Saturday, March 29, 2014

Black and White Images from the White Sands

On the last few days of January, I drove down to the White Sands National Monument to meet up with photography buddies Dan Orcutt, Dave Peterman, Bill Wallace, Dick Negaard, and Steve Wapon. I already posted some images from this trip on Facebook, flickr, Google+ as well as on this blog, but I have not shown everything as this place is crazy and magical and there are too many keepers. So bare with me as I slowly make my way through. I shot a total of 521 raw images and undoubtedly would have shot more if my original plan to spend the night on the sand hadn't been scuttled by the schedule of the nearby missile range. They shoot actual rockets over the sand dunes and the monument is sometimes closed due to this for overnight camping. If one goes astray, you don't want to be there. Also, even if there is no missile test, it opens way too late for sunrise shooting, so you really want to camp in the back country camping for sunrise shooting. We'll do that next time. Luckily, another morning, Dave had arranged for the rangers to let us in before sunrise (which they do at a price ;-) ). However, the missile range at the last moment decided to do some tests that morning, making it impossible to get in to the main dune areas. The Monument, feeling bad about it, was nice enough to let us enter a corner of the park where missile danger was low so that we could experience the sunrise anyway. Here is an example image from that morning. More on that later I am sure.

This post will focus on the black and white images I created in this place. There are quite a few. Especially during the day (i.e. not near sunrise or sunset), there are lots of compositions that lend themselves very well to black and white. These images will be mostly in chronological order. Clicking on the image will bring them up much larger and you can get prints from the links too.

Surviving on the sand must not be an easy task
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 17mm, f/22, 1/20s, ISO100, handheld
I really liked the wispy texture in the sand here and the glow near the plant.

Dune ridgeline
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO100, handheld
The dunes are rife with compositions such as this. In the top left, you can see the little stick that is the subject of the next image.

Point break
defect in the sand
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/22, 1/80s, ISO100, handheld

Still life on the White Sand Dunes
Nikon D600, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 at 70mm, f/8.0, 1/500s, ISO 100, handheld
I loved the juxtaposition of the shapes in the twig with the waves in the sand.

The reveal
The reveal
Nikon D600, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 at 200mm, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 100, handheld
telephoto lenses are nice to compress the perspective. Those mountains are quite far away in reality.

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/16, 1/160s, ISO 100, handheld
Life must be hard for plants on the gypsum dunes.

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 80mm, f/11, 1/160s, ISO 100, handheld
In the inter dune areas, one finds these intriguing ridges that look to be formed by water flow and evaporation. I've seen few pictures of this but they offer many opportunities for interesting compositions. More views of these ridges below.

How many grains?
How many grains?
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100, handheld
Classical ripple composition. I use this one as background on my twitter feed.

Turning a corner
Sand patterns and sunset glow
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/16, 1/50s, ISO 100, handheld
It is getting close to golden hour here and the sand is taking up a gorgeous iridescence. This will be especially clear if you are viewing this on a retina (HiDPI) screen. My blog is smart enough to serve you high resolution images on those.

White Sands January 2014
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/16, 1/60s, ISO 100, handheld
A little later some wispy clouds moved in that reminded me of a bird. This is the same ridge as the image immediately above.

Snake and Bird

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 44mm, f/16, 1/60s, ISO 100, handheld
This is the same cloud and I composed it with an interesting sand structure that looked like a snake to form a mythological image. Appropriate for the southwest I think.

Dreams of faraway shores

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100, handheld
These are the ridges one finds in the inter dune areas. They are just fascinating and give many opportunities for leading lines.

Sleeping bird

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100, handheld
This of course is a horizontal version of the previous image. The dune reminded me of a (cartoonish) bird.

This really was just a subsection of all the black and whites I created, but these are my favorites. I hope you enjoyed them. Also see the entire White Sands gallery at smugmug, on Facebook, on Google+, and black and whites at flickr,


  1. Love the waves within waves multiple frequencies in the first shot :-)

    1. Thanks! That is my favorite because of the same reason.

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  3. Black and wihte photos are suitable to show the scenery here, they look like sketch. Very nice photos!

  4. This is outstanding work Jao. Makes me want to jump into my RV and drive for 3 days to get back to white sands!