Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Before and after White Sands National Park

with 23 comments


It takes about an hour to drive northeast along US 70 from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to White Sands National Park. The highway climbs over a part of the Organ Mountains and then comes down into the plain* that is the home of the sprawling White Sands Missile Range, near the northern boundary of which the first atomic bomb was detonated. That history and continued missile testing aside, the top picture shows you how peaceful the range looked on the misty morning of October 11th. In the distance may be the San Andres Mountains. In the afternoon we returned to Las Cruces along the same route and saw this view of the Organ Mountains:



After I saw a sign for the Aguirre Springs Recreation Area I impulsively turned off US 70 and followed the country road to get closer to the mountains. One peak seemed almost conical:



* I originally wrote plane, which is etymologically the same word as plain.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 26, 2022 at 4:36 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

23 Responses

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  1. The conical mountain does look like something I would find in Brazil near my mother’s house.

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 26, 2022 at 8:03 AM

    • Too bad that by visiting this conical peak I couldn’t have been miraculously transported to that part of Brazil.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 26, 2022 at 8:09 AM

  2. Same with the organ mountains (La Sierra de los Órganos). It’s the same name as given to the complex of mountains in Teresópolis (Serra dos órgãos). I made some posts about it last year and included some photos, I wonder if there is a connection between the names.

    Alessandra Chaves

    October 26, 2022 at 8:08 AM

  3. The conical mountain could be the remnant of a volcano. This mountain photo was well worth leaving the beaten path of a major highway.

    Peter Klopp

    October 26, 2022 at 8:55 AM

    • We spent probably an hour driving around on the two-lane road toward the base of that side of the Organ Mountains, with me stopping every so often to take pictures. From Las Cruces we’d been seeing the other side of the mountains.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 26, 2022 at 9:27 AM

  4. Very neat look at these mountains! I love the misty one, and the conical one is cool. I see a shark breeching the water in it. I have a very large scope of imagination or case of pareidolia. Let’s go with a large scope of imagination. 😂


    October 26, 2022 at 9:29 AM

  5. Very dramatic peaks and clouds. I don’t see a pipe organ but definitely see a shark poking up, maybe hungry for Sealtest ice cream.

    Robert Parker

    October 26, 2022 at 12:47 PM

    • Clever. Sealtest is a name I haven’t seen or thought about in decades.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 26, 2022 at 12:57 PM

      • As you might expect from a big dairy state, Wisconsin has some excellent ice cream parlors and local brands, but I still like Breyers the best. I was wondering why ice cream shops are called “parlors,” and just read that in the mid-19th c., “ice cream saloons” were created specifically to cater to women who were “unattended” by men and therefore not permitted in many restaurants. The owners then started decorating them to resemble respectable, cozy domestic parlors.

        Robert Parker

        October 26, 2022 at 1:41 PM

        • And if you go back even farther, a parlor was literally a place to parler, i.e. speak. The Atlas Obscura article mentions an interesting food combination: “ice cream, pastries, and oysters.” Somehow that third one seems out of place with the first two.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 26, 2022 at 3:26 PM

          • Yeah, I agree. When I was in college in Maryland, I’d see the local kids sprinkling Old Bay seasoning (which I’d only seen used on seafood) on their beer, or even ice cream, seemed kinda weird. And some of the oyster festivals supposedly make oyster ice cream, but I think I’d give that a wide berth.

            Robert Parker

            October 26, 2022 at 3:40 PM

  6. You’ve made such good use of contrasts and light in these unusual photos. Like two of your earlier White Sands posts, they’re filled with a kind of luminescence that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in the landscape. It’s almost metallic, but not quite. The blue tones are especially striking. Matisse had his ‘blue period,’ and now you have yours.


    October 26, 2022 at 9:13 PM

    • “Unusual” is an epithet I’m happy to get. As for a blue phase, I’ll put forth the truism that camera sensors see things differently from the way human eyes do. Painters have long known that faraway mountains become bluer or even violet, so some of that was real. In processing the photographs I had to keep my adjustments from making the mountains seem overly blue or violet. Even my precautions couldn’t guarantee that the resulting photographs are completely true to life. There’s always artistic license to contend with.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 26, 2022 at 10:00 PM

  7. Beautiful. This brings back memories. I recall the drive through the mountains, snow all around, and then dropping down out of the mountains and eventually to White Sands, no snow in sight, and yet the fields of white sand very much did resemble snow to me at the time.

    Todd Henson

    October 30, 2022 at 9:08 AM

    • It’s good to hear from someone who’s experienced this, even if in a different season. I’ve pondered the effects of snow on the dunes at White Sands, and how the two different whites would interact.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 30, 2022 at 9:41 AM

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