Dunes

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As a photographer and a bit of a lover of all things minimal, sand dunes have a special attraction for me. Never mind that walking across sand and up dunes is immensely hard work. I’m talking about the look of the thing.
It’s all reduced to a few simple elements; lines, light and shadow. That’s all you have to play with. No details, no features, no people, no exploding dinosaurs. Nothing of any significant interest except the form of the thing. ‘Make a great picture out of that,’ it challenges.

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Now, while I like shooting at any time of day, dunes are one of those places where low light does make a significant difference. Let me show you what I mean. The next picture below was taken before the sun peaked over the horizon. There was daylight, clearly but you could not see the sun itself.

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It’s a nice study in shape and form but when the sun hits…

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Well, the first thing you notice is something I cannot show you. It’s a sound. For about 10-20 seconds when the sun hits the sand there’s a strange sizzling or hissing noise. It gave me goosebumps. The sand looks as if it lights it up from the inside (some geologist out there can probably tell me why, something to do with the relationship between sand and glass, I’m sure). It glows a rich, golden colour and for an hour or so, while it’s still low in the sky, you get the amazing contrast between light and shade that challenges the photographer to look for creative composition.

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There was an old woman who lived in a shoe… well, I thought it looked like a shoe.

There were other photographers out shooting, too, as you can see. there was even some poor model dragged out onto the dunes for some fashion shoot. I like this shot of her because it looks like she is walking across the top of a giant shoe.
I spoke to another photographer out there who was bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t enough wind the previous evening to erase the footprints from the previous day. I see his point completely but then you’ve seen millions of photographs with clear, untouched sands. It’s a challenge to incorporate these markings. If you took a photo of a face with scars on it, you wouldn’t moan that they were there or edit them out. They are part of the character. Or maybe that’s just me?

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There’s another thing, too. The shots below are more abstract, focusing on individual shapes within the dunes rather than presenting you with a clear picture of a sand dune. On some of them, the light is odd and some areas look blurred or out of focus. This isn’t the case. On all these shots, I’ve used a long exposure and what you perceive as blurred is, in fact, the wind moving the sand. In the areas where there are deep shadows, the grains of sand play with the light, refracting it to give the odd-looking, silver grey sections in the shadows.
To my eye, some of these close-ups could almost be the contours of a human body. The sand is sensuous when looked at in a certain way. That’s why photographers like it. Or maybe that’s just me again?

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Please leave a message below if you liked the shots. Next, it’s Vegas, baby!

Take a look at more of my work at www.billblack.co.uk