Outdoor/Landscape Photography

White Sands National Monument

Dune Shadows in Black and White

I have entered the twilight of my journey, and to be honest I am looking forward to taking some time to do things other than photography.  Before this trip I believed I could photograph ad infinitum as long as I had interesting subjects in front of me, but I feel as though I need a break, both mentally and physically.  That’s not to say I have not thoroughly enjoyed my trip, I definitely have.  I may have not gotten all the images that I believed I could get, but I also think that I bit off more than I could chew attempting to see so much in such a short amount of time.  Not to worry, I have new found knowledge of these places that will allow me to better photograph them in the future should I return.

Now onto my photography.  Yesterday was a long, long, scenic and long day or driving.  I started off in Telluride, which I have mentioned is one amazing place that everyone should visit.  The day previous I had planned to go to Mesa Verde National Park to see the thousand year old Native American ruins.  But due to last minute change of plans I decided I would head up the Million Dollar highway to Telluride, and I do not regret that decision one bit.  So on my way down to New Mexico I made it a point to stop at Mesa Verde for a little while just to take a look.  Mesa Verde is definitely a place that should not be seen quickly, it is spread over a very large area with many interesting cliff dwellings throughout.  I spent about an hour in the park, went to see some ruins, and got to climb down into one of the Kiva’s (a room used for religious practices – something that anyone in my family has heard lots about).  It was quite cramped, yet was also peaceful when the other tourists left.

Heading out of Colorado and into New Mexico, I had my sights set on Alamogordo, not too far from the Mexico border, where I would base myself to hit White Sands National Monument.  It was quite a longgggggg drive, but I got in just after dark, passing the site of the World’s first atomic bomb explosion on the way.  The next morning I woke up at the usual 6 AM to get over the the park well before sunrise at 7 AM to scout out locations, but when I get to the entrace…the gate was locked!  Sign said “Park Opens 7 AM.”  Damn!  So I wait, and wait…finally 6:45 a lady shows up to unlock the gate and lets me through.  Never being here before, coupled with the very little time I had to find a good location was a recipe for bad photography.  I got out of my car and ran into the dunes, and what I found was dune after dune covered in footprints…not a good sign.  Nothing is more unappealing then a well-trodden sand dune.  I finally walked far enough to find some dunes that were footprint-free and got a few shots…one in particular that I really liked.  I really liked the contrast of the dark blue shadows with the bright white sand.

Wave of Sand

After taking a look at my mornings shots I found this one that I shot of the shadows cast over a dune and something clicked in my head…this one looked familiar.  Then I remembered the first shots I took on this trip at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the shape is what reminded me of it.  I guess this trip is coming full circle, huh?  Or maybe I’ve been away too long and I’m seeing something thats not there. You decide.

Dune

Arch

So after the shoot, I headed back for a nice free hot breakfast at the motel, with a few cups of much needed coffee.  I remembered there was a Wal-Mart in town and since I have been away from most major cities for a while I had been looking for one, for a specific reason.  I have become sick of my satellite radio playing the same songs over and over again.  I needed to pick up a few CD’s, in particular…Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Anthology.  Believe me, there is nothing better than blasting some Tom Petty out on the open road.

Now that I am thoroughly off topic, at the beginning of the trip, my brother had asked me to pick him up some chili peppers, so through a friends advice I decided I’d take a drive out to Hatch, NM, the Chili Pepper Capital of the World.  As you pull off the highway, the road into Hatch is littered with little shacks that fire-roast their Hatch Chili’s to order.  I ended up going into one of the stores and buying up all types of Chili products.  After filling up the car with my Chili’s I headed into town to get one of my favorite foods, Chili Verde.  In Hatch, even the gas station serves awesome Chili Verde.

I headed back to Alamogordo to rest up then head back out for the late day sun to cast some shadows over the dunes once again.  I finally got around to buying new batteries for my Medium format film camera because I wanted to try it out.  I would have done so sooner if it were not for the fact that the viewfinder is busted so I would basically be shooting blind.  I was not about to let that ruin the fun though.  I headed out into the dunes with just the film camera loaded with one roll, figuring I wouldn’t go far and be back pretty quickly.  I had yet again forgot that you can’t find a clean sand dune unless you walk pretty far off the path.  I ended up walking for about twenty minutes before I took my first shot and by the time I had finished the roll it was getting pretty late in the day so I had to hoof it back to the car to reload and bring out my D700 too.  Once I got back and reloaded I set out again, walking as briskly as I possibly could to get back to some clean dunes.  By that time I had become pretty fed up seeing so many interesting dune formations ruined by foot prints and sled marks.  I ended up getting a few decent shots anyways, but I was expecting a bit more.  The sun slowly set as I scrambled to find any excuse to photograph a dune in the interesting light and came up empty.  I walked back to the car mentally and physically drained…mostly from the constant walking over sand, which is one hell of a workout.

Dune Forms

Luckily…and I mean this with a bit of sarcasm, the White Sands Missile Range will be having Missile tests tomorrow morning and the monument will be closed til 10 AM.  That means a nice day to sleep in, get a good breakfast in and then probably head back up towards Santa Fe, where I’ll be staying Friday and Saturday.  On the way, I hope to hit Truth or Consequences, NM for no other reason than to say that I’ve been there.  Then further north I plan on going to the VLA (Very Large Array) Telescope.  It may not sound familiar, but I am sure you have seen it before.  It is a large grouping of Satellite dishes, featured in the movie Contact.

I do not know where I will end up tomorrow, but I do know is it is one step closer to coming home.

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