How’s your Burn?

As if by wizardry, Black Rock has sprung to life, the party’s started, and everything everywhere is going off at once.

The city is ringed in light, the art cars and blinky bikes are out in number, and everywhere you look, everyone seems to have hit the ground running.  The Center Cafe is good and crowded, the speakers and performers are going round the clock, and the yoga dancers and poi spinners are holding court in the center of the space.

Monday was a funny day, in that there seemed to be a higher-than-normal number of people wandering around the playa who looked fresh and clean. Their outfits were shiny and new, and their skin had yet to acquire a base coat of playa dust.

The hard flat playa is perfect for surfboard sailing this year.

By today, though, everyone was coated  homogeneously, and you weren’t able  to tell who’s been here for a day, a week, or a month. The temperatures were in the mid-80s (nice!), but the wind kicked up and was blowing at a steady 30 mph most of the day.

The population of the city doubled overnight, to more than 30,000, and of course there were plenty more people on their way in. By tomorrow, we’re guessing, we’ll hit an average peak population somewhere north of 50,000.

And the folks of Black Rock City went around and about, determined to make the most of these precious days. Here are a few snappies from the first full day of Burning Man 2011:

The Temple of Transition came and went from view, depending on how hard the dust was blowing.


When nighttime comes, it's time to get your face on for the evening's activities.
There was a lineup of art cars waiting to check in at the Department of Mutant Vehicles.


The fiery praying mantis is one of our favorites.


Art in the open playa is lit, the night air is beautiful, and the ring a lights around the city are glowing bright.


We love to visit the smaller art pieces that grace the playa, the ones that don't get as much attention or visitors as the giant projects. This one is called Gilnzobs, built by Zach, Capn Ron and Ryan from San Diego. It was inspired by the works of Carlos Casteneda and Daniel Pinchback.


Zach, Capn Ron and Ryan drove 11 hours from San Diego, got to the playa Monday night, and they were working on setting up their art well into the night. It was their first piece of art at Burning Man.


Sacred, another of the small-scale pieces here, is a mosaic glass and mirrors, and the artist began working on it way back in October to be ready for this year's Burn.


The Cafe decor has a chapel-like quality to it this year, all draped in white.


It might be fitting that the Cafe looks like a chapel: The cafe decor volunteer manager, Helen, is marrying her beau Ben at the Temple on Wednesday night. He built the structure that welcomes visitors to the cafe, and they took a moment for a picture together.


This is our home at Burning Man, Media Mecca.


Crimson Rose used the concentrated rays of the sun to light the fire in the central cauldron at the top of the keyhole on Rod's Road. Later in the week, the flame will be carried out to the Man on Burn night.


There are plenty of "big" pictures to take at Burning Man -- the art is inspiring, and the setting is fantastic. But it's also a great place to take pictures of the people you know best in the city. Here are Will Chase, who writes the JackRabbit Speaks newsletter, the Senator, who works in the Burning Man communications department, and Wanda Power, of Black Rock Solar.


Kate Raudenbush doesn't have art on the playa this year ("I reallllly needed to take a year off," she said), but she is active in the regionals network and was present at a mixer in Everywhere camp.


Super Minx does just about everything for the communications team, and when she's not doing that, she's helping other crews make their big art at Burning Man.


The "car-becue" was set aflame Monday night at Gigsville.


The flags at Botan's installation were flapping snappily in the strong evening breeze. It was a collaborative project that allowed dozens of camp members to design their own flags, with only the broadest design outline to guide them. Each flag was similar, but individual, too.


The "Pier" was glowing in the night, and people "fishing" from the end of it were trying to lure "fish" riding by.
The "Pier" was glowing in the night, and the people at the end of it were "fishing" for bicyclists as they passed by. Later in the week, there will be a gathering of all the nautically themed art cars at the "Pier."


Where else but Burning Man can you be bicycling peacefully along when you come upon an art car capable of shooting giant bursts of flame maybe 100 feet into the air?


The Flaming Lotus Girls' piece was fired up, getting ready to go.


As you walked around it, the colors changed and the flames cascaded around the structure.





About the author: John Curley

John Curley (that's me) has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 I spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. I loved it, and I've been doing it ever since. I was a newspaper person in a previous life, and I spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle. At the time I left, in 2007, I was the deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since then, I've turned a passion for photography into a second career. I shoot for editorial, commercial and private clients. I've also taught a little bit, including two years at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and a year at San Francisco State University. I live on the San Mateo coast, just south of San Francisco in California.

14 Comments on “How’s your Burn?

  • Katie Pants says:

    Thanks for the fantastic playa update, Mr Curley….I can smell the playa dust up my nose and feel it in my hair!

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  • Cherie Wagner Ralston says:

    dear John Curley, I have been enjoying your posts imencenly, but have been waiting and waiting for you to mention my brother, Jonboy in one of your posts. He is the owner of Fernley Electric and has been attending and working at Burning Man for around 15 years. He is the guy that wires the pyrotechnics on the Man. It would be a really great thing if you could acknowledge him and all his work (not to mention the contribution he has made over the years) Thanks, Cherie

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  • Lucky Clover says:

    Thank you for sharing! We all wish we could be there physically this year. With your updates, we are there in spirit. Blessings…

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  • John Nichol says:

    Missing the Playa dust this year and my body is telling me! will be watching and following this year from home , but am ready to be there next year! I miss my fellow Burners!

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  • Gary in Alaska says:

    Thanks for the dailies, am looking forward to the rest of the week.

    How do you keep from destroying your expensive camera gear with the dust?

    Hope to see photos of the Contradance Community Camp – a new favorite from last year.

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  • Dirt Wheel says:

    Curley, good job on you. I can feel them out there now. Fusing the fire with music and bending light shines into goodtimes. Keep making being out here, easier for not being out there. Lovin’ the pix and descips.

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  • Sptbike in Colorado says:

    WOW! Great images. I have friends and life partner out with you at Burning Man … I wish I could have attended this year. You blog is my only connection to all of the activities that I’m missing. Thanks.. and give us more…

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  • joe says:

    Sweet. Thanks for the updates and all of the very cool pics. I can live there vicariously through these reports (and the web cam) and wait for my wife to return while I’m at home with the kids.

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  • Glowqueen says:

    Can’t be there this year – so seeing the ongoing pictures is wonderful :)
    3 days and counting

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  • DaleAnne says:

    Thanks sooooo very much for the updates. My daughter is a first time burner….although she has wanted to go for years….(me too)….so you are my “window” in, and it seems alls well and wonderfully fantastically delightful…I know SHAYLA is in good hands …and home!!!….next year we go together!…again thanks

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  • jinglis says:

    Your blog gives me a sense of what my son must be experiencing and feeling. I can’t wait for him to come back and share the stories and the experience.

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  • Carla Wilson says:

    I am there in spirit, had to stay home this year, but my son is there, a virgin burner, so thank you for my window in. Looks like it hasn’t been all dust storm.

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  • chereyecons says:

    how metaphorically perfect that the “temple of transition” came and went, depending on how hard the dust was blowing…. thanks for the beautiful documentation/connection…

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  • Kay says:

    Got home from the Burn at midnight last night. Today I picked up the dogs at the kennel and started pulling dusty stuff out of the motorhome. A month or more to prep, a month or more to clean up, but SO worth it. A great Burn, mellow weather, great art and the best people in the world. Thank you so much Larry Harvey…..

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