Until October when I begin the next photo destination series for an upcoming assignment with the National Park Service, I’ll be posting one photograph each week along with thoughts about that image, the location and why/how the photo was made. The idea for this series was recently suggested by long time blog reader Pat Bailey. Thank you for this great idea Pat. I hope it provides readers with some ideas, techniques or inspiration they can use in their photography.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
About This Photo
Established in 1936 and setting at an elevation of over 4,000 feet (1,220 m), White Sands National Monument is a vast 10 acre (4 ha) area of sweeping sand dunes located in Southern New Mexico. If you love sand, sand dunes or locations that feel “out of this world” it is a must see destination.
My purpose in photographing at White Sands was to capture an image that conveyed the dramatic colors, beauty in its simplicity, and the highly sensual shapes created by wind and light on the dunes. I know from years of photographing desert landscapes that during the moments near sunrise and sunset, the colors of sand can often turn into stunning shades of red, orange, pink and gray, especially when contrasted against a dark sky.
To photograph these dunes I arrived two hours before sunrise. A two mile drive into the park followed by a 1-mile (1.6 km) hike across isolated dunes guided only by a small flashlight brought me to this location. During that hike I had been searching for a large, gently sweeping sand dune whose highest point (normally the curved center portion) faced directly East toward the upcoming sunrise.
After a 45 minute wait in 20° F (-6.7° C) temperatures a small beam of sunlight edged over the horizon painting this dune in brilliant colors and cast shadows that revealed the textures and shapes in the sand. (Photographers call the soft light which appears around sunrise and sunset “sweet light”). After making only 5 exposures and less than one minute after I began photographing the sun had crested the horizon and the dramatic colors vanished.
[For more information on White Sands National Monument visit the National Park Service website by clicking here.]
Equipment: Nikon D2X DSLR camera and Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens