This is my second year experiencing and shooting this otherworldly landscape. This pilgrimage originated as a desperate attempt to escape the surreal version of COVID-19 that only a critical care healthcare professional can bear witness to, this has now become an annual rite.
My friend, who is also a healthcare worker and photographer were returning from the Rhyolite Nevada Ghost Town. We decided to use the day’s remaining light to shoot the Mesquite Dunes. The sun sets on the dunes over a mountainous ridge line, so we had to make haste. It was immediately apparent that I would need to get as far out into the dunes as possible to get any chance at minimizing footprints in any composition.
I had spied the largest dune in the distance and intended to make way for her, but immediately realized two couples were already en route to that destination. Change of plans. I “settled” for a set of dunes to the left of my original course that would align with the W shaped peak that caught my eye. There is nothing like making a composition while running up dunes! The aforementioned couples spread out and luck had it that one couple stopped short of the large dune. The other couple made way up the dune but luck would be on my side; they stood there for perhaps a minute then immediately slid down the dune’s face. This large dune is now prominent in the foreground of my composition.
Once the composition was made, the “pressure” faded and the real gift was presented; I sat at my vantage point and absorbed it all. The silence on the dunes is unique. I can only compare it to a recording studio or other sound deadened space.
This is a land of extreme contradictions; rigid rock and shifting sands, extreme heat and cold, screaming winds and deafening silence. Helps one forget the frivolous distractions modern life regularly presents.
What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!
For me, the unique color palette of the dunes, desert mountains and sky tempered by a setting sun grab attention first. The strong diagonal lines within the dunes and mountains make the eyes explore. There is visual respite in the flats between the dunes and the mountains. I stand there when I enter the image. Metaphorically the dunes mimic the form of the mountains but lack their permanence.
If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?
Would I have done anything different with this image, given the opportunity? No. But given the vast options present at this landscape, I would have chosen a completely different access point to the dunes, obviously making a completely different composition. Next year, perhaps!
Bob Rainville shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.
Bob Rainville, Saranac, New York, USA
Equipment and settings
Nikon D850, Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 glass, ISO64, f/22, 1/8 sec., 250mm
Wine Country polarizer. Really Right Stuff tripod and panning ball head.
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