photography from the ground up

No Balloons, No Problem

The last time I was at White Sands was three years ago for the White Sands Balloon Invitational. Since then, they have been launching the balloons from a park in Alamogordo; somehow, it’s not quite the same. So, it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered that the balloons would be launching from the monument again this year.


A lone yucca at twilight in the expanse of White Sands

We arrived in Alamogordo in the late afternoon, made a quick stop at the motel, and drove to White Sands. There were storms over the San Andreas Mountains to the west and the cloud cover resulted in a soft, glowing light, as well as a dramatic sky (right up my alley!)


A lone hiker on the dunes at twilight

One of the first things I noticed about the dunes was the softness of the texture. Usually, the ripples are sharply accentuated, and side lighting makes them stand out. But, now they were softer, probably from the effects of wind and rain. The whole feel of the place was different from other times I have visited.


Near sunset on the dunes

The result was a calm and peaceful energy that found it’s way into my photographs. A distant figure walking on the dunes became a dream-like vision. The rain falling on the San Andreas Mountains twenty miles away was transformed into a sheer curtain partially obscuring the mountains. And all of it was lit by a soft, gauzy light.


Rain over the San Andreas Mountains from the dunes

As the sun began to set, the sky was ablaze, and the dunes were dressed in evening blue. it’s rare that I am so excited by a scene that I can feel my pulse quicken.


Soaptree yuccas and a stormy sunset

It was well past sunset when we had to leave for the night. But, I was quite satisfied with the images I had made, and I was looking forward to the balloons the next day.


A solitary yucca bears witness to a beautiful sunrise

The next morning, we awoke at 4:30 in order to be at the gate in time for the 5:30 opening. After driving to the parking area near the picnic areas, we set out onto the dunes to find a good spot from which to photograph the mass ascension. But the sky to the east was dark and the winds aloft delayed the 7 AM launch time. We meandered around the dune field making images and soon lost track of time. By about 9:30 we began to realize that the launch was not going to happen. It was somewhat disappointing, but we were having such a good time with our cameras, we soon got over it.


Yuccas on the dunes at White Sands

Once again, the atmospheric display made a stunning backdrop for the never-ending story playing out on the dunes. The dark sky provided a stark contrast to the white sand, and the soft glow rendered by the overcast made a fitting palette for the dunes and the soaptree yuccas.

11 responses

  1. Stunning visuals!


    October 9, 2015 at 8:00 am

  2. Beautiful shots Jim and it does look like a much softer landscape than the ones I have seen at Whites Sands. Have a great weekend


    October 9, 2015 at 8:17 am

  3. Reblogged this on O LADO ESCURO DA LUA.


    October 9, 2015 at 8:22 am

  4. Very nice photos. It´s the green plants that made me look more than once and especially the first photo is breathtaking.


    October 9, 2015 at 9:09 am

  5. Wonderful pictures.


    October 10, 2015 at 1:43 pm

  6. WOW! What a wonderful set of images. I love the warm and cool tones together.


    October 11, 2015 at 9:23 am

  7. Gorgeous!


    October 11, 2015 at 8:59 pm

  8. These are really beautiful Jim!


    October 12, 2015 at 11:48 pm

  9. Superb work!


    October 15, 2015 at 7:02 am

  10. Absolutely gorgeous! I love the warm and cool tones together. Is there a best time of the year to go to White Sands?


    November 7, 2015 at 8:38 am

    • Thanks Denise. Fall through Spring would be the best time. Summers are too hot.


      November 8, 2015 at 10:01 am

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