We’ve been here before. The first time nearly killed me (see Sand Dunes of Death Valley). This time we were determined to get there early so we could take our time traversing the dunes.  As always, we wanted to improve on our previous photos. We got there early and hiked into the dunes to a crest where we could photograph near and far. Shooting for two hours should be plenty of time to get a new masterpiece.

Fast-forward to today. The trip is over and it is time to review my images and write a blog about the experience. And, to tell you how great my new photos are. Except…

I’m not sure these photos are any better than the ones I took 18 months ago. Actually, they are eerily similar. Have I not improved? Has my vision stagnated? I guess my new camera does not mean I get improved photos. This seams unfair to me. Spending more money and get instant improvement always worked in the past.

Maybe I was too careful.  On the dune, I was so sure that I was taking better photos. During each shot, I was careful about my composition, trying to have a strong foreground element and all that kind of stuff. Once I liked the composition, I was oh so diligent about the light, making sure I captured it in a way to enhance the colors. Where did I go wrong? Why are they not better than before?

Maybe I “thought” myself into a corner, not letting the creative juices flow. Or, maybe I’m like the athlete that hangs on too long when it is plainly obvious he/she should have retired. Am I at this point?

I’ll show you some shots for you to judge. 

There is a foreground (shrub), mid-ground (dunes), and a background (mountains and clouds). All the elements are there. (Nikon D850, f11, 1/80”, ISO 64, 80mm). Photograph by Jeff Dannay.

Interesting dunes, rugged mountains and clouds in the sky. Why do I not love this one? (Nikon D850, f11, 1/50”, ISO 64, 280mm). Photograph by Jeff Dannay.

The following photo I took during our last visit. Please compare and contrast to the two photos just above. Is there any improvement?

Does this image look similar to the two above? Have I made any advancements?

I took the photo below to give the viewer perspective – just how big are these dunes?

A lone photographer on the crest of a dune (not me since I took this picture). (Nikon D850, f11, 1/13”, ISO 64, 150mm). Photograph by Jeff Dannay.

What do you think? Should I hang up the cleats?

I’ve thought about all of this this long enough. There is a simple explanation. The dunes did not cooperate. It was the dunes’ fault. That’s it! I feel much better now.

Thanks for reading and remember, it’s all about the light!


Jeff, carefully setting up the shot. [photo by Kathryn]