I have been reading The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin. This books explores creativity in all forms of art. The book has some very though provoking ideas, and also reassurances that all artists like to hear. I really enjoyed the concepts about just opening yourself to creative energy, not being so focused on technique or pre-conceived agendas and concepts, and really seeing the scene with no blinders attached.
While we were in Bosque Del Apache photographing birds we heard from a number of photographers how White Sands NP had tracks everywhere, you had to walk miles to find a clean image, and it just wasn’t great. I’ve heard this a lot about different locations through the years, and in the end it is that photographer’s perception of the area…views can be very different. So one morning with our group we decided to walk down the road about 1/4 mile and explore the dunes…instead of hiking right out of the parking lot, which had tracks leading in all directions.
Within a hundred yards of the road we found an incredible untracked dune with beautiful yucca plants. Already this scene was terrific, and our workshop participants were ecstatic with the images. The beautiful ripples in the sand seemed to go on forever…wall-hanger images for sure.
But for me, on a personal level, this image was one I had shot many times in the past…a beautiful shot for sure, and an image I would take every time in the past. But thinking about my own vision and wanting to avoid ‘the familiar’, I kept walking into the dunes looking for something different. I wanted to be open to all compositions, ideas I had never really encountered before.
The sun wasn’t up, and the beautiful blues and pinks of civil twilight were stretched across the horizon. One unique aspect of White Sands is the white gypsum sand reflects the color in the sky…the sand can be purple, pink, blue, white, orange…I’ve never seen any other dunes like it. As I was walking forward staring straight ahead it suddenly dawned on me there was a small dune with a ridge right in front of me. The lower part of the dune had beautiful untracked ripples, and the sky above the dune would soon have the setting pink color of civil twilight right above it. It was like I was starting right at it, didn’t see it, and then, bam, there it was. I started buzzing with excitement, this image was unlike anything I had ever photographed in White Sands (after many trips). The pink sky framed the blue and purple shadows of the predawn light, and the delicate curved ridge crossed right through the frame pulling the image together. I let the group know they needed to hurry to catch the light, and the image above was the end result.
I would have never found or seen this image if I had worried about too many tracks in the sand and looking for specific shots. In the end I just roamed into the desert and let the composition find me. My only task was raising the camera and taking the shot…