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Having previously produced a portfolio of aerial views of dunes, I’ve been chasing dune images that are more up close and personal. Here’s a first look. There’s more to come!

Find out about my Namibia digital photography workshop here.

Find out about my digital photography and digital printing workshops here.

Arabesque I, White Sands, New Mexico, 2003

 In 2002 I went to White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. I photographed for an evening and a morning, exposing twelve rolls of film. When I returned I found two ‘keepers’ and counted myself lucky. It’s my feeling we’re lucky if one percent of the exposures we make are worth presenting.

This image was much more subtly surreal than many of my other images and didn’t fit neatly into the work I was currently developing. I found it presented a very useful creative challenge to me. Yet I was uncertain how to begin and take steps to resolve it.

I lived with the image in my dining room, looking at it both casually and seriously, several times a day for an extended time. I not only collected my own impressions but also the impressions other people share with me. It felt good when my father commented one day, “That’s a good one. You’ve managed to avoid all the west coast clichés.” But I still hadn’t found what I was looking for. Much later, my father-in-law squinted and asked, “Is that water?” Instantly I knew I had found what I was looking for. I wasn’t photographing grains of sand, I was photographing the waves that moved them.

I returned to White Sands to develop a body of work around this theme. As I moved through the dunes, I constantly returned to the word wave, asking, “How many ways can I make photographs of waves in this environment.” Photographing for the same amount of time and making the same number of exposures I found ten ‘keepers’; the clarity I had found in one word dramatically increased my productivity.

Walking out of the dunes I took shelter in the shade of a park sign that explained how “these dunes move three feet a month”. I had intuitively sensed this and it got into my work. Now my conscious mind had more information to work with and a direction to give it.

While looking at the new set of related images I quickly realized that they related both thematically and formally to another series of images – seascapes in fog, Condensation. This new body of work bridged my desert and seas work. One realization cascaded into another. Waves are a common theme that runs through a majority of my work.

This image reminds me of the power of words. When I first made it, I couldn’t put it into words. Words help me find out more about where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I want to go. Words helped me understand what I had done and what I wanted to do next. Words helped me understand my life, my work, and myself. Time and time again, I’ve found the power of words to be extremely helpful.

How many ways can putting your experiences into words help you make stronger images?

Find more related images here.

Read more The Stories Behind The Images here.

In my Death Valley digital photography workshop, Danielle Vick made a break through in her composition skills and found a whole new way of looking. Instead of looking for the next new thing, she stayed focused, went back and repeated her success, went deeper with it, and made this new way of seeing a habit, not just a one time stroke of luck. Her productivity soared. She created a small body of work of related images the following morning. She found a new confidence in her vision and her craft.

Which of your successes would it benefit you to repeat?

Read more in my creativity lessons.
Find out more about my Death Valley digital photography workshop.
Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

Paul Tornaquindici described our helicopter ride during my Namibia workshop.

“Breathtaking! Strapped into a helicopter- doors removed and hanging out the side seeing the amazing dunes of Sossusvlei from above for the first time. The helicopter moved slowly over the dunes in the morning light as we photographed the remarkable beauty.”

See his images and read more here.

I recommend you seize every opportunity to photograph a location in the air.

When you go , take two cameras with different focal lengths. Use high shutter speeds (1000 plus). Ask your pilot to circle the most interesting areas and vary altitude. If possible, go doors off to reduce reflections. If it’s not, wear a black long sleeve shirt. Keep your lens/shade out of the wind. Shoot fast. As you fly, so will time.

Photographing the Sossusvlei dune fields by helicopter was a highlight for all of us during my recent workshop in Namibia. The views were simply divine. These images are all panoramic merges. We did a full 360 degree pano from the helicopter, just for fun.

Learn more in my digital photography workshops.

Ventura_WhiteSands

Barbara Ventura shares here wonder and amazement for one of the most beautiful deserts in the world – White Sands, New Mexico – in her new book.

Find out more on my Alumni blog.

Learn more about my White Sands worshop here.


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