Lines in the Sand

I made another short trip to Death Valley National Park in late January. On my first day, I headed into the dunes late in the day to capture the shadows and glow on the dunes. As I hiked in, I observed a couple climbing the tallest of the dunes, extending some already existing tracks to the top. As I wandered the dunes, they left and I observed another two people approaching the dunes. Eventually I wandering into the vicinity of these two guys, who were setting up a tent.

I spoke with them and asked if they were photographing the dunes and about following in other’s footprints so we don’t make new ones. They told me of a place they were thinking of for sunset photos. I did the same. We all liked the idea of climbing one of the large dunes for sunset. After I left them I realized there were footprints going up TWO large dunes. I knew about the 2nd set of prints because I watched those others earlier. So they followed footprints to the top of one dune and I followed footprints to the top of another. When they got up and saw where I was, they politely asked if they were in my photo. I said no problem, but thought darn, yes, but I’ll just go with it. I am glad I did and really like the scale and perspective they add to the photo.

Top of the Dunes
Photographer’s Sandbox – If you click to enlarge and zoom in to the bottom, slightly to the right, you might see two photographers on the ridge of one of the smallest dunes.

The following morning I headed back to the dunes shortly after sunrise. It was about a mile walk across the open desert to get to there. I had no plan except that I hoped to find shadows and shapes to photograph. To my surprise, while I was still a half mile away, I noticed the sun highlighting select ridges. I put on my 100-400mm lens and starting composing!

Confluence (Prints Available)
Convergence (Prints Available)

I read an article by an outstanding photographer, Michael Bollino, in which he defines “found” photographs, where you have no concept ahead of time of what you will photograph. In my first “Top of the Dunes” photo I had pre-conceived ideas from a previous trip. I knew the set of dunes I wanted as my subject and I knew they catch the last rays of the sun. In addition, I had seen photos of others with a viewpoint from below. I checked out the scene, but seeing footprints, I choose to climb the dune. At this point I started exploring compositions. In the “Confluence” and “Convergence” photos, the compositions were a result of being there, being open, and finding something totally unexpectedly. When I set off that morning, my expectations were so low, I almost didn’t go. These turned out to be my favorites of this trip. Pre-conceived ideas often bring me to a location, but once there, I like to allow myself to explore and see with every step. It’s a balancing act.

Dunality
Abstract of Dunality

Later in the morning, I noticed the two hikers from the previous day, hiking out below the dunes.

The next day I found another scene of distant mountains while approaching the dunes.

Sunrise Ridges (Prints Available)

As the morning hours passed, I wandered around the base of the tall dunes marveling at the plants that survive this harsh climate.

Survivors

To see more from this collection of images, click here.

Death Valley Dunes

I spent a few days in Death Valley National Park in mid-January. I saw a high wind forecast and jumped at the chance to be on the dunes. Unfortunately the wind was minimal. But I ran into a friend on the dunes and adjusted my plans. He suggested some places that I hadn’t been before.

Double Dunes (Prints Available)
Triangles

It usually takes a few visits to a place to get a sense of the landscape and how the light reacts. This was taken on my first visit to the location of the dunes pictured below. The sun had already set on the dunes where I was standing, but cast its last rays on the distant dunes. I had to react quickly.

Gently Glowing

Well, not all dunes. One morning I drove to this sunrise viewpoint.

Desert Sunrise
Photographer on Dunes

To see more from this trip, click here.