How To Build A Full Studio At A Music Festival

If you've ever attended a crazy big music or art festival then the thought has probably crossed your mind, "I should probably photograph these interesting characters while I'm here!" While attending the annual free expression festival Burning Man in Nevada, photographer Eric Schwabel decided to build a portable photo studio to capture dramatic portraits of everyone in attendance. His setup consisted of two strip boxes, two Profoto Pro-B2 power packs, and two Profoto Pro-7 heads. Everything was shot on a Mamiya 645 AFD with a DM28 digital back. I must say, I would be a little nervous bringing this sort of gear out to the dusty desert, but then I would have been the guy who missed out on creating such a cool project!

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ckBren's picture

Those pictures are outstanding. I can't believe anyone would take such expensive gear out there with all the dust and heat. I would worry someone would try to smoke it.

I've never attempted to shoot outdoors with 2 strip lights but now that i have seen it, i absolutely have to!

Yianni M's picture

Some very unique individuals in those photos that's for sure ;)

Martin Jensen's picture

Dame thats cool!

marvinhagemeister's picture

Really cool and unique characters there! Love the idea of taking your lights outside, although I'd be concerned about the dust. But it worked for him.

thomas's picture

Proving the point once again:
There's no point having such great gear if you aren't willing to risk it to get such wonderful and unique shots.
awesome stuff.

Dafydd Owen's picture

Very jealous - of both the kit but more-so going to burning man.
Would love to go but seem to keep leaving it to late or other such crapness - needs more planning to come from the UK.

Theo's picture

This is awesome! :)

May Tove's picture

Real cool!!!! Thank you for showing/sharing. Love the pics!

F8 Studio's picture

Right out of Mad Max. Very Cool event. How colorful...


Jill's picture

very inspirational!

Kristopher Armstead's picture

oh... he only broke one 4,000 dollar camera... not a huge loss. :-/

Will Dickerson's picture

Totally Rad !! I love all the individual personalities and stuff...

if you have the gear, use it !!!


Mike's picture

Nothing short of amazing! They are without doubt the greatest series of 'street' portraits ever shot! The rig speaks for itself - big risk big results!

EWAVE's picture

I was also at the Man last year, didn't see him though, and he did a great job at capturing some of the spirit of the Burn. He had a couple backgrounds that i just don't remember but when you have an area of about 3 miles by 1 1/2 miles there just isn't time to see it all.

He may want to rethink his rig a bit to more of a cart set up that is pulled behind him-rikshaw style-take weight off if his arms since he would just pull it along with a body harness.

As to the equipment I have started looking into a diving sealed unit to place my body and lens in since you only would need to open it to change flash cards and batteries- I have seen many a camera go dead out there even on low dust days (don't even think about the white out days).

It is fun and a photographers dream shoot location- just need to learn how to pace yourself.

Beach's picture

This really is killer.Such beautiful results. As has been said, no guts no glory. We wouldn't be sitting here saying how awesome his shots were if these were the same old pictures of people against seamless.

Mark Fore's picture

These are stunning! I wanted to bring some gear out to burning man this past year, but the way this guy rigged his set up was genius! Very cool

Luke Copping's picture

Go Eric!!

Zeke Mann's picture

The Burning Man dust photos can be pretty fun. I just posted some of mine at (Careful, a couple of the pics are not work place friendly). I used a Canon 5D Mark II with the 70-200 Canon lens and 64 gig card and I never opened it up at the event. The lens survived with no visible dust inside it. The inside of the camera was coated with a layer of incredibly fine dust. Canon flashes survived just fine, the softbox is no longer white. The Canon rebel also filled with dust. The sigma lens is also pretty dusty inside.

Donnie Bell Design's picture

Love his spirit for getting out there and committing to pulling all that off. The pics look great too.

Vitor Schietti's picture

Wow! This is awesome! I was there too, it was my first Burning Man, and I wish I had photographed more. You did a great, fantastic job! Here're my pictures, took them all in just one afternoon:

Ron Sanchez's picture

wow, i guess you see something new every day, i liked it. 

John Photo's picture

Yeah, I have spoken with a few closed acquaintances and friends of him and people at the BM community where the true story is that he made the shoots only because of his partner whom Schwabel cheated upon over and over., but paid for his career. Well covered over the web.
Very obscure past witnessed and confirmed by his circles of friends and nonfriends.
And he broke a 4000K camera? Who cares... his partner pays for them or he raises the money on kickstarter. Twelve years veteran Burner here and with the hundreds of great famous photographers present on the playa, who do a greater job than him, he is the only one that "collects" money to shoot? And brags about it so he can "pay" his rent? Come on guys! Burning Man is a community about GIVING, not taking! You raise money to build ART not to shoot. Get a life Schwabel!