$300.00 – $1,425.00
Explore the beautiful, minimalist landscape of New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, a dramatic environment of shifting contrasts, lighting, patterns and textures with a backdrop of the rugged San Andres and Sacramento Mountains. The night sky in this part of the Southwest is one of the darkest in the nation. If you are interested in doing some astrophotography, that can be included in the schedule. In 2019, human footprints spanning from 23,000 – 21,000 years ago were discovered in the park (reported in 2021), dating human occupation of North America nearly 10,000 years earlier than thought. The footprints were discovered in multiple layers of sediment from the periodic drying of the glacial lake that once existed in the Tularosa Basin before the dunes. We’ll also have a “Pistachios and Petroglyphs” day, traveling north a few miles to tour the Heart of the Desert Pistachio farm and the Three Rivers Petroglyph site where there are 21,000 petroglyphs easily viewed and photographed from a well-established loop trail about 1 mile long.
The white gypsum dunes reflect the colors of the sky, from golden yellow, orange, and red of sunrise and sunset to the pastel pinks and blues of twilight, adding to the ethereal mood of this unique place.
115 mi2 of protected dune fields within the park is home to numerous plant, animal, and bird species, though yucca is the predominant and iconic plant of the landscape.
Our base will be in Alamogordo, about 20 minutes away from the sand. We’ll have permits to enter the park two hours before the park opens at sunrise on one morning and stay two hours after the park closes at sunset, to capture the best light at those times. The early morning and late evenings will be rain or shine unless the weather is really poor or dangerous.
Emphasis during this workshop will be your interpretation of the stark dune environment using your senses and perceptions to search for simple, elegant compositions using elements to give depth, graphical design, and abstract impressions from broad panoramics to up close macros. We’ll discuss in a group and individual one-on-one guidance about using light and shadow to create form, improving composition, setting exposure under difficult lighting conditions, abstract impressions, and sensing and perceiving the environment to help find subjects and make meaningful photographs. Each student will also receive my book The Ecology of Photography.
Arrive to Alamogordo by 5pm on the first day. We will have group introductions, orientation, and possibly an evening photo shoot on the first day. Our accommodation in Alamogordo will be determined by the number of participants. I prefer a vacation rental where we can easily socialize, fix meals, and organize. But a local hotel is also an option. You’re welcome to bring your own vehicle, but will be responsible for your own entry fees into the park if you do not have a pass. I will have a van so we can travel as a group. See below for arrangement for pickup from the airport in El Paso.
The closest airport is El Paso, TX (ELP), about 1.5 hour drive from Alamogordo. It may be possible for you to be picked up in El Paso if you coordinate with me and my arrival. Otherwise you will need to find your own way to Alamogordo. Albuquerque is another fly-in option, and is about a 3.5 hr drive. If you plan to visit other sites in central or northern New Mexico or Arizona, like Chaco Canyon, Shiprock, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, Santa Fe, etc., then Albuquerque will be a convenient gateway. Near Alamogordo are Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Roswell, and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.