If you have followed our photography travels at all, you know that the best time (and our favorite time) for landscape photography is late in the day or early morning, called the golden hours. White Sands National Monument has been on our photography bucket list for a few years, ever since we photographed our first sand dune in Death Valley. I have imagined bright white sand dunes set against cerulean skies making for striking images. I couldn’t wait to get there.

We got there late in the afternoon, just enough time to get to the dunes section of the park. The weather was quite moderate for mid-December. Everything was lining up for some perfect photography except for one thing. The skies were almost 100% cloudy, just a little blue in the horizon. Undaunted, we hiked along the Alkali Flat Trail into the heart of the sand dunes. There are virtually no visual cues, making getting lost a real possibility. Wary of where we were, we looked for compositions of sand dunes and sky. There was not much to photograph as the light was flat (due to the clouds) making it nearly impossible to see the cascading dunes in the horizon. Here is a photo I took along our hike.

Pretty shot but no contrast at all. Can imagine it hanging in a hotel room?

We kept on hiking, finally setting up on another dune. Sunset was about 30 minutes off. It was imperative that we head back while it is still light as it was easy to lose your bearings. The clouds thickened some more. Kathryn was getting nervous about the time and didn’t see anyway there would be good photo ops.  I said, “let’s just stay a little bit longer.” We have now come 180 degrees from our normal stance, a complete role reversal. Most every time she wants to stay while I want to get back for some dinner and wine. Each time I wanted to leave, she ended up being right. Some of our best photos came from those times I wanted to leave.

A few more moments passed and the distant horizon started to turn a little orange. Could there be a sunset worth shooting? I asked Kathryn what she thought. “Nope, too many clouds. Let’s get going,” is what I got back. She started to pack up.

Unfazed, I told her just one more minute and we can go. And, that minute later, the sky exploded in oranges and reds we have rarely seen. The next five minutes were a fury of action. Who cares if we get lost, we got the shot!

The first orange glow grew to this. Even if it didn’t get better (and it did), I would have been satisfied (and vindicated for staying).

En Fuego! I am so glad we stayed for this.

The tail end of sunset, lasting all of 5 minutes. I must have taken 50 photos.

I spent the rest of our trip crowing about how I was right this time (there is a first for everything). How I had White Sands figured out. Needless to say, if the hotel room had a couch, I was sleeping there. Even though I may have said too much, Kathryn was quite happy with our results. Maybe she is secretly happy we stayed.

Remember, it’s all about the light, if you are willing to wait for it.