Posted by: kerryl29 | December 5, 2022

Return to the Desert: Dunes Finale

In the previous installment of this series detailing last winter’s trip to Vermillion Cliffs and Death Valley, I mentioned that the final morning of the trip was spent at Mesquite Flat Dunes. It would be our fourth distinct period of time in the dunes during a session in Death Valley that lasted only three full days (and bits of two others). And the final experience was, I think, by far my most productive. The first time, I made exactly one image; on the second occasion, I made a handful. The third time around, I finally started to really get a feel for the place, as I noted in the post chronicling that experience:

While I had photographed sand ripples and tiny hillocks on wide Pacific beaches on several occasions over the last decade, this trip to Death Valley marked my first opportunity to photograph full-fledged sand dunes in 15 years–since my experience at White Sands in 2007. It had taken a bit of time–not unreasonably, I suppose, given the long hiatus–to combine vision and technique into a final product that I was at least somewhat satisfied with, but after this third dunes session, I finally felt as though I was getting somewhere. This would pay off even more emphatically when we returned to Mesquite Flat one final time, the next morning.

This was that “next morning.” The conditions were, for all practical purposes, exactly the same as they had been the three previous mornings at Death Valley: clear and, excepting a stretch on the third visit to the dunes, largely windless. But having benefited from the experience of the three prior dunes sessions, I strode into the field that morning with a semblance of self-assurance. Instead of a vague expectation of groping around as the light changed by the minute, I hit the ground that day with a better sense of what I was looking for aesthetically; what I would tangibly see; and, perhaps most importantly, the confidence that I’d be able to recognize–and realize–the elements of an evocative image when I spotted them.

I’m going to post these images–and, my apologies, there are quite a few of them that I’ve chosen to include–with minimal commentary, because I would like these photographs to speak for themselves, to the extent that’s possible. I’m grouping the color images and the black and whites separately, as entirely different thought processes were running through my mind when I was producing the images intended for these different renderings. I also want to note that I relied just about equally on a lens covering wide/normal focal lengths (24-70 mm) as I did on one covering telephoto focal lengths (100-400 mm), which suggests to me that I was seeing a broad range of possibilities that morning.

Without further adieu, here are the color images I’ve chosen to include:

Earthshadow, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Earthshadow, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Morning glow, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Sunrise, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Mountain of Sand, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
The Crest, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dawn, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

And, the black and whites:

Dunes & White, Black Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Sun-Kissed Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Yin and Yang Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Concave Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Textures, Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Layers, Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
Dunes Black & White, Mesquite Flat Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California

As noted above, this was the end of the photographic part of the trip. When we were done in the dunes that morning, I began the several hour trip back to Las Vegas in preparation for a flight to Houston the following day while Jason started the long drive home to Colorado.

I may have another post or two about the trip: possibly a wrap-up of sorts, and perhaps one explaining my thinking about the color vs. black & white choices of some of the above images.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the series of posts from this trip. In the coming weeks/months I’ll go through the process of chronicling last spring’s visit to the Smokies.

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Responses

  1. My favorite is the 10th image. Otherwise, I prefer the more contrasty ones with the golden sunlight on them. Totally subjective 🙂

    • Thanks for weighing in, Andy.

      Agreed, it’s an entirely subjective matter.

  2. Especially love the color images emphasizing ripples! And the b&w images beautifully show how sensuous dune abstracts can be. Very nice work!
    Steve

    • Thanks very much, Steve!

  3. The seemingly unending photographic possibilities in the dunes make this set of images quite impressive. I am particularly drawn to “The Crest” in the color set and “Layers” in the B&W set.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  4. These images are outstanding!

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

  5. WOW! Incredible captures.

    • Thanks very much, Cindy!

  6. Beautiful colors and textures – and light. Lovely!

  7. Much adune about something worthy.

    • Shakespeare, while basking at an oasis, would be proud.

  8. […] place back in February during a trip to Vermillion Cliffs and Death Valley, an excursion which I just finished chronicling, […]


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