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White Sands

The White Sands National Monument preserves the world's largest gypsum dune field. A combination of white sand, sparse vegetation, soaptree yuccas in particular, and mountains surrounding the valley, easily makes for one of the most photogenic locations I know.

Alamogordo is a logical gateway for a trip to the dunes. It is some 15 miles from the park entrance. Among its attractions, New Mexico Museum of Space History, houses a nice collection of space exploration artifacts and educational displays. If you are asking why would one build a space museum in the middle of nowhere, it is because of the nearby Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Range, that have played a significant role both in early rocket research and later in the US space program. In fact, Holloman AFB has been used as a space shuttle landing site in case of inclement weather at both of the other preferred landing sites - Cape Caneveral on the east coast in Florida and Edwards AFB in Mojave desert in California.

The above mentioned military areas practically surround the White Sands Dunes NM, and also make much of the dunes inaccessible to the public. There is plenty (some 275 square miles) left within the monument though. Photographing presents some challenges as the monument opens at 7am, which may be too late to catch a good morning light, and closes shortly after sunset. It is possible to camp at one of few backcountry campsites. The monument may also be closed when missile testing is scheduled. High winds causing blowing sand, high temperatures and thunderstorms in summer, or freezing temperatures and snow in winter may also get in the way of your shooting experience.

An eight mile drive leads from the entrance into the dunes. Numerous pullouts can be used as starting points for exploring the dunes. The Alkali Flat, the dry lakebed of Lake Otero, can be reached by following a trail of the same name.

I have divided my photographs thematically into several galleries.

Alien Flora Nature's Sand Box Dunes
Dusk Morning Ripples
Tracks Solitude Sunset
Space Museum Radka, Karkula, and I


Last updated: April 12, 2003
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