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.

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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White Sands : A Place of Being

A set of images with no words that evoke a sense of peace and admiration for the wonders of creation.

“One of those special, unique and majestic places that has been created as a sample and expression of beauty. Inspiring, sensual, magnificent exhibiting the touch of a master painter everywhere you look. To be in the Presence and surrounded by white sand as far as you can see, resounding with silence that penetrates the deepest part of being, with unending possibilities of capturing images, brands your soul forever!

Find the book here.

Learn more about Barbara Ventura here.

Contact Barabara Ventura at barbara@barbaraventura.com

Spend A Little Extra Time

November 25, 2009 | 2 Comments |

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Whenever you can, spend a little extra time before and/or after a workshop (or any business trip for that matter). You go to great places. You always want more time. You might want to see a location again. Or you might want to see a nearby location that you didn’t get to. Stimulating as groups can be, sometimes you want to work alone and at your own pace. There are so many reasons to spend a little extra time.

On the way back from my White Sands, New Mexico workshop my wife and I visited the Bosque Del Apache bird sanctuary. Every year this marsh is filled with Sand Hill Cranes, Snow Geese and countless other birds. They fill the sky at dawn. The sound of the waking birds is wonderful.

As you can tell, I’m no Arthur Morris (one of the world’s premiere bird photographers). I hear he was at the Bosque at the same time I was.

Find out about my 2010 White Sands Workshop here.
Find out about my Illuminating Creativity field workshops here.

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Photography is my favorite form of exercise. Sometimes you walk a lot. Sometimes you walk in challenging terrain. I love walking in dunes. It’s great exercise. Low impact. Lots of climbing. You lose your breath by the time you reach the top of a dune. But you’re so excited to make the next photograph, you forget about it. By the time you’re finished making the photograph, you’ve got your breath back. There must be another great picture just over the next dune. So you keep walking further. Just when you think you’re finished, you turn around and realize you get to do it all over again on the way back.

Find out about my field workshops here.

Stay tuned for more 2010 workshop dates.

soloinwhitesands

Want to feel like you have a National Park all to yourself? Join the 1% club. Rangers say less than 1% of visitors walk more than a mile. This can make a big difference when you’re photographing. For instance, when you’re photographing sand dunes, near parking lots and trail heads you’ll see more footprints than wave patterns, but one mile out, you won’t see a single footprint. So if you’re seeking solitude and pristine nature, walk a mile.

Find out about my field workshops here.

Find out about my 2010 White Sands Workshop here.


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