I created the video “WE ARE MIDBURN” because I have always been fascinated by the culture and the people that belong to the Burning Man community. Midburn is a regional Burning man event held over for a period of 5 days in the Israeli desert. After buying my tickets to the most recent MidBurn this past June, I knew that I had to capture the magic of it all on camera. Despite the enchantment of the event, I knew filming it would bring along its share of challenges.
Initially it seemed like the main challenge I would face would be receiving the cooperation of the participants. Cameras are a touchy subject at Burning Man because people are expressing themselves freely. It is not uncommon to see people walking around in their birthday suit, dressed as the opposite sex, or in any type attire they would prefer people in the default world not see them wearing. Having permission to film someone is imperative before putting them in the frame so I knew I needed to be extremely respectful in the way I was going to use my camera. I always made sure to ask for permission, and always played them back the footage I took, ensuring their consent.
However, it wasn’t the approval of the participants, the boiling desert heat, the weight of my gear, or the great distances I had to walk each day that made this project difficult. The problem was much smaller than that. It was dust. With thousands of burners walking, stomping and dancing all over the desert floor, the ground turned into powder causing the dust to fly everywhere, including every crevice of my equipment. By the second day of filming the 5 day event, I truly didn’t expect my Canon 6D to survive the harsh conditions and with each day the ground grew softer and the dust grew worse and worse. This is probably the worst thing your camera could go through.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare your camera for a dusty environment
Want your camera to survive the dusty weather?
- Well, first and foremost, get Ziploc bags. Yeah, those sandwich bags your mom used to send you to school with. Ziploc bags will be very handy making sure no stray dust gets inside your gear, well, at least when it is not being used.
- DO NOT, I repeat, do NOT! Switch lenses unless you are inside your tent or an enclosed area with all the entrances tightly zipped. Dust can, and will get on your sensor. Usually a thorough clean at your local camera doctor will get rid of any pesky dust particles (will touch this later).
- UV filters are a must! If you don’t have one, just don’t bring your camera. It will be your main defense against any dust or debris flying in the wind.
- Get a dust blower, a brush, and a cloth. Make sure to give a good blow every once in awhile. Not only on the lens itself, but also on the camera’s body too. Use the cloth only in your tent and after a good use of the blower and brush. You might have a grain of sand on your filter, and using that cloth before blowing it away might scrape the glass.
- Try and stick to handheld filming. Equipment wise, try to be as minimal as possible, anything you will bring has a pretty high chance of getting ruined by the dust. I did manage to save my monopod; but sadly, some parts in my steadicam will need to be replaced because it now jams rather than turns and swivels due to sand and dust stuck in the inner parts.
- It might be a good idea to check on your sensor every day for any dust particles that might be on it. To do so, set you camera on manual focus (focus on infinite) and set your mode dial to aperture priority. Set your camera’s ISO as low as possible (make sure auto ISO is off). Set the aperture on the highest value. If you are outside, point your camera to the sky and take a picture, check your photo on your camera’s LCD screen, and zoom in and start scanning for any dust specks. Obviously you can avoid dust altogether by not changing lenses in the field.
- After you’re back home, make sure to get that camera to the lab near you to have your sensor checked and thoroughly cleaned. When you collect the camera, it would be advised to take a test shot before leaving the shop just to be sure