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  1. #1

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    Advise for shooting Sand Dunes? (Whites Sands, New Mexico)

    I am taking my 8x10 camera over to White Sands, Sand Dunes in New Mexico in just a few weeks. Does anyone have any special tips to give me. I will be shooting 8x10, Black and white film. Under expose, over expose? Red, yellow, orange filter?

    Thanks so much!

    Ryan McIntosh

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by RyanMcIntoshPhoto
    Under expose, over expose?
    Expose just enough!

    Actually, everything written about metering/expsoure for snow or other sandy locations applies to White Sands. So just read up some.

    Enjoy it there, it's a really neat place.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Keyes
    Expose just enough!

    Actually, everything written about metering/expsoure for snow or other sandy locations applies to White Sands. So just read up some.

    Enjoy it there, it's a really neat place.
    That is what I figured, expose like you are photographing in snow. I have had lots of experience photographing snow, so I think I should be fine with that.

    I remember reading something by Adams and his first attempt to photograph sand dunes, and he thought that using a red filter would get those deep shadows and strong contrast...but he ended up getting mud! Weston then told him to use a yellow filter, with no filter factor...and it worked out perfect. Maybe I will give that a try.

  4. #4
    Loose Gravel's Avatar
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    Lucky. I've been wanting to go for years and can't seem to get there.

    Expose the film and not yourself. Wear a big hat. Oh ... you're fromTucson ... I don't have to tell you.
    Watch for Loose Gravel

  5. #5
    Mongo's Avatar
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    Even though you're from Tuscon, remember that a little extra care should be taken at White Sands if you're there on a sunny day. The sand reflects an amazing amount of light back up from below, and you can easily get overheated even if you shade your face from above with a hat brim. (Take it from someone who spent a lot of weekends there during his college years.) If you'll be there during the day, take more water than you think you need.

    You might want to grab three frisbee-type toys for use under your tripod feet. Depending on the weather and wind conditions in the days before you get there, the top couple of inches of the sand can be soft in some places. The frisbees will allow you to set up your tripod without having it sink too far into the sand.

    As always when you're around sand, beware of the wind if there is any. The gypsum sand at White Sands has an amazing way of getting into just about everything. Thankfully it's softer than most sand, but you should still plan on spending the evening cleaning out your gear when you're done.

    If you can make the arrangements ahead of time, it's worth paying the fee to have a park ranger meet you there an hour before sunrise so you can get in and get set up before the sun comes up. Very early morning at White Sands is a spectacular time, with the long shadows adding texture to everything.

    Also, depending on what type of photographs you're looking for, you might want to stay closer to the edge of the park rather than travel into the depths of it. The edge of the park has a lot of plant (and animal) life; go in a few miles and all you'll have are endless dunes. The dunes shift too much for plants to get much of a foothold, so the dunes are very bare deep in the park. Depending on what you're looking for, you can find two very different landscapes in the park.

    Best of luck with your shoot. I wish I'd been a large format photographer back in the '70s when I was living in Las Cruces.

    Be well.
    Dave
    Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.

  6. #6
    Wally H's Avatar
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    It has been a couple of years since I was there, but I remember it being some distance from lodging, etc. It can also be closed with and without prior notice due to military activities. When I was there the current Gestapo were particulary sensitive to "commercial" photography of any kind, (especially nude work or even working with models), and a tripod was one of the deciding factors.
    Regards,

    Wally

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  7. #7
    david b's Avatar
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    I was there 3 weeks ago. Freak rain storm flooded everything.

    But the last 2 days have seen 100+ degrees.

    Expect it to be hot and possibly windy. Take a poncho or other material that can protect the camera.

    And for god's sake, if it's blowing, keep the camera in the car. The sand will get into EVERYTHING.

    Good luck.

  8. #8

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    I've only been there twice. I remember the sand as being very firm, unlike Great Sand Dunes in Colorado where I sank to my ankles with every step (pant, pant). It's also a good idea to be aware of which direction you are walking because there's not a lot of landmarks to keep you from getting lost.

  9. #9
    Mongo's Avatar
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    The firmness of the sand will be determined by the weather in the days leading up to your time there. If it's not rained in a while, the sand can be very soft and your feet will sink into it as you climb the dunes...and your tripod will sink as well. If there's been rain in the last 24-48 hours, depending on the temperature, the dunes can be almost solid.
    Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.



 

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