A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I’d be willing to go with her to White Sands National Monument to see the Sand Dunes there. I had been once before, and shot some fabulous shots of them at sunrise, the iconic strong lines of the white dunes against the blue, blue sky. I quickly jumped at the chance. This time, however, we were going to get there in time to shoot the Dunes at sunset. I purposefully capitalize the words Sand Dunes when referring to White Sands because there is nothing like them anywhere else in this country and perhaps the world. They cover almost 300 square miles, are as white as white can be and the sand is incredibly soft, unlike typical sand. When we got there and I first looked around for some great shots, I was somewhat disappointed because I wasn’t seeing the white against blue that I had expected. I guess one really sort of sees that at sunrise, because no matter how I turned, I couldn’t get that combo. But, then, I began to see the layers that really popped in the lowering light approaching sunset, and rediscovered White Sands all over again!
When I looked to the west, I could see the Dunes against the San Andres Mountains. I was struck by the layers of the Dunes and the curve the wind created. They looked like big, lazy waves in the ocean.
I decided to focus in closer on the Dunes because they looked so other-worldly. In this image, you can see the footprints of people who were out exploring on the Dunes. And, yet, there’s no other sign of them! The Dunes are so vast, people are warned to bring a compass or GPS with them as they walk out on the Dunes, as once you lose sight of your car (which doesn’t take that long), it’s easy to get turned around and end up wandering aimlessly. Hopefully, all of these folks heeded those warnings!
I just loved all the lines in this image. In the background, there are the lines of the mountains as they flow down to meet the Dunes. Then, in the foreground, there is the bold line of the ridge of the Dune closest to me. It does cut thru the image, but the line of the Dune just behind it brings your eye back into the image. The line of the Dune in the middle of the image forms a shadow that looks somewhat like the outline of a dolphin’s head as it swims in the sea of sand!
I couldn’t figure out at first what appealed to me about this scene. As I began to shoot it, things started to pop for me. I liked the 3 sets of footprints setting off on the exploration into the Dunes. They followed the line of the Dunes alongside of them, and they all seem to converge on some distant point. It’s clear they won’t go any further in the Dunes than the mountain and the sun is casting some nice shadows on the entire scene.
This scene appealed to me because the very clear footsteps seem to spring up from nowhere and disappear before they reach the top of the Dune. The explanation for this seeming mystery is the wind. The wind has already erased part of someone’s footprints, which is why you can’t count on re-tracing your steps to get out of the Dunes when you explore them. By sunrise tomorrow, all footprints will be gone, as the wind really picks up as night falls.
I love this image because it combines the vastness of the Dunes with the huge big sky we have here in New Mexico. If you look closely, you can see a few people standing atop the Dune on the left. I purposefully included them in this image to give a real sense of perspective about how large each of these Dunes can be! Isn’t Nature grand?