So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and head into the desert with 6500 other crazy cats from over 20 countries.
Visually, Tankwa town and the surrounding landscape offers some of the most spectacular and rich vistas anywhere. As a result, there is a strong likelihood that you’ll decide to bring your compact digital camera, smartphone or even your fancy new SLR camera into the Karoo.
First off, I’d like to say that the Tankwa offers some of the most surreal and spectacular photography to be had at any festival I’ve been to. My walls are rapidly filling up with memorable pictures from the 6 different burns I’ve been to. As a result of the rich variety of subjects, photographers flock to it and I’m constantly astounded at the quality of work from photographers like Simon O’Callaghan, Stu Shapiro, Jonx Pillemer, The Imagician, Sybrand Cillie and many others. If you get the chance, follow these guys on the interwebs and you’ll be gobsmacked and treated to a smorgasbord of images of top quality after the burn.
So, what will I see at the burn? Anything you could imagine into existence and more. The main subject to photograph of at the burn:
- The landscape (gorgeous)
- Artwork and mutant vehicles (bizarre and beautiful)
- People (crazy, beautiful BUT etiquette applies)
Some advice you may find VERY handy, whether or not you’re a pro or a novice photographer:
- Write your Name, Phone number and the position of your camp on a piece of paper and take a photo of it. Leave this picture on your card.
- Please ask permission before taking a photo of people in various stages of undress. People are starting to feel that cameras are always watching and this is imposing on their freedom of expression. Please be polite and it is good manners to ask permission before shoving a camera in a persons face. It’s not legally required to get permission for public events but being a “guy/girl with a camera” (GWAC) can be creepy and annoying.
- Bring a tripod. The sunsets and nighttime landscapes are magical at the burn and you’ll need to keep the camera steady.
- Take spare batteries and cards – they fill up quickly and there aren’t plug points to charge from.
- Take your camera to the actual burn of any art piece – you’d be surprised at the amount of available light and striking photos you can get. The rangers usually have a timetable with the burn schedule.
- Consider carrying around a little notepad with you to swap details with people you take photos of. It’s a great way to meet amazing people and gift them with the photo after the burn.
- Theft is a possibility in Tankwa. It doesn’t happen often and most folks are well meaning but items have been “borrowed” permanently in recent years. Find a safe spot for your equipment.
- Have a dedicated set of clean plastic bags to put your camera in back at camp to protect it from the dust. Store the bag with camera in a cool, dry place.
- Don’t store your camera on a seat, in direct sunlight. The temperatures quickly soar, the foot-wells of cars are secure and stay the coolest – cover with a jacket to insulate from heat.
- Bring a good camera bag for your treasured equipment, the Karoo sand is not kind to the lenses and mechanics of most cameras and the wind DOES kick up a lot of dust. Vacuum your bag out when you get home and toss it in the washing machine (without the camera).
- If you have an SLR camera, change lenses in a wind free, clean area like a car or a steady tent – the Karoo dust eats shutters and at R1000-R3000, they’re not cheap.
- Wet wipes are excellent for cleaning the dust from hands and cameras – make sure it doesn’t become MOOP, however.
- If you intend selling your artwork – please bear in mind that the commercial rights to the images produced at AfrikaBurn actually belong to them and you’re are expected to donate a percentage to them (they put in the slog and lived in the dust for months to make it happen, you pushed a button) so bear this in mind.
- This is probably the most important tip. Don’t forget to put down the camera and just “be” at the burn. It’s easy to get too wrapped up in the visual and photographic aspect and miss the real experience. This, I learnt the hard way.
Happy snapping, Burners and don’t forget – don’t be a GWAC. On occasion, put down the camera and get involved.
– Philip Joubert (all images Philip Joubert)