Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer | New Mexico Landscape Photography, Part 1: White Sands Dunes to Carlsbad Caverns

New Mexico Landscape Photography, Part 1: White Sands Dunes to Carlsbad Caverns

June 26, 2014  •  3 Comments

White Sands Soft Day Break LightWhite Sands Soft Day Break Light “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.”

White Sands Summit TreeWhite Sands Summit Tree

Morning Light, White Sands, NIKON D800E, f/18 @ 70 mm1/10ISO 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 mm1/40ISO 100

White Sands AbstractionWhite Sands Abstraction

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 mm1/20ISO 100

Carlsbad Caverns Convergence 3Carlsbad Caverns Convergence 3

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 mm1/60ISO 200Flash Guadalupe Mountain Texas - watermark copyGuadalupe Mountain Texas - watermark copyPhoto Brian Reinkensmeyer

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 mm1/90ISO 400


Marcus W. Reinkensmeyer

Related posts: Death Valley National Park, California and Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan.  


Marcus Reinkensmeyer(non-registered)
Irene and George - My sincere thanks. So far as distances, the park itself is easily accessed from the main road. We tried to drive to the about 20 minutes, to the far end of park. Once parked, we would hike 45 minutes or so into the dunes to get away from foot steps. Our most distant areas were probably about 1.5 hours of hiking from the parking area. There was lots more ground go cover, but this approach seemed to work well for us and I've found the same at the dunes in Death Valley. If you're planning this kind of hiking, you'll want to have a handheld GPS. If I can assist in any way, please just let me know. M
George Hannan(non-registered)
Found your work through the LinkedIn Group. This is fabulous photography! How far do you have to travel to reach wonderful locations like this?
LOVE this!!!
No comments posted.

Landscape photography techniques, photo expedition travel planning and hiking tips.  

January February (1) March (1) April May June (2) July (1) August September October (2) November December
January (1) February March April May June July August September October November December (1)
January February March April May June July (1) August September October November December