The Catch-22 of the Mesquite Dunes

By | 2015-01-22T20:44:54+00:00 Jan 22nd, 2015|

On one hand, I think it’s great that the National Parks Service has made it so easy for even the modestly mobile tourist to park their car and walk up to the beautiful Mesquite Dunes within Death Valley National Park. Standing in the midst of these beautiful formations is something that everyone should experience. However, the downside becomes exceptionally apparent quite quickly, especially in the absence of wind. And thus I find myself in a catch-22.

Given that our workshop was held over a holiday weekend, we anticipated for more dense tourism over the weekend and, for the most part, it didn’t impede our abilities to photograph the park at all. However, the sand dunes were a bit of an exception. Even from the main road, the evidence of heavy foot traffic was easily visible. Footprints pockmarked almost every facade of the dunes, leaving them looking worn. Had a few gusts of wind kicked through, most of those footprints would have been wiped away quite easily. The downside is having to content with a windstorm while standing atop a giant sand dune and thus the conundrum unfolds.

On the sunset attempt pictured here, we parked our passenger van about a mile before the parking lot and hiked towards some of the outer dunes. At first, it looked very promising and it was for the most part. There were some beautiful formations and patterns all around us. Unfortunately, there were also plenty of footprints, which we quickly acclimated to and learned to work around. On a subsequent sunrise shoot, we found a wonderful patch of untouched dunes about a half mile beyond the parking lot (traveling away from Stovepipe Wells). They were smaller than most but they offered tons of composition opportunities. It just requires a bit of creativity and patience.

Camera: Sony a7R with the Sony A-mount 70-400mm f/4-5.6 G SSM II
Filter: Formatt Hitech Firecrest 105mm Circular Polarizer
Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-34L/BH-55
Stylization: onOne Perfect Effects 9 and Lightroom 5.7

15 Comments

  1. Jonathan Mitchell Photography January 22, 2015 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Great contrast between the dunes and mountians. Love the lone bush!

    • Brian Matiash Photography January 22, 2015 at 8:47 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Jonathan Mitchell Photography! It was especially challenging to find a relatively clear plot of dunes but I think this one turned out ok. :)

  2. Brian Bonham January 22, 2015 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    despite the traffic you came away with a sweet shot.

  3. J.R. Milne January 22, 2015 at 9:21 pm - Reply

    I like the sand ripples in the foreground and the fine details of the scrub brush. But is most interesting to me is the gold sand playing off the bluefish mountains in the background!

    • Brian Matiash Photography January 22, 2015 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Thanks, J.R.! I ended up dropping a graduated filter in Lightroom and dropped the temp a bit to accentuate the blue in the mountain.

  4. Guido Aalbers January 23, 2015 at 1:19 am - Reply

    How bad does it look with footsteps? Can you show…?
    For the contrast

  5. […] Brian Matiash On one hand, I think it’s great that the National Parks Service has made it so easy for even […]

  6. Jimmy Denham January 23, 2015 at 3:43 am - Reply

    I totally agree with J.R., The dark contrast of the background really sets the subject! Beauty!

  7. David Hannon January 23, 2015 at 5:45 am - Reply

    Great image. I appreciate the narrative.

  8. David Hannon January 23, 2015 at 5:45 am - Reply

    Great image. I appreciate the narrative.

  9. Jill Manlove January 23, 2015 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. We experienced the same worn look and feel in late October.

  10. Jill Manlove January 23, 2015 at 6:12 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing. We experienced the same worn look and feel in late October.

  11. Sarah Marino January 23, 2015 at 8:38 am - Reply

    The layers and golden light are wonderful here, Brian. The footprints at the Mesquite Dunes are always fun to deal with! The little eastern dunes are usually better like you said but make for a loooong walk back to the car in either the hot sun or the dark!

  12. […] The Catch-22 of the Mesquite Dunes – Brian Matiash delivers an abstract piece in this post, directing his camera at the rolling sand dunes of Death Valley.  Wonderful shadows play against the natural undulations of the landscape to create a sense of depth and dimension in this piece. […]

  13. […] The Catch-22 of the Mesquite Dunes – Brian Matiash delivers an summary piece on this publish, directing his digital camera on the rolling sand dunes of Demise Valley.  Fantastic shadows play towards the pure undulations of the panorama to create a way of depth and dimension on this piece. […]

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