White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico. Some places you connect with on the first visit. Some places take time to worm their way into your heart. Some places do both. White Sands is such a place for me.
On my first visit I was captivated. The pavement ends and your car starts to weave through the blinding white landscape where the dunes rise from the earth undulating endlessly across the expanse; this is the place that grabbed my senses and has never let go. I’ve made eight separate trips to White Sands since moving to Santa Fe five years ago, and I suspect that I’ll be back again. There’s something about walking the seemingly endless white waves, the silence that sets in once you’re out of sight and ear shot of the single road that snakes through the park, that brings time to a standstill, and as I walk further out into the expanse, I start to notice little things: a beetle crawling, a blade of yucca swinging in the wind, etching lines in the sand in smooth arcs like a windshield wiper, a single leaf blown in from afar, mouse tracks. With each visit the need to explore doesn’t dissipate, it intensifies. With each visit I wander farther, walk slower, look longer.
Last Saturday as we drove into White Sands it looked like a thunderstorm was bubbling up on the horizon. I set up my tripod and watched for a bit, locking in on the puffy cotton ball cloud straight ahead.
After awhile it looked like a big storm wasn’t going to materialize, so I ditched the tripod and put my 70-200mm zoom lens on the camera, one I hadn’t shot with at White Sands before. I spent time focusing on the soaptree yuccas, one of my favorite subjects, isolating them against the smooth dunes and cloudy sky.
The dried flower pods of the yucca always pull me in.
Then a wall of clouds started to slide across the horizon in the opposite direction, darkening the sky, and I kept working the yuccas, trying to capture the feeling of a coming storm.
Soon the storm started to build, lightning cracking in the distance, and I climbed to the top of a dune and set-up my tripod to watch the interplay of lightning and rain.
I stood there as the evening gave way to night.
Sometimes it’s the little things that pull you in. Sometimes the grand. Sometimes you just go out on the dunes and see where things take you.
If you’d like to see more of my work, my online portfolio (where my work can be purchased) is here. I post photos daily on Facebook and Google+, share my photography journey on Twitter (@KSchafferPhoto), and share iPhone pics from the road and around the house on Instagram (kschafferphoto).