The Blight, © Neil Girling, 1998-2019

Archive for the 'Travel' Category

First photos from Burning Man 2014 — Caravansary

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

My first batch of photos from Burning Man 2014 are online. See them here.
The Man — Burning Man 2014
The Man

The Temple of Grace — Burning Man 2014
The Temple of Grace

The Blight Tanker Bar — Burning Man 2014
The Blight Crew at the Tanker Bar

The full album is available here.

Burning Man 2013—Cargo Cult photos

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

View my Burning Man 2013—Cargo Cult photos here.

The Man Burns, Burning Man 2013
The Man burns Saturday night

Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013
Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane

The Charcade, Burning Man 2013
The Charcade from atop the Ardent Mobile Cloud Platform

Iscariot at Video Bleep, Burning Man 2013
Iscariot spins at Video Bleep—listen to his fabulous mixes on Soundcloud

The Temple of Whollyness, Burning Man 2013
The Temple of Whollyness

My Burning Man: a portrait. #notposed #postdontstop (credit: @msunsinkable)
Your Intrepid Narrator may work too hard.

View the entire gallery here.

Burning Man 2012 photos

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Burning Man 2012, Fertility 2.0

The Man burned Saturday night

The first two batches from Burning Man 2012 Fertility 2.0 are online — go see them on Flickr and Facebook.

Seven days at Occupy Wall Street

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Anonymous protestor—”I could lose my job for having a voice”

NYPD clears Washington Square Park and then pushes pedestrians down sidewalk Saturday night

An Occupy Wall Street General Assembly Sunday evening

Today marks the seventh day I’ve been at Occupy Wall Street in Zuccotti Park / Liberty Square in downtown Manhattan. I’ve got much to say—and another day to photograph—but you can see my current work up here.

Out of the frying pan

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Midway through the third week now and stronger than ever, Occupy Wall Street is beginning to finally get noticed by the mainstream media. The coverage, largely nonexistent at first, is picking up steam; Slate, the Washington Post, the LA Times, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, and even the President  has something to say about the protests.

I feel they’re missing something.

In the coverage I’ve seen, there has been little to no honest coverage of who these protestors are; there have been a few passing mentions of “anarchists,” and the usual dismissive “smelly hippies” and “kids,” but I don’t believe that’s accurate or intellectually honest. I want to show that this protest contains many employed and employable folk like you and me. The blog We are the 99 Percent has done an excellent job putting a very human face to the movement (and disenfranchised) itself, but they’re not photographs of the protestors themselves, on the streets of New York. I want to change that.

So, thanks to a very generous sponsor, I’m going to New York. He’s set up a page so that others might go, too: go donate here.

Contact me with inquires here.

On the ground in the dirt — Burning Man 2010

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

The Man and Fire Conclave burn night

We arrived Saturday afternoon under iron gray skies. It had been an effortless jaunt from Sparks; we had taken a lazy lunch in the parking lot where the weather alternated between chilly in the shadow of the clouds and blazing hot when the sun poked through. We had heard the reports: that though last week had hit 115°, this weekend promised rain, and the forbidding horizon did not dispel that fear. But we were not worried: we’re varsity. We’ve done this before.

Replicating the success of last year, we — my old friend and stalwart companion, Evan — packed little past essentials and stayed the night in a hotel in Sparks. Too tired (unmotivated?) to move our gear inside, plan “Let’s Leave it and Hope For the Best” was successful, and our pickup truck of dusty gear was unmolested in the morning. Refilling our ice chests from the free hotel ice machine, we headed to our usual supermarket to load up on water and last minute essentials (beer we had in spades; Irish cream, cup-o-noodles, eggs, cheese, crackers, some vegetables, more ice were procured) and we were off.

The Temple of Flux; us photographers all discussed how we didn’t really know how to capture it.


The now

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Double Rainbow

The weather so far has been… interesting. It’s not often freezing cold, windy and rainy during the day, oh no. Our camp is wholly setup and now that the ground has dried out I’m getting to work on bringing you pictures. Here so far you see but a teaser: come back soon for more. I’ll be posting at least once a day.

