Wonderful White Sands

Just where does the time go? I simply can’t believe a month has gone by since I last posted on here – mind you we have had the snow and I’ve been to Scotland, Greece and as for catching up with last years processing…..

That said one of the most memorable places I managed to spend a short time at during a trip to New Mexico which was principally focussed on Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes, was White Sands National Monument: an extraordinary and quite unique desert landscape to the west of Alamogordo that I had long wanted to visit and top of my pile as I endeavour to catch up.


This dune field is one of the largest in the United States covering nearly three hundred square miles but is truly unique in that it instead of the more normal quartz based sands it is composed solely of gypsum, a different texture altogether and pure white in appearance.  Dissolved gypsum from the mountain ranges either side of the Tularosa basin where the dunes are is carried into the occasionally present Lake Lucero which is dry during the summer months each year.  The gypsum crystalises in the dry lakebed and strong winds blow them into the wonderful expanse of dunes that make up the area.


The wind plays a key role in shaping and changing not just the dune field as a whole but creating the lovely ripples and patterns that make it so photogenic: I’ve seen it described as the wind made visible which is a great concept.

Add in some of the plant life such as these soaptree yuccas that are surprisingly frequent here especially as you head to the fringes of the main dune area and you have even more photographic subject matter to work with.


During the heart of the day when the sun is high there’s a harshness to the dunes that their inherent brightness exaggerates but enter the last hour of the day and the light that looks to tie plant and dune together has the warmth that really adds another element again.


I can’t resist silhouettes as well so this particular plant just had to be photographed from the other direction too – taking great care not to add my size 10 footprints into the sand on the way round!


Throughout the trip we were blessed with some amazing sunrises and sunsets – New Mexico is always good for these at this time of year in my experience but this week was exceptional.  White Sands is still an area for regular missile testing by the US military and a mere 60 miles or so from the famous Trinity site where the first atomic bombs were tested during the second world war but the peace and tranquility of the place as the chilly night air started to fall but the colours started to rise couldn’t have offered more of a contrast


All that remained as the final colours faded was a subtle shift in white balance to accentuate the cooling that was happening.



A bewitching location that absolutely lived up to my expectations photographically and one I certainly hope will be able to offer even more files to my processing pile in the future too!

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