Favorite Places: Black Rock Desert


The Black Rock Desert is one of my favorite places to photograph. Infinite opportunties abound to explore this remote, exotic landscape. The playa , as the desert is known, lies in northwestern Nevada, about three hours north east of Truckee, and approxiamtely two hours north of Reno.

Once covered by a vast lake, the Black Rock is now a parched, vast alkaline expanse. The world land speed record was set here in 1997, when Briton Andy Green drove his vehicle ThrustSSC 763.035mph (Mach 1.016).


One of the best aspects of the playa is that every year the desert changes due to the fluctuations in weather from year to year, offering unique and changing opportunitites to photographers.

20110730_GK_BlackRockStars_MG_9544_edit3_2012 version_24x36_300_sharpened selectively

In some years, the desert is completely dry. In others, like in 2010, water stands on the surface of the playa through the spring and early summer months. These conditions can make for difficult exploration, as the wet playa is extremely impassable.


In other years, the playa is dry and the only water for hundreds of miles sits in scalding hot springs at the edges of the desert. One can only imagine what the first California empigrants thought a few hundred years ago when they came down into this arid land, thirsty and starving.



The Black Rock also plays host to the Burning Man festival. I've been going out to the desert for the last twelve years. Last year, I joined an incredible crew of people who built a replica of a 1600s-era Spanish galleon. My contribution to the project was to install a pressurized LPG flame effects system, which lit up the ship nicely at night.

Ship and pier blend_flat

The Black Rock is always fun to visit. Learn more about the Black Rock in an article I wrote for the website Unofficial Networks., or visit Friends of Black Rock. better yet, hop in the car and drive out there!