The Blight at the company picnic

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Burning Man Camp Map 2010

Ladies and gentlemen, preparations for our yearly company picnic are well underway. We have reason to believe that the above map most accurately reflects precisely where your intrepid narrator will be located on the playa this year (the X, if you will).

So, one way or another, we should be right on 3:30 between the Esplanade and Athens. Look for a row of black and white flags, and if I get my affects in order, a sign that says THE BLIGHT. See you in the dust.

PS: If you have any ideas for a photoshoot, right now would be a great time to contact me.

The Wedding, Fireworks and Tornadoes

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Simon and Julia exchange rings at their wedding in Venice. See the teaser gallery here.

Saturday morning I rose from the couch: wedding preparations were soon to descend upon the living room. It’s a hilarious contrast between men’s and women’s styles of getting ready: The women are a flurry of chaos, with mirrors, exploded makeup boxes, a surgeon’s array of tiny brushes and tweezers, all the while cooing over each other and hming and hawing and cooing and fussing. The men, on the other hand, are boring. Walking into Simon’s room, the lights are dim, one man taps quietly at a laptop, and Simon’s just trying on his coat. And that’s it.

I depart with Julia, resplendent in her cream and gold dress and brilliant one-of-a-kind custom brass laser-cut Venetian half-mask (on a short handle) and other members of the wedding party via water taxi directly to Torcello (much faster and more private than taking the Vaporetto, the public water bus). The bride’s attendents (and your intrepid narrator) ensconce themselves in a wing of the Locanda Cipriani (hangout of Hemingway) while the rest of the party arrives. Random Italians periodically pop by to take pictures of Julia: we’ve caused something of a stir. Finally, it’s time for the ceremony — game on for me.

The crowd is assembled underneath large umbrellas (so crushing the heat of the sun) on the lawn in a beautiful garden; Julia walks, alone, down the verdant green covered walkway with stately grace. Simon’s grin splits his face. The ceremony is brief, personal and sweet; Julia and Simon have asked the guests to, on their own, come up with and provide vows for them to swear to each other. As this draws to a close, Julia’s sister, Diana, is to present the rings… and they’re missing. Her husband, Todd, runs off to find them, only to return moments later empty-handed. Diana hurredly whispers “We could make a ring…” but Todd runs off again and finds them, thus averting a crises. The crisis turned out to be more of a blessing, because people then felt compelled to fill the intervening space with something… and thus provided even more vows, promises, and pieces of advice; people that would not have done so if the ceremony had run its intended course.

Then it’s my turn to be in charge and — viola — group photo. Now, drinks and service. We eventually make our way over to the two large party boats we have reserved — carrying about thirty people each (so the entirety of the wedding party and guests and a few random Italians) and we slowly make our way to the harbor in front of the St. Marcus Square, near the Salut and the Church Redentore while storm clouds move in, finally obscuring the malevolent sun. From one boat’s rooftop to another we have the bouquet toss, and the water fills more and more with a tremendously large flotilla of revelers on all matters of craft: From massive three-story yachts (one was named “Quantum of Solace.” There were *three* of these damned boats!) to a pirate ship, and even single-person inner tubes (with an outboard motor). The party continues into dusk, and the clouds have moved on letting the last rays of sunset strike us before dipping behind the churches. As a prelude to our fine firework show, lightning flickers continually and ominously in the distance (but without rain or thunder).

The fireworks display is one of the best I’ve seen, with both technical and aesthetic artistry. It also helped that we were atop the roofs of boats and could actually *see* the mortars firing and the fireworks launching into the sky. It was an unforgettable moment, and all the while an Italian bluegrass band from Trieste played on saxophone, violin, trumpet and the like, singing songs in accented English and Italian (Bella Ciao!).

After they wrapped up, one boat — the varsity partiers, mind you — went to the island of Lido, the long and straight seawall running north and south at the mouth of the harbor. At the souther end we disembarked and hauled our gear out onto the beach where a long row of bonfires were lit, revelers all about. Lightning continued to puncuate the darkness, as the half moon had set after dark but long before midnight. The air is great, and the water perfect. Twiddling one’s fingers in the sea was met with green flickers and flashes of the phosphorescent plankton. Kicking one’s foot lit the water from below with a flash; walking forward in waist deep water, you send a gentle circular ripple atop the inky-black glassily-smooth warm Venetian water, a ripple glowing green at its crest. My mind is still blown: Words cannot possibly do this wonder justice. Flashes of lightning still lit the silhouettes of the partiers from behind.

