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