“It is not a country of light on things. It is a country of things in light.” - Painter Georgia O’Keefe (1887 – 1986), commenting on the State of New Mexico.
Most every landscape photographer has a “bucket” list of scenic locations; places ripe with photo opportunities in the mind’s eye. For many years, White Sands National Monument has remained at the top of my ambitious list. Yet, I was somehow hesitant to invest the necessary time and energy into a White Sands trip, mistakenly thinking that it might not be worthwhile to visit this single location “just to shoot some dunes.”
Morning Light, White Sands, NIKON D800E, f/18 @ 70 mm, 1/10, ISO 200
Having just returned from a whirlwind trek to the White Sands dunes and other “nearby” scenic areas, I am most grateful for the incredible experience, a better understanding of this vast Southwest region and a batch of fresh photos.
In planning for the trip to White Sands, my brother, Brian Reinkensmeyer, and I charted visits to a number of other locations ideally suited for hiking and field photography: Carlsbad Caverns, historic petroglyphs at Three Rivers, lava beds at Valley of the Fires and Guadalupe National Park (Texas). All total, we drove approximately 1,500 miles over a five day period, starting our trip in Phoenix, Arizona.
Winter Dune Trees, White Sands, NIKON D800E, f/20 @ 55 mm, 1/40, ISO 100
To maximize our time photography, we scheduled much of the longer drives in the evening hours:
Day 1: Drive from Phoenix to hotel in Alamogordo, NM.
Day 2: Early morning photography at Three Rivers Petroglyphs (north of Tularosa) and the lava beds at Valley of the Fires recreation area, Carrizozo; Meeting with park rangers at White Sands to arrange and pay for off hours passes; Sunset photography at White Sands.
Day 3: Sunrise photography at White Sands, photography of dilapidated buildings in Alamogordo, sunset photography at White Sands; drive to Carlsbad Caverns (161 miles)
Summit Sand Ripples, White Sands, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D800E, f/22 @ 70 mm, 1/20, ISO 100
Day 4: Guided tour and self guided photography tour at Carlsbad Caverns; sunset photography of El Capitan at Guadalupe Mountains National Park (elevation: 8,749 feet) and the nearby salt flats; drive back to Alamogordo.
Day 5: Sunset photography at White Sands; drive back to Phoenix for mini family reunion dinner.
Convergence, Carlsbad Cavern, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D800E, f/8 @ 35 mm, 1/60, ISO 200, Flash
Our trip planning was guided by Laurent Martres’ Photographing the Southwest, Volume 2, an excellent resource for both hiking and photography in Arizona and New Mexico.
Experiencing the grandeur and solitude of Southern New Mexico has only prompted us to add a few more of this state's destinations to the ever growing bucket list.
El Capitan, Guadalupe Mountains, Texas, NIKON CORPORATION NIKON D800, f/4 @ 38 mm, 1/90, ISO 400
Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer
Landscape photography techniques, photo expedition travel planning and hiking tips.