Originally held in 1986 at San Francisco’s Baker Beach, the week-long Burning Man Festival now takes place in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. The festival is a week-long event that starts on the last Monday in August, and ends on the first Monday in September. Up to 68,000 people from around the world gather at the festival and spend a week in the remote desert isolated from the outside world.
The festival gets its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy, which is set ablaze on Saturday evening. The event is considered an experiment in self-expression, art, and self-reliance. It’s become a gathering for hippies, artists, musicians and dancers who can for a week explore artistic expression. Money is never exchanged at the event, instead the participants gift each other to get what they need. The main attractions of Burning Man include massive art installations, all-night dance parties, marathon kite-flying sessions, unconventional fashion shows, and classes where festival goers can learn things like Hula Hooping.
They head off one week later, having left no mark whatsoever and wait for the next Burning Man.
Son Doong Cave the world’s largest, is located in Vietnam. It was originally found by a local man who discovered the entrance in 1991. He was afraid of the 300 foot drop and the roar that came from below. For 18 more years, it stayed unexplored until it was re-discovered in 2009 by British cave explorers. The name Son Doong means “mountain river”. The cave was created 2-5 million years ago by a river whose source is still unknown. The cave is so big it contains a jungle and you could fit a 40 story building inside.
Where the limestone was weak, the ceiling collapsed creating huge skylights. Thousands of “cave pearls” sit untouched in Son Doong. These were formed over hundreds of years when dripping water created layers of calcite that build up around grains of sand.
Vietnam has a very difficult terrain, and the cave is far out of the way. It’s totally covered in jungle, and you can’t locate anything on Google Earth. A team from the British Cave Research Association, who first explored Son Doong, will be returning to find out more of the cave’s mysteries.
A tour company called Oxalis, is running trial tours of the cave and accepting sign-ups for real six-day tours to take place next year. Ropes and harness are needed to get inside Son Doong, and any visitors will need to rappel 260 feet to reach the cave floor. Tourists will explore the cavern by day and sleep on the cave’s sandy beaches at night.
Artist Ed Fairburn has some very odd habits. Once as a bored 15-year-old, during a long school break, he glued a stamp on a slice of toast and mailed it as a postcard. Since then, he has used the postal system as an alternative gallery space, although his talents have outgrown the mailbox. His most current work has him bringing new life to a series of maps. Fairburn seems to prefer the kind of art that’s easy to fold away, possibly because it makes them easier to put into a mailbox.
Ed Fairburn is a Welsh artist, who has the ability to combine the geography of facial features with the geography of the earth. Combining the two has a completely natural feel. built and natural echo the human form. Like a sculptor, Fairburn uses patterns to cut away unnecessary details showing form in a new way.
Today we’re living in a new age of map making, with interactive, electronic mapping technology that gives us real time detail. But it is nice to be reminded that, despite the benefits of this Google-era reality, maps can speak to more than how to get from one place to another.
This surreal-looking ice cave is located on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia. With very little snow, and a hot summer huge snow melts occured. As a result, a passage was formed in the snow was leading to the cave formed underneath.
At the entrance, the ceiling is thin enough for light to break through giving unique effects. The colored lights aren’t a computer trick, but are the result of sunlight streaming through the ice into the hidden world below. When you get further away from the entrance, the arch of the cave becomes thicker, and less sunlight comes through it, but you can still see unreal spans of form and color.
The snow caves of were formed by hot springs flowing from a volcano. The Kamchatka Peninsula, in the far east of Russia, is a region of extraordinary natural beauty with large symmetrical volcanoes, lakes, raging rivers and breathtaking coastline.
(photos by Denis Budko, Marc Szeglat, Michael Zelensky and xflo:w)
You might not see it right away, but is this really a frog, or something more? The brightly colored image is actually five naked women decorated by body painter Johannes Stoetter to look like a tree frog. With the models perfectly positioned it’s hard to see where there is a separation of their bodies.
Stoetter, started body painting in the year 2000, creating scenes turning human models into objects found in the natural world, including rocks, trees and animals. The artist is a fine-art body painter from Italy who uses his talent of blending his subjects into their surroundings so well that they disappear.
These works of art, which can take eight hours to complete, have earned Stoetter the world body painting title.
The Indian bullfrog is known for its large size, up to 6 inches in length, and dramatic coloring. It’s found in the wetlands of South and South East Asia and inhabits holes and bushes near permanent bodies of water.
