I have seen sand dunes before. I even walked on sand dunes before. That was years ago on Cape Cod. After our photo shoot tonight, I now know that the Cape Cod dunes are kiddy dunes. I was ill-prepared for the grown-up dunes of Death Valley.
They lure you in to a fall sense of security, We just wanted to walk a bit to get to some fresh dunes (without a lot of foot tracks). Off we went, each carrying a heavy camera, heavy lens and heavy tripod. We trudged through soft sand to the base of the first dune. Going around is not really an option as these dunes were huge, making us late for our appointment with a pristine dune at sunset. So, up we went, 150 feet high with soft sand. Let me reiterate – 150 feet up in very soft sand. When we reached the top, we were huffing and puffing big time. At least we can start shooting.
Not exactly. Our destination looked no closer. We easily made it to the bottom (gravity helps), and started walking to the next dune. It looked like when we made it to the top of the next one, we can start shooting. After another tough slog up the dune, stopping many times to locate some air, we finally crested. Ugh, we are still far from our destination dune.
Disheartened, we tackled the next one and got the same result – still too far way. What do they say about doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result?
Five dunes later we finally got there. Actually, we did not, but we the sun was setting and we were running out of climbing time. So we decided we were close enough. Balanced on the crest of a tall dune, we set up our tripods and cameras and began to shoot. We must have been in an optimal spot because other photographers soon joined us for the shoot. Maybe they were as bewildered as us but decided misery loves company.
Getting back was a bit easier. This time we had the good fortune of following someone who knew where they were going, traversing the dunes in a way that minimized the uphills. We were almost done with mile slog back when we came across some cool, craggly trees with wonderful alpenglow in the background.
Drenched with sweat we hustled our way to the lodge for a shower and to prepare for our sunrise shoot the next morning. Exhausted, we feel it was worth it as we really like the photos we took. Do you agree?
Remember, it’s all about the light. It can even make a Chevy Impala look great!