On a recent trip to New Mexico I photographed White Sands National Park, the largest natural gypsum dune field on Earth. The "sand" at White Sands isn't yellow or orange as you more commonly see, but rather gleaming white. When the sun descends and the sky turns deep blue and purple, the dunes reflect those hues and glow. In a word, they're magical.
White Sands can be a physically demanding landscape to photograph, for the best, most pristine dunes are at least two miles from the main road; away from the families and tourists who come to sled, play and picnic. Hiking through gypsum can be slow and hot when the sun is high and the weather is warm. There's also little-to-no shade to cool off.
But once the sun drops low on the horizon, the temperature drops, and the light begins to soften, White Sands is absolute bliss. Minimalist, landscape photography heaven. A rolling sea of white.
I've published a full article about visiting and photographing White Sands, including tips for what to pack (and most importantly what not pack), when to shoot, how to work around the park's opening closing times, and what to look for compositionally when photographing sand dunes.
Check out the video to see what my experience was like, plus a few of the images I created while there.
Special thanks to Glass for sponsoring this video. Glass is a photo sharing community where photography comes first. No ads, no algorithms — just great images. Download a free trial of Glass, then use this link to get $10 off an annual subscription.
Sneak peak: Bisti Badlands
Following White Sands, I traveled to northern New Mexico to photograph the Bisti / De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area. I've photographed desert hoodoos in Utah and Arizona, but these were darker and more surreal. Something about their aesthetic reminds me of surrealist Swiss artist H.R. Giger (who designed the world of Ridley Scott's Alien franchise, including the creature itself). One of those places where you literally feel like you're walking on a distant planet.
My next video will share the experience of photographing this area, plus a few of my favorite images. Stay tuned.
Favorite things this week
• Wonderful article about the art of deliberate imperfection I discovered while doing research on Navajo culture (because much of northern New Mexico is tribal land). Navajo rug weavers deliberately add mistakes "to remind themselves that flaws are an integral part of being human." Beautiful way of thinking about the creative process and the dangers of pursuing perfection.
• Podcasts helped me get through long car rides in New Mexico. On one drive I listened to this incredible conversation about the concerning (and growing) power of social media with author Max Fisher. Yes, this video is two hours of two people talking, but it is easily the most thorough and thought provoking critique of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and social media networks I've heard. Will absolutely be buying Fisher's new book.
• I know some Game of Thrones fans may be disappointed with the comparatively subdued House of Dragon, but I'm very much enjoying the new HBO series. Less bloodshed and gratuitous torture, more dysfunctional family melodrama. It's basically a prime time soap opera with dragons and bad wigs, which I'm totally down for.
• Angel Olsen's Big Time was good hiking music while in New Mexico. Fitting soundtrack for the wide open spaces of the American west.
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