White Sands

I finally made it to White Sands National Monument in Alamagordo, New Mexico, thanks to two photography friends who invited me to visit. Both men had taken my Nikonians photo workshop in Acadia National Park, Maine last year and we hit it off immediately. That resulted in a series of regular emails and eventually to my flying to New Mexico to check off another item on my photography bucket list.

The first two days of my four-day visit was devoted primarily to archaeology as Dave and Michael, two experienced archaeologists, toured us around excavations of the Pueblo Indians, the first settlers in the area, and the sites of their Spanish conquerors. I have to admit that as a novelist of Ancient Egypt I was enthralled by the back stories that these men were able to tell.

On the second morning we woke up at 4:00 AM to be at White Sands in plenty of time for sunrise. It was a cold morning, with howling winds. As the sun rose, I was ready to nail some exquisite shots when, wouldn’t you know it, my camera had what I thought was a malfunction and I was not able to do the shoot. To say I was bummed is an understatement. As it turned out I later determined that I had malfunctioned, as I had changed a setting on my Hasselblad and had forgotten to reset it prior to the shoot. Damn!

Once the sun rose, we hiked over the dunes back to the car and retrieved my Nikon gear and off we went again, hiking up and down to capture some early morning images. By then the sun had risen enough to eliminate the shadows that I wanted to bring some contrast into the images. But, things like that happen sometimes with nature photography. There is always next time.

A few observations, though: one can only marvel at life’s abundance on our precious planet, spinning in this dark, cold universe. Plants take hold wherever they can, bugs and lizards somehow find the food they need to survive. Thousands of oryks, introduced decades ago into the environment, somehow eke out an existence.

Here is an image of a tree sending roots into the sands to hold it and provide the plant with support amidst the ever-shifting dunes.

One thing to note is that the White Sands are not really sand at all. They are actually made up entirely of gypsum, a much finer substance than sand. I can’t wait to get back and photograph it both at sunrise and sunset.

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