Posted by: facetothewind | September 23, 2012

In the blazing sun of White Sands

I tell ya. There’s nothing like hitting the road or rails with your new camera. Plenty of open space and time in the car to sit and fiddle with the gadget. And I do love a good gadget. So this trip was with Ning and Jinjing, my Chinese doctoral student friends. We took off for New Mexico bound for White Sands National Monument.

For photo enthusiasts, this camera I’m using is the SONY RX100. It is the compact dream camera. The New York Times calls it the best pocket camera ever made. When I heard about it, I couldn’t wait to get it.  I lost sleep over it. So this was the trip to put it to the test. Here’s what I got…

It has a feature called “Toy Camera.” I never really like these silly little effects, but this one I’ve taken to. I like the vignette look, the barrel distortion and the old film color hues it applies.

So we got to the monument and it was midday. It was inching up toward 95 degrees which for desert dwellers isn’t really considered hot. That’s the top end of warm.

HOT is was not. But blinding it was. It was unbelievably bright. I could barely see my camera’s screen. My face was stuck in the squint position. The human brain doesn’t quite know what to do with bright light coming from below. The sand is indeed pure white. It’s not beige, not off white. And there doesn’t appear to be any mixture of any dirt in it. And actually it’s not even sand — it’s finely ground gypsum crystals and so it sparkles while it blinds you from below.

I could only stand it for a short while even though I had on a hat and sunglasses. Getting blinded from both above and below is exhausting to your eyes. This didn’t seem to bother Jinjing. She took off doing cartwheels in the warm snow.

What I tried to capture in these images was the sheer intensity of the sun. I switched the camera to B&W posterization. What do you think? Here’s Ning in the parking lot which was also white…

Ning is catching the only small bit of shade cast by a park sign…

After repairing to the car several times to drink water and eat something, I took a look at some of what I was capturing. It left me jumping for joy (that is Jinjing expressing my feelings)…

We took a break from the sun back at the hotel. I crawled into bed with the AC on, the curtains drawn, and sucked down a quart of water. I slept for almost 2 hours.

We returned to the dunes around 5:15 pm. What a relief and what a change in the look of the place. The sun was now casting fabulous shadows on the dunes. The gypsum was cool and soothing on our feet.

I took off alone into the dunes in a photographic frenzy. I walked silently out into the desert like a boat on a sea of white waves. It was pure ecstasy to be barefoot in these mounds of powdered crystal. So fascinating and unique.

The 2 photos below are both using the camera’s wondrous panorama feature where you hold down the button and turn and it automatically stitches together a perfect pano for you. You’ll need to click on these 2 images to view the whole panoramic enchilada…

The sun starting going down and the sky turned a gorgeous peach-pink-baby blue. The gypsum reflected the pastel colors. It was pure heaven for photographers.

If only we could hold those gorgeous moments of our lives on pause. The air was soft and warm. The gypsum cool to the touch. Sink your feet into the sand and it was cold below the surface. The colors were unbelievable. Alas, the sun set too fast on this peak experience.

But then… nature gave us a small gift for waiting.

The beauty of the moon hanging over a fading sherbet sky and a sugar-coated landscape…

And the day was complete.

* * *

Here’s a little video of my barefoot weekend in the sparkling white gypsum dunes of White Sands National Monument. All video and stills shot on the new SONY RX100…



  1. Holy shit. Otherworldly.

  2. Very nice pictures and videos 🙂 I like the story with photos and the way you tell it. We are thinking about buying the same camera.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: