Sunset at White Sands National Monument. A lone yucca silhouetted against the darkening sky with the San Andres Mountains in the background. This is the last image I made on my last trip to White Sands. Soon afterward, the light was gone, and I began the walk back to my car.
The white sand that makes up the dunes is actually gypsum crystals that are left when gypsum is eroded from the nearby San Andres Mountains. Over millions of years the dunes have grown into a moving ecosystem–the more active dunes can advance more than 30 feet per year! Plant and animal life must be able to adapt to this movement or perish.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 17–35 mm f 2.8 zoom lens, Bogen tripod.
Camera Settings: f 20, 1/25th sec., ISO 250
Processing: Contrast, clarity, vibrance, and saturation adjustments in Adobe Lightroom, curves adjustment, and RAW conversion in Photoshop.
I recently decided to go through my archives to see if I could find any images I had missed that might be worth printing. I don’t know why I passed this one up in the initial edit, but I’m glad I went back for another look; this is not the first time I have found a gem amongst the chaff of forgotten (digital) negatives. This photo was made two years ago; there are close to four hundred images in that folder, so maybe I was slightly delirious the first time I saw it.
I made eight exposures of these two cranes silhouetted against the evening sky, and this is the one where it all came together. Except for the lead bird’s beak, open in a raucous cry celebrating…the joy of flight?, or maybe just a full belly after feeding all day in the farm fields at the north end of the refuge; they are frozen, almost perfectly synchronous, in their return to their watery roost. Peter Matthiessen was right when he referred to cranes as the “Birds of Heaven”.
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 300 mm f 4 lens.
Settings: ISO 320, f 9 @ 1/400 sec.
Processing: Contrast, clarity, and vibrance adjustments in Lightroom, curves and saturation adjustments in Photoshop.
Cranes are perennially monogamous, meaning that they keep the same mate for their entire lives. I caught this pair in a tender moment as the sun was setting at Bosque del Apache NWR last year.
A year later, and, once again, I am preparing to make my annual journey to the Bosque. In doing so, I find myself wondering if this pair will be there, or if they might have met some terrible fate during their migration, or even worse perhaps, if only one of them has survived. I recently watched a documentary movie titled “Winged Migration”. It is a beautifully photographed movie about migrating birds, and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about these wonderful creatures. But, I digress!
Equipment: Nikon D200, Nikon 300 mm f 4 lens
Processing: Contrast, vibrance, clarity, and saturation adjustments in Lightroom, curves adjustment in Photoshop
White Sands Sunset
This is the last image I made at White Sands on my last trip. The sun was barely above the horizon, and the soft golden light enveloped me in a wave of anticipation. The low angle of the setting sun gave the ripples on the dune a palpable texture.
I think this image does a good job of communicating the fickle nature of the dunes, and the uncertain fate of the life that exists there. One yucca is partially covered by the advancing dune, and another is completely buried except for the dead stalk of it’s blossoms. The exaggerated ripples across the face of the sand suggests the constant movement that is the essence of the dunes.
This photo was made on my last trip to White Sands in May. I arrived about two hours before sunset, and was disappointed; I had thought I would find flowering yuccas everywhere, but found mostly dead stalks from last year’s blossoms.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, the side lighting began to bring out the texture and ripples on the dunes. I was driving along not far from the entrance when I spotted this dune. The wind was lifting sand from the crest, and the lighting was perfect, so I parked and grabbed my camera and tripod. I culled this image from about twenty exposures I made, and made curves, vibrance, clarity, and saturation adjustments in Lightroom and Photoshop.
In all, I managed to get eight “keepers” from a little over two hours of shooting which is a pretty good haul considering the fact that I began the evening in a snit because mother nature hadn’t cooperated in meeting my expectations. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
It’s almost that time of year again. Thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Canada and Snow Geese, ducks, herons, and other assorted waterfowl will be making their annual migration to Bosque del Apache NWR. Coincidentally, thousands of non-winged visitors of the species homo sapiens will also be making their annual pilgrimage to the Bosque. They will be represented by several sub species: tourists, photographers, and bird watchers to name but a few.
I must admit that I will be among the throng. This will be my fourth year, and as the time draws near, I find myself anticipating the trip, visualizing all the photo opportunities that that will present themselves to my lens. So, just to remind myself what’s in store for me, and to show you if you’ve never made the journey, here is an image I made last year of Sandhill Cranes gathering at sunset in the lagoon.
De Na Zin Sunset
This photograph was made in the De Na Zin Wilderness, which is located northeast of the Bisti Badlands in northwestern New Mexico. We had stumbled around for several hours thinking that we were in the Bisti (our actual destination) when we came upon this small hill. The sun was low, and the light was sweet. I made quite a few exposures (I love digital!). This is the one I finally settled on, but the flat, cloudless sky really bothered me, so I just let it simmer for a few days.
When I came back to try to finalize the image, I was on the verge of giving up on it when I decided to try something a little different (at least for me). I usually try to keep my photos pretty much the way I capture them with not a lot of post processing beyond a curves adjustment, and maybe tweaking the exposure and saturation a little, but with this one I decided to desaturate just the sky–I had seen this technique used by a friend of mine, Ted Greer on a photo he made at Taos Pueblo with pretty impressive results–and I like the resulting image much better.