while I was there! I pretty much had to, since hardly anyone spoke English and I had to navigate the serpentine rail and bus system. I didn’t have much time in Aizuwakamatsu-shi, but I wanted to make sure this classic old castle was on the list… It took me down a whole interesting history lesson in one of the many Japanese civil wars.

Tsuruga-jō Castle in Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-11-19 07:07:13
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Way Back in Burning Man 2011

Burning Man Gallery

I am always updating my Burning Man Gallery up on SmugMug. You can go there to see the last 8 years of photos. I’m so stoked to go this year, year #9… and I’m bringing my friend Hugh Howey! He’s a virgin!

Daily Photo – Way Back in Burning Man 2011

Wow it’s hard to believe I’ve been going for so many years. This is the temple from that year, but this is a new photo I recently processed! I hope you enjoy this and some of the other photos from the gallery above.

Way Back in Burning Man 2011

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2011-08-31 21:37:21
  • CameraNIKON D3X
  • Camera MakeNikon
  • Exposure Time1/15
  • Aperture4.8
  • ISO125
  • Focal Length19.0 mm
  • FlashNo Flash
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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Haircut in Chengdu

The Headmaze!

I’m Sooooo excited about this art piece… I want to mention it to help raise money to make it happen. It’s created by some of my favorite artists at Burning Man, so I hope you can contribute!

Here’s the link!

Daily Photo – Haircut in Chengdu

It’s a pretty fun little photo idea to go to old barber shops in old parts of distant cities. There’s always a bunch of characters in there and no one seems to mind the photography even though nobody speaks English. I think they are just happy to be interesting enough to get some attention!

Haircut in Chengdu

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2019-11-19 07:07:13
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The Light Show in Singapore

Opulent Temple

Here’s one of my favorite go-to Soundcloud artists, Opulent Temple. They are one of the many “sound” camps that go to Burning Man every year.

Daily Photo – The Light Show in Singapore

A few times every night, there is a big laser light show that seems to please people. I’ve seen it many times and finally decided to try to get a photo of it. I think this photo is not that good, to be honest. It seems a bit banal. That’s probably my fault, as I was probably feeling a bit nihilistic when I took this.

The Light Show in Singapore

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-26 02:15:08
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/5
  • Aperture2.8
  • ISO500
  • Focal Length35.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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Shopping in Singapore

Burning Man Survival Guide

Have you read my Burning Man Survival Guide? I’m thinking of making a more blog-friendly version of it here… but I can tell that will take quite a bit of time.

Daily Photo – Shopping in Singapore

There may be something wrong with me in that I enjoy taking photos of places that people shop rather than shopping. I almost do zero shopping… I’ve turned into more and more of a minimalist. Mostly, I spend money to buy experiences and travel rather than physical goods. That’s one reason I enjoy going to Burning Man so much… it is a giant expense, but it’s always worth it… so far, I come away with great stories and a few decent photos!

Shopping in Singapore

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-03-26 00:34:14
  • CameraILCE-7RM3
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time0.3
  • Aperture5.6
  • ISO400
  • Focal Length16.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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