Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

White Sands National Park

with 42 comments


A big reason for our spending time in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was the proximity of White Sands National Park, which we visited on the morning of October 11th. Because the sand there got created from gypsum, and because rain had recently drenched the area, we found walking on the dunes easy, as contrasted with typical sand dunes that take a lot of effort to walk in. Confounding my life as a nature photographer was that people had tramped over or slid down virtually all of the dunes close to parking areas. I had to go farther afield to search for pristine areas, but find some I did. Me being me, I maximized some minimalist views. In the second one, mountains made the scene a little less minimal.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 23, 2022 at 4:31 AM

42 Responses

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  1. Never seen a plane that is so white like this one. Very special place and thanks for sharing.


    October 23, 2022 at 5:17 AM

    • You’re welcome. I hope you get to visit it someday. The United States has made national parks out of two sand dune fields: this one and Great Sand Dunes in Colorado:

      Great Sand Dunes

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 6:46 AM

  2. This reminds me of the “whiteout” from a blizzard. The white of the sand is so bright it seems blinding! Lovely capture… and thanks for going the distance to find the pristine sand!


    October 23, 2022 at 6:38 AM

    • I can assure you the brightness wasn’t easy on my eyes.

      Some stretches of road in the park led past pristine dunes, but the reason those dunes were still pristine is that there was nowhere to park nearby. Pulling over to the edge of the pavement—even in the absence of many “no parking” signs, would have blocked a lane and been hazardous. To reach those dunes I would’ve had to park at least a quarter of a mile away and walk back, so I parked in designated areas and walked in directions where no one else seemed to have walked.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 7:06 AM

  3. While the mountains do add interest to the second photo, I found the obvious texture of the sand in the first photo especially appealing. It can be seen in the second, but it took a little effort to find it. Of course, both photos appealed to me as an interesting variation of the white-against-blue combination I enjoy.


    October 23, 2022 at 7:26 AM

    • Give me texture any time. You’re right that the vertical picture brings it out better than the horizontal one. And what’s not to like about white and blue? The weather cooperated: not too hot or too cold, not too few or too many clouds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 8:28 AM

  4. Beautiful


    October 23, 2022 at 8:24 AM

    • You can put White Sands on your to-visit list (unless you’ve already been there, in which case you can put it on your to-return-to list).

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 8:29 AM

      • I never knew about it, but now on my list, thank you


        October 23, 2022 at 8:59 AM

  5. Looks like snow!

    Eliza Waters

    October 23, 2022 at 9:35 AM

    • A week later we saw snow that had fallen in the mountains outside Santa Fe a few days earlier. I imagine in the winter these dunes occasionally get snow on them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 5:47 PM

  6. These are very dramatic pictures. I half thought there was something wrong with my screen when ~I saw the second one! So beautiful though. I hope you’re having a wonderful time.


    October 23, 2022 at 12:30 PM

    • The American southwest is a land of drama. I hadn’t been there for at least five years and that was too long. After 12 days of traveling we’re back in Austin now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 5:49 PM

  7. The clouds on the horizon of the first image are wonderful as is the fluffy white one amongst all the blue. It must be quite harsh on the eyes though with all that blinding whiteness.


    October 23, 2022 at 5:53 PM

    • It is harsh on the eyes. Normally I wear sunglasses for that, but when taking pictures I can’t. Sometimes I go back and forth with sunglasses, keeping them on while looking for pictures and taking them off to actually take pictures. Other times I just put up with the brightness to make picture-taking less cumbersome.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 6:02 PM

      • I remember losing my sunglasses on a trip to Broken Hill, Australia. The sun was so strong there (Dec) that my eyes really suffered.


        October 24, 2022 at 6:34 AM

  8. I’ve only ever seen gypsum in the form of wallboard, it’s quite a sight to see huge dunes of the stuff!

    Robert Parker

    October 23, 2022 at 6:41 PM

    • And quite a pleasure to walk on dunes that don’t make every step a chore, as was the case at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 23, 2022 at 6:44 PM

  9. Nice minimalist composition.

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 24, 2022 at 9:01 AM

  10. […] that I can’t find in central Texas. At White Sands National Park that meant primarily the dunes, but I did photograph a few wildflowers there as well. Right outside the visitor center was a […]

  11. Great photography Steve! Minimalism it is ..


    October 28, 2022 at 1:58 PM

  12. Very nice. I’ve only visited White Sands once but I’d love to visit again. I went to my first year of college in New Mexico so we stopped by White Sands on a drive out there. That was in the days of film. I think I may still have some of the photos and maybe negatives. One of these days I may pull those out and see if any of them survived and are any good.

    Todd Henson

    October 30, 2022 at 9:05 AM

    • Thanks. I do hope you’ll find some long-forgotten treasures in those “ancient” photographs. Even with imperfect pictures, modern photo-editing software may be able to work wonders.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2022 at 9:37 AM

  13. These are some very evocative images of an evocative place. I’m glad all of us were able to experience it.


    November 28, 2022 at 8:46 PM

    • I’m happy to have evoked this evocative place, and likewise glad all of us were able to experience it. (And isn’t it strange that English uses a k in evoked but a c in evocative?)

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 28, 2022 at 8:51 PM

      • Strange indeed, but just another reminder that language isn’t necessarily logical.


        November 28, 2022 at 8:56 PM

        • It seems that English ended up with a k in words in the family taken from Old French, but with the historical c in words borrowed directly from Latin.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 28, 2022 at 9:30 PM

          • And then there are words such as skeptical (preferred American English spelling) and sceptical (preferred British English spelling (which happens to get underlined by my spellchecker).


            November 28, 2022 at 9:36 PM

            • The spelling with k conforms to the original Greek, which represented a k-sound in only one way, with the letter kappa. The British spelling with c seems especially strange because we’re used to a c followed by e or i getting pronounced as an s-sound, but in Latin, which borrowed the Greek word, a c was the only way to represent a k-sound; the following vowel never converted it to an s-sound.

              You may be surprised to learn that Greek Skeptikos (capitalized because it was the name of a person) represents what’s called a metathesis, which is a swapping in the order of two sounds in a word. An example is the English word comfortable, which many Americans pronounce comf-ter-bul, in which the r and t have traded places. Greek Skeptikos shows a metathesis from the original form, which appeared in Latin spectare, ‘to look,’ which has given us words like spectacle and spectator.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 29, 2022 at 7:05 AM

              • Thank you for the fascinating lesson. Language will never cease to surprise us–and keep us on our toes.


                November 29, 2022 at 1:54 PM

                • You’re welcome. Not for nothing did I spend years studying linguistics. A lot of these insights are simple enough to understand that they could be passed down even into elementary school. Dream on, right?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 29, 2022 at 2:27 PM

                • Yes, that’s likely a pipe dream. Linguistics would be a hard sell when basic spelling and arithmetic skills are out of reach for many children.


                  November 29, 2022 at 2:35 PM

                • Yes, American education is in a sorry state.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 29, 2022 at 4:33 PM

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