Tag Archives: New Mexico

Wonderful White Sands

Just where does the time go? I simply can’t believe a month has gone by since I last posted on here – mind you we have had the snow and I’ve been to Scotland, Greece and as for catching up with last years processing…..

That said one of the most memorable places I managed to spend a short time at during a trip to New Mexico which was principally focussed on Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes, was White Sands National Monument: an extraordinary and quite unique desert landscape to the west of Alamogordo that I had long wanted to visit and top of my pile as I endeavour to catch up.

WS1

This dune field is one of the largest in the United States covering nearly three hundred square miles but is truly unique in that it instead of the more normal quartz based sands it is composed solely of gypsum, a different texture altogether and pure white in appearance.  Dissolved gypsum from the mountain ranges either side of the Tularosa basin where the dunes are is carried into the occasionally present Lake Lucero which is dry during the summer months each year.  The gypsum crystalises in the dry lakebed and strong winds blow them into the wonderful expanse of dunes that make up the area.

WS2

The wind plays a key role in shaping and changing not just the dune field as a whole but creating the lovely ripples and patterns that make it so photogenic: I’ve seen it described as the wind made visible which is a great concept.

Add in some of the plant life such as these soaptree yuccas that are surprisingly frequent here especially as you head to the fringes of the main dune area and you have even more photographic subject matter to work with.

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During the heart of the day when the sun is high there’s a harshness to the dunes that their inherent brightness exaggerates but enter the last hour of the day and the light that looks to tie plant and dune together has the warmth that really adds another element again.

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I can’t resist silhouettes as well so this particular plant just had to be photographed from the other direction too – taking great care not to add my size 10 footprints into the sand on the way round!

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Throughout the trip we were blessed with some amazing sunrises and sunsets – New Mexico is always good for these at this time of year in my experience but this week was exceptional.  White Sands is still an area for regular missile testing by the US military and a mere 60 miles or so from the famous Trinity site where the first atomic bombs were tested during the second world war but the peace and tranquility of the place as the chilly night air started to fall but the colours started to rise couldn’t have offered more of a contrast

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All that remained as the final colours faded was a subtle shift in white balance to accentuate the cooling that was happening.

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A bewitching location that absolutely lived up to my expectations photographically and one I certainly hope will be able to offer even more files to my processing pile in the future too!

Bosque Dawn

I’m just back from another enjoyable week in New Mexico, principally spent at the fantastic reserve that is Bosque del Apache.

Hopefully I’ll get to process some images in the run-up to the seasons festivities but here’s a brief time-lapse that gives a bit of a flavour (minus the noise) of watching the 50,000+ Snow Geese and some of the 10,000+ Sandhill Cranes as the day begins.

Simply Snow Geese

The festive season is over, the weather till seems grey, dull and uninspiring but there’s yet another eye-catching BBC Nature series that I have started to tune into in the form of Earthflight.

Last weeks opening episode was set in North America and among the species that they followed in flight, with some dramatic small cameras attached to the birds backs as they headed north across the continent, were Snow Geese.

For the last couple of winters I too have spent some time in their company at one of their regular wintering stopover locations at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico.

Although they are joined here in large numbers by the languid and elegant Sandhill Cranes, it’s the 30,000+ snow geese that for me sum up the place.  To stand and watch them feed (honking incessantly in the process), to spend time trying to follow individual birds in to land as they join their fellows and to see the whole group simply blast off when a coyote or Harrier comes too close and spooks them is among my favourite ways to pass a cold clear winters day that this part of the States specialises in.

Add in some early morning or evening colour to give you the chance for some silhouettes too and there’s another raft of photographic opportunity.

And it goes even further when you start to play around with slower shutter speeds too as the creative possibilities are almost endless with a subject like this.

Part of the lesson for me from working with these birds is that it can really pay sometimes to spend a concentrated period of time working with one species in one location and looking to push the boundaries in the process of trying to build up a rounded and varied portfolio of them: it can be much more rewarding than chasing for new things all of the time.

As for Earthflight – well after exploring Africa this week it’e here to Europe next time round and it’ll be the turn of Barnacle Geese to take over from their Snow relatives.  As for me: well I’ll be with the Barnacles up on the Solway estuary instead and relying on Sky+ once again!