The Temple of Transition’s Burn

The Temple of Transition’s burn was quick and hot: by my clock it was only about 20 minutes between the structure getting lit and the rangers dropping the perimeter. It’s brevity did not detract from it’s beauty by any means as I’m sure you will agree. Much respect to the Temple crew.


About 6 minutes after the burn started giant burning ash chunks started to rain down. We moved back. There was no argument: it was really hot and the danger was clear.


Here’s a five-frame stitched panorama of the crowd gathered around the embers of the Temple of Transition:



I have lots more to post but they’ll have to wait until I get back home. It’s time to get back to camp, tear down, pack up, de-moop, de-moop, de-moop again and then get on the road for the long trip home.  You can always check my Flickr stream for all my latest posts.

About the author: Michael Holden

Michael Holden is a photographer from Seattle, WA. He has successfully avoided having a playa name for 16 years. He likes chihuahuas, sushi, fast RAM, cheap hard drives and prime lenses. Ask him anything by emailing

20 thoughts on “The Temple of Transition’s Burn

  • I missed the temple burn due to a bad fever and what turned out to be Strep throat, and yet I’m not sad at all…because it is just as much a part of me as I am of it…weird, it burned and i fevered and my burn was a total different experience and it was still good! I’m alive, and i still am a man of fire!
    With love, respect, and honor…

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  • Four years ago, I left some of my brother’s ashes at the Temple, and each year since, I’ve been moved to tears. My heart is so full of love and gratitude. I recognize my living connection with those who have gone before,and revel in the heartfelt bond, in the present moment, I enjoy with my deep peeps, the silent Burners at the Temple.
    Blessed be. Your Pal, Les, Les Moop

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  • I don’t know why I started this, or specifically when I noticed that I had adopted this self-imposed rule, but I don’t shoot the Temple burn. I capture everything else, even the Temple during the previous days.

    Shooting photos of each and every other thing on the playa: sure. Burning Temple: no.

    It seems to be some sort of mark of my respect for the Temple; perhaps just an affectation. I’ll even go so far as to shoot the my friends with the light from the Temple burn, but not the actual burning building itself.

    Weird, isn’t it.

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  • @Todd: I know what you mean. I haven’t shot the Temple burn in several years, for some difficult-to-articulate reasons. This time I wanted to capture the temple in all it’s phases…in specific, I wanted to have the same framing as one of photos I shot as it was being constructed, but on fire. Alas, it was too hot.

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  • 1st timer. the temple was my favorite. it was so beautiful on the inside and out. :3
    the burn was so magnificent!
    so calming.
    so warm.
    i felt so much emotion when i was there.

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  • Love, Honor and Gratitude to all of you from the Temple Crew…

    All we did was chuck a few nails and bolts into some bits of wood.

    The Temple of Transition was born on Monday at midnight. It was brought to life by You, the participants of BRC, our desert family. You projected your very selves onto the walls, and filled the Temple with Manifest Energy which, through liberated sharing and togetherness, elevated us and freed us all.

    The Temple grew through the week and united us all. It contained and channeled the energies of tens of thousands of us, and became a representation of every kind of thought, emotion, and idea that we possess. We bore witness to feats of courage and leaps of faith… The Temple was such a gigantic experience that it becomes difficult to contemplate in its glorious entirety.

    Then, on Sunday as we asked you to leave and set up the perimeter, like all other things in the universe must do, so began the Temple’s decay. We removed non-burnable elements of lighting and electrics, the Gamelatron and the Earth Harp, and loaded firewood into the towers, around the altars and into the rafters.

    Finally, you joined us for the Temple’s inevitable death. The fire was so hot that somewhere between 250 and 300 tons of wood came down in about twenty minutes… And almost nothing was left by morning. Anything unburnable was, basically, vapourized and sent like sparking ghosts into the night sky.

    The Temple itself is just a canvass for our own souls. We create the Temple by using it, sharing it and experiencing it. And from out of this year’s ashes will rise a new Temple in 2012… Through us, the Temple shall live again.
    The Temple itself is not sacred: WE are sacred.

    THANK YOU for being a part of the Temple alongside us. Thank you, thank you, thank you all.

    Always remember:

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  • The burn of the Temple of Transition was magical. Thank you Kiwi for such a beautiful structure and thanks to everyone for a beautiful night. – And lovely photos, too!

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  • Heart felt and soul deep. I could feel the power of love everyday I went to the temple. I let a lot of things go there and moved forward as a batter man. I could not imagine leaving prior to the Sunday burn and will always stay for it. I hope our next temple is as majestic as my first.

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  • @Todd i also cant bring myself to shoot pics of the temple burn and also the man burn. ever since my first year (2006) i have felt that i just cant take that experience away from the playa. its too magical to capture and it just feels wrong to me. Flame on )*(

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  • I had to miss BM this year because my
    Mom has terminal cancer and is in
    Hospice. My husband and daughter
    were there and my spirit was with
    them. When the temple burned
    I wept and also rejoiced with all
    out on the Playa and will be there
    next year with some token of her
    life. She will never understand why
    we go through so much trouble to
    battle and embrace all that space
    and all those people. I wish she
    could. But, I am part of her so she,
    like it or not, is part of Burning Man.
    Thank you to all who make it possible.

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  • I had a great time sitting on Kitchen Dave’s lap during the temple burn. Very great night! The temple burn was more important this year than any other year for me.

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  • Thanks to Irish and Kiwi for inviting me to create the “Crystal” that hung in the main spire. The opportunity to include my art on the Temple was as important to me as the entire 1MileClock itself. Hitting the Crystal at midnight with our “hour hand laser” while very tricky, turned out amazing and gave it the PERFECT green glow! Check out hundreds of clock project photos at – Jim bowers (1mileclock artist)

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