Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sand blowing off a dune

with 28 comments

Sand Blowing Off Dune 9392

Of course the main thing that drew me back to Monahans Sandhills State Park on the morning of April 13th was the dunes. At first the air was still, but it didn’t take long for the wind to pick up. I hoped the blowing sand wouldn’t get into my equipment (luckily it didn’t, but I didn’t dare change lenses) as I worked to get pictures that would capture the sense of the wind and the sand’s movement.

The typical “ripples” that you see on a sand dune come about through a geological process called saltation, which has nothing to do with salt, and which you can read a short explanation of on a page from the Great Sand Dunes website. If you’d like to know more about the word saltation itself, you can check out yesterday’s post on my language blog.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2014 at 6:02 AM

28 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Beautifully serene and thought provoking.


    May 12, 2014 at 6:06 AM

    • Thanks, Sally. The result may look serene, but I was working hard to move around on the dunes to compose pictures while trying to keep blowing sand out of my face.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2014 at 6:57 AM

  2. Nice shot … did you worry about sand and dust getting into your equipment? Also … I had no idea the language blog existed? Perhaps I simply don’t pay attention. D

    Pairodox Farm

    May 12, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    • Worry I did indeed. I was on the dunes with my camera bag and my usual three lenses (another was back in the car), but once the wind started blowing sand around I wouldn’t have dared to change lenses out there. As things turned out, the more than 4X range of the 24–105mm lens I’d put on the camera before starting out that morning gave me all the flexibility I needed to frame parts of the dunes the way I wanted. The previous afternoon, when the wind was also blowing, I had to go back to my car and go inside it with the doors closed to change lenses.

      The language blog precedes this photographic one by more than half a year. This one predominates now, but I still post to the other one a little more than once a week on average.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2014 at 7:07 AM

  3. Well, two of the many things I learned today….the meaning of saltation and that you have another blog.


    May 12, 2014 at 6:18 AM

    • Isn’t learning fun? Yes, I also have a language blog, which I started more than half a year before this one. This photographic one predominates now, but I still average a little better than once a week on the other. My interest in language goes back to my teenage years; I became interested in photography and got my first “real” camera in my early 20s.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2014 at 7:11 AM

      • Indeed, learning is fun. I have learned in my life that sand whipped up by the wind on a NZ beach stings your legs; sand whipped up in the Sahara strips the paint off your car. Both unpleasant, although, fortunately, in the latter situation it was not my car.


        May 12, 2014 at 8:25 AM

        • Maybe someone should do (or has already done) a photographic essay on cars of the Sahara. From what you say, they would have some interesting textures.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 12, 2014 at 8:42 AM

          • Perhaps they have, or will, but, in the meantime, this made me smile http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maserati_Khamsin


            May 13, 2014 at 5:05 AM

            • I could use the good reverse visibility of the Maserati Khamsin. Most cars today (at least in the United States) are styled upward in the back and therefore have poor to terrible visibility out the back. Form is supposed to follow function.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 13, 2014 at 5:56 AM

              • Not just in the US. My car (Toyota) has terrible visibility out the back. To compensate, some new car models now have rear view cameras……..more gadgets to distract and confuse.


                May 13, 2014 at 6:15 AM

  4. Of course, your picture makes me think of ‘angle of repose’. Did you know for dry sand it is 34˚?

    Jim in IA

    May 12, 2014 at 7:05 AM

  5. Very neat shot!


    May 12, 2014 at 11:21 AM

  6. Perfect shot of the wind and sand blowing in the hills of those dunes. Loved it. It looks like a painting.


    May 12, 2014 at 11:35 AM

    • Thanks. I was pleased to get the results shown here and in other pictures. I took a bunch because I wasn’t sure how they’d come out; this was my first experience trying to record sand blowing on dunes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 12, 2014 at 11:39 AM

      • It’s difficult to capture movement without it being blurry, but you did. Well done.


        May 12, 2014 at 11:41 AM

        • In looking at the metadata just now I saw that I used a shutter speed of 1/250, slower than I would have thought based on the results. I’m glad it worked out well.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 12, 2014 at 11:54 AM

  7. There’s something so other-worldly about this photograph, that plane of sand on the left doesn’t seem as if it could exist in the real world. Great shot!

    Susan Scheid

    May 13, 2014 at 8:25 PM

    • Thank you. I was really happy to get this picture. The other-worldliness of the light-colored sand reminds me of the years when I worked in infrared.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 13, 2014 at 9:57 PM

  8. Maybe the Texas camel corps would have worked out better if they’d taken up residence in that part of the state.

    The photo is just terrific. I know some people who’ve experienced sand-blasted cars up in the Panhandle, and this photo would send them and their cars scurrying for the garage. One of them is in his seventies now, and he still dusts his house compulsively. The battle against the dust and sand in his childhood was never-ending.

    I mentioned on Jim’s blog that our bush pilot in Liberia loved to teach about the oddities of flying there. One was that, after over twenty-five years, he’d learned to associate the color of the sand and grit coating the plane during certain seasons with its place of origin. There was gray, yellow, red, and pinkish dust. During the dry season, some was local, but when the harmattan winds were blowing, some came from the Sahara, off dunes that looked just like these.


    May 16, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    • I can see where this would have been appropriate terrain for camels. What I can say is that my camera and I made it our terrain for a little while.

      What you say about the different kinds of sand reminds me of how some forensic criminologists work now, paying attention to just the sort of thing you mentioned. Certain soils, certain plants, certain insects, come from certain places only.

      I’m glad these Texas dunes sent your mind back to Africa. I think this will be my permanent substitute.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 16, 2014 at 3:11 PM

  9. […] When we drove into the town of Monahans in west Texas on June 14th it was too late in the afternoon for us to continue the short distance to the attraction that had brought us there: Monahans Sandhills State Park. We could see that it had rained in the area that afternoon, and what effect that had had on the dunes became clear only the next morning. How differently textured the sand was then from the way we’d seen it in 2014 when we’d visited on the afternoon of April 12th and the morning of April 13th. […]

  10. The contrast between the reddish sand and blue sky is striking. When my husband and I visited the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado and walked to the top of one, we inadvertently received a dermabrasion by blowing sand in a scenario similar to the one captured by you in your photo. 😊


    August 27, 2021 at 4:16 PM

    • You’ll understand that at times I had to pay attention to protecting my camera from blowing sand. Usually that meant turning away from the wind and holding the camera close in against my body. I’ve been to Monahans twice and Great Sand Dunes once; both are worth revisiting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2021 at 4:24 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: