A One Man Mobile Studio At Burning Man

When acclaimed studio photographer Eric Schwabel goes to Burning Man he doesn’t leave his passion behind. In 2010 he took a clever hand built “light suit” to the massive festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert and captured the plethora of beautiful, colorful revelers in engaging detail. Below we catch up with Schwabel for an exclusive interview about his experiences on the dusty playa.


For more on the Burning Man festival see burningman.com (be sure to check out their Survival Guide). See more of Eric Schwabel’s portraits, including many famous individuals, at schwabelstudio.com. The photo above was taken by Sidney Erthal

If you like Burning Man, make sure to check out the photography of Scott London.

How heavy was your human light suit and was it hard to steer? Did you run over any small children?
That thing could turn on a dime — just no sudden movements. You definitely needed to know where you were going. I ran into one person, who then let met take his photograph, and I ran over one child, yes, but he was my assistant and it was all OK.

The suit gives your images an almost in-studio lighting effect. Did you do any post production to get the look you wanted?
Other than color balance and desaturation on the closeups, those images have not been touched up. My goal has always been to get things done in-camera. The goal of this setup, aside from being fun, was to have enough power to bring the sky down to a deep blue. I actually needed (wanted) more power. I’m doing it again this year with more power, and more people, the helpers will be the lights this year. The new project is up at http://kck.st/ljXumT

Back when you were planning this escapade we turned you on to another friend of Visual News, Mike Hedge, for advise on keeping your camera snappy on the dusty playa. What was his best tip?
I was so worried about dust, he put my mind to ease on that issue. In general put my mind at ease about if it was doable.

What was the response like from the people you photographed?
People were ecstatic, it was amazing. I think it helped that the get-up looked so weird and bulky. When I got back, a few of them wanted prints of their shots, and I was happy to oblige.

That’s a lot of lights. How did you power the suit?
The 2 lights are the same brand I use in the studio. I used Profoto B2 battery-powered packs and Pro-7 heads. Basically studio strobes but on a battery pack. The battery pack was connected by thick cables to a bike trailer that my boyfriend was peddling.

The picture below was taken by Paige Tucker.

Remember to visit Eric’s KickStarter.

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