During most of the season, both sexes are olive-green in color. Once the mating season comes around, the males skin turns bright yellow and their vocal sacs turn bright blue. Breeding takes place during the monsoon season and large numbers of eggs are laid in pools. There is a high mortality rate among tadpoles mostly from other predators.
When they are frightened they jump over the surface of the water in much the same way as they would over land. Normally a nocturnal creature, the diet of an Indian Bullfrog consists of insects, small animals and small birds.
Located in a French farming village, The Oak of Allouville-Bellfose is one of the biggest and oldest trees of France. In it are built two small chapels one above the other. Together with the large wooden staircase leading up to the chapels it is one of the most unusual Roman Catholic sanctuaries in Europe.
In the 1600s, the tree was stuck by lightning that burnt the tree right through its center and hollowed out the trunk. Instead of dying, the tree started to sprout new leaves. The tree’s miraculous survival drew the attention of the local Abbot, who determined that the lighting striking and hollowing the tree had happened for a holy purpose. So they built a shrine to the Virgin Mary directly into the hollow of the tree. Later another small chapel and a stair case climbing the outside of the tree was added. The chapels were named Notre Dame de la Paix (“Our Lady of Peace”) and the Chambre de l’Ermite (“Hermit’s room”).
During the French revolution, the tree became an emblem of the old system of tyranny. A crowd descended upon the village, intent on burning the tree to the ground. When a quick thinking local renamed the tree the “temple of reason” saving it from fire.
Today the common oak is showing signs of age and stress. Now held up by poles, part of the 33-foot trunk has died and the majority of the tree has been covered over with wooden shingles where the bark has fallen away.
Boston based artist Corey Corcoran forgoes paper or canvas for a less traditional medium, instead drawing inspiration from nature and organic forms. The artist works with the natural textures on the surface of the conk mushroom to create beautiful images populated with carefully depicted plant life, insects and animals.
Corcoran’s etchings are intricately detailed and lightly engraved into the underside of the mushroom. His work seems to be caught in the middle of an engrossing narrative, a story unfolding. Also, Corcoran doesn’t forget the natural character of his medium when determining the content of each piece.
Every fall, Christmas Island is overcome by a red wave of migrating crustaceans, on a mad dash from the forest to the sea. Terrestrial crabs that are unique to this area, their offspring must be born in the ocean or they will not survive. As soon as the humidity is just right, around October or November, they swarm the island.
The locals are protective of their sideways-scuttling neighbors, and are careful to minimize driving, hang “Crabs Crossing” signs on the roads, and watch their feet during the migration, but a few million become casualties every year to vehicles, other animals, and clumsy tourists not accustomed to carefully watching their steps. Once they reach the ocean and go about their business, they return to the forest, first the males, then the females, exhausted and spent, to wait for their offspring to return.
A few weeks later, the hatchlings have grown into their land legs, and it’s time for them to journey across the island to their woodland home. With 100,000 hatchlings per female, the magnitude is hard to imagine as they wash back across the roads and buildings like a sea of red spiders, swarming over everything in their path. The islanders do their best to help them along , but it’s a losing battle. There is nothing to do but work around them as much as possible, and try to ignore the invasion.
To be able to see this you have to hurry, because of the accidental introduction of the aggressive “yellow crazy ant” the numbers of the red crabs are declining at an alarming rate. The highly invasive insect has wreaked havoc on the ecology of the island, their excretion is poisoning the crabs as well as several other species unique to Christmas Island. Over a quarter of the red crab population has been wiped out so far, and the crabs now face extinction.
Land artist Michael Grab creates astonishing towers and orbs of balanced rocks using little more than patience and an astonishing sense of balance. Grab says the art of stone balancing has been practiced by various cultures around the world for centuries and that he personally finds the process of balancing to be therapeutic and meditative.
Over the past few years of practicing rock balance, simple curiosity has evolved into therapeutic ritual, ultimately nurturing meditative presence, mental well-being, and artistry of design. Alongside the art, setting rocks into balance has also become a way of showing appreciation, offering thanksgiving, and inducing meditation. Through manipulation of gravitational threads, the ancient stones become a poetic dance of form and energy, birth and death, perfection and imperfection.
Almost all of the works you see here were completed this fall in locations around Boulder, Colorado. You can see much more in his portfolio as well as several videos of him working over on YouTube.