A few hours later, the wind abruptly changed: this was a sign of worse times to come. Soon the first rain drops fell, and the wind picked up and battered us with fine scouring sand. I hunkered down and kept my eyes shut (so bad was the blowing sand) until we decided to quit this place. Cut to a textbook-wrong exodus, and you have us arriving at the door to our flat the same minute as Simon and Julia–who left the beach over an hour later than us. Oh well. If that’s our only complaint from the Big Day, I’ll keep my mouth shut. (Long story short: we departed, got caught by the beginnings of thunderstorm downpour (wearing only light summer clothes, took a bus, waited forever at a packed Vaparetto station with drunk revelers (and the rain), couldn’t get on the first boat because there were so many people, ended up being on the wrong line and having to transfer, and finally walking the distance back to the flat, schlepping gear all the while).

Congratulations to Simon and Julia on their fairytale wedding: it was quite the splendid gala, one I’m sure will be spoken of for quite some time yet.

See the teaser gallery here and the rest of my Europe travels in this collection.

Praha to Venezia

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Prague Castle
Prague Castle across the river Vltava — click to see the Prague gallery

I’ve made it from Prague to Venice.

Bags packed, I took off a little after 9 Wednesday morning to get myself to Rome by air and then to Venice by rail. Turns out my flight’s delayed, now leaving by 1:30pm, and I finally arrive in Rome a bit after three; still suffering from gastro-intestinal distress and now wilting from the heat (how quickly one goes from shivering on the plane to melting in a heat wave), I didn’t make to the railway counter quickly enough. When I did, I got a reservation on the high-speed rail from Rome -> Venice, departing at 5:45pm. I asked the ticket agent (twice!) if the train was leaving right from the airport station, and he said yes. Lesson learned: double check. The train I needed was departing from Roma Termini, and all the trains from the airport go there (about a 40 minute ride). I then naively wait until 5:45 to board the train… and realize I’ve now missed my reservation.

We roll into Termini at 6:21pm in terminal 1, and I see that trains leave to Venice each hour at 45 minutes past, so the next train leaves at 6:45pm — but it’s also the last of the day. Fortunately, terminal 26 is as far away as it is possible to get from terminal 1, so I hoof it over there. I again make a naively strategic error and go to “1est” thinking it’s terminal 1 — but it turns out there is terminal 1 and terminal 1est, and 1est is out in the god damned boonies; I had actually -passed- my Venice train to get out to it. It’s now 6:41, so I turn around and literally run, backpack and camera bag and all, to catch the last train from the station. I am successful.

I do not, however, have a reservation, and the train is packed. I end up standing in the space between cars for a while, before wandering around and finding an open seat next to a well-dressed woman in her late thirties/early forties who seems none too pleased with having a traveling bum like me sitting next to her (I am admittedly disheveled at this point [and might smell]).

Risking causing further irritation to the woman next to whom I’m sitting, after a long period I ask to get my laptop from my bag (which is up in the storage rack above). Then, upon reviewing my email, I see that Julia (the bride) requested that I text her when I got on the train so that they could send someone to pick me up, but I was never able to find a prepaid phone (or wifi for Google Voice). I’m now considering what to do when I arrive in a strange town without a map long after dark. Twelve hours into my travels so far today, I do not relish the task of schlepping all my gear and finding their house. What if no one answers? Serious considerations of sleeping on the curb versus sleeping at the train station enter my mind.

In a divinely inspired moment, I open up Lightroom to poke around a bit through my Prague photos and — immediately — notice the formerly irritated woman sitting next to me taking a keen interest. I take off my headphones and she asks “did you take these?” in accented Italian. I turns out she’s a classical architecture professor at an Italian university (specializing in 17th century Baroque). We chat for a while, and I tell her I usually shoot portraits, and not buildings. Her brilliantly poetic response: “No, these are portraits of cities.” I then ask a favor: might she send a text message for me?

She gets a response 5 minutes later: “We’ll be waiting at the end of the platform.” My day is saved.

Benvenuto Venezia!