It’s hard to beat a shoot like this. And not just because I get to photograph in some distant location — I mean, that helps, a lot. But what really makes it so much more is being afforded the opportunity to collaborate with people who share a vision and don’t treat it like it’s some obligatory snapshot for some throwaway save-the-date.
I’ve been to New Mexico a handful of times — it’s such a striking place. But out of all the times I’ve visited and driven through, I’d never managed to make it to White Sands — I’m kicking myself I didn’t see it sooner. I’ve been to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, and just like Great Sand Dunes, White Sands is overwhelming. If you’ve heard about or know someone who’s been, you’ve undoubtedly heard all of the superfluous characterizations — they’re all true.
Of all the photographs I’ve seen of this place, this brilliant white sand is contrasted against endless sapphire skies. We didn’t get that. In retrospect, I’m actually happy we didn’t — I hate shooting in direct sun and I don’t feel like the second half of the photos would have been served well by harsh sun. And on the dunes, there’s zero shade — just an occasional shin-high scrub bush.
A word to those who’d seek out the White Sands — time is your only friend out there. It takes time, and lots of it to hike out past the people sliding down the dunes out to untouched sand. It takes time to find a good dune. It takes time to shoot. And it takes time to walk all the way back to the car for a wardrobe change. Then it takes time to repeat the entire process. And the entire time, you’re working against a setting sun that’s already been swallowed by clouds.
Once the sun begins to dip below the horizon, if you weren’t paying attention to the path you took to get to the dune you’re standing on, then enjoy your evening in the sand. The white dunes quickly bleed into one another as all definition of the dunes disappears the softer the light becomes — you can stare in every direction and all you’ll see is endless white. You could spend days there and still leave feeling as though you’ve missed everything.
Below are my favorite frames from our afternoon at White Sands. Thanks to Erica & Shahab for letting me tag along.