Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘dunes

Desert views

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Four years ago today we drove across the southern California desert on our way to Tucson. In the picture above of the Salton Sea, mist made the mountains beyond the western shore unclear, and it’s also unclear to me what range it is (perhaps the Borrego Mountains). The second picture comes to you from along Interstate 8. A lot of the dunes there allow recreational vehicles, and as a result I couldn’t take pictures in many of the places I wanted to because vehicle tracks marred the scene. While the dunes below do show a slight amount of disturbance, I hope you’ll still find this panorama pleasant.

But if you insist on arenaceous purity and no tracks, I’ll backtrack two weeks to October 23rd of 2016, when we stopped at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah. Though it also allows recreational vehicles, we stayed long enough for me to wander around and find undisturbed parts of the dunes to photograph.

And here’s a relevant quotation for today: “J’ai toujours aimé le désert. On s’assoit sur une dune de sable. On ne voit rien. On n’entend rien. Et cependant quelque chose rayonne en silence….” “I’ve always loved the desert. You sit down on a sand dune. You see nothing. You hear nothing. And yet something glows in silence….” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince, The Little Prince.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Navarre Beach

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On the way from Atlanta to Mobile on August 9th we deviated from the most direct route to stop at Navarre Beach on the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle. The dark clouds beyond the sea oats (Uniola paniculata) foreshadowed the downpour that hit us west of Pensacola an hour or so later.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 10, 2019 at 4:45 AM

Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day in 2017 found us taking a long round trip from Paihia to two places even farther north in New Zealand. The first was the Te Paki dunes, where among the many pictures I took was one of cloud shadows moving across the sand.

Then we continued to the northernmost easily accessible point in the country, Cape Reinga. Below is a coastal view looking back south from there. The long leaves of the flax plants, Phormium tenax, point out (literally) which way the wind was blowing.

New Zealanders will have finished Valentine’s Day by now, so retroactive good wishes to you.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 14, 2019 at 11:31 AM

November 6, 2016, in the desert of southern California

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Dunes along Interstate 8: one take at abstraction

Dunes along Interstate 8: a more minimalist take at abstraction

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 6, 2018 at 4:37 AM

Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve

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Two years ago today we stopped along the Pacific Ocean in California at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve. The first photograph shows you waves breaking toward the shore, moving white mimics of the dark hills fixed beyond them. The second picture show how an occasional wave made it over a rise on the beach and into a shallow depression, there to creep along with a frothy yellow fringe.

Walking away from the surf, I sought out patterns in the dunes and clouds:

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2018 at 4:27 AM

Long and slender shadows

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In mid-June of 2017 the last stop on our return from South Dakota was at Monahans Sandhills State Park in west Texas. Look at the long and slender grass shadows cast by a morning sun that was at an angle of elevation close to that of the sand slope shown here.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 18, 2018 at 10:03 AM

Monahans after the rain

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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.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 19, 2017 at 4:40 AM

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Flowing water adjacent to the Great Sand Dunes

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I don’t know about you, but when I think of water and sand dunes together I think about dunes on the seacoast. When I visited Te Paki in New Zealand in February, I was surprised to find a stream separating the parking lot from the dunes. The same thing is true in Great Sand Dunes National Park, where people who want to walk to the dunes from the parking lots have to cross Medano Creek (médano is a Spanish word for ‘dune’). What’s strange about Medano Creek is that it pulses. The phenomenon is known as surge flow, and here’s what the website of Great Sand Dunes National Park says about it:

This is one of the few places in the world where one can experience surge flow, a stream flowing in rhythmic waves on sand. Three elements are needed to produce the phenomenon: a relatively steep gradient to give the stream a high velocity; a smooth, mobile creekbed with little resistance; and sufficient water to create surges. In spring and early summer, these elements combine to make waves at Great Sand Dunes. As water flows across sand, sand dams or antidunes form on the creekbed, gathering water. When the water pressure is too great, the dams break, sending down a wave about every 20 seconds. In wet years, waves can surge up to a foot high!

I noticed the phenomenon when I went to take pictures of sand patterns in Medano Creek. No sooner would I compose and take a few photographs, than a “wave” of water would flow downstream and obscure my subject. The picture above shows the shallow regular flow of Medano Creek; the picture below shows a moment of surge flow.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2017 at 4:48 AM

Great Sand Dunes

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Great Sand Dunes was the third of the four national parks we visited on our recent trip. At 720 feet, these are the tallest sand dunes in North America. In addition to that, they sit at an altitude of about a mile and a half, so when we were there on June 8th we took pity on our poor lungs and decided not to trudge up these mountains of sand (unlike the Te Paki Dunes that are just above sea level and that we’d climbed in February).

The dunes are so high that when you’re close you can’t see the mountains beyond them. The picture below gives you a broader view, made more dramatic through the use of a polarizer to add extra definition to the clouds and greater contrast in the sky.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 26, 2017 at 5:00 AM

New Zealand: Te Paki

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On February 12th we saw but couldn’t get to some large sand dunes on the opposite side of an estuary from the highway we were on. Two days later on our way to the northern end of the North Island we made a point of visiting the Te Paki Dunes, which with some effort we climbed. Shown here is the most interestingly wind-sculpted section of sand I saw.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2017 at 5:02 AM

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