Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Solitude and Civilization


There are several large areas of dunes in California; the best known are in Death Valley and here, in the extreme southwest corner of the state right next to Arizona, are the Algodones Dunes. More commonly known as the Imperial Dunes, because that is the name of the recreational area set aside for all the dune buggies, ATVs and dirt bikes that buzz around burning gas literally by the tens of thousands on any given weekend. Especially in the winter when it's cool, there is basically a temporary city of campers and motor homes each weekend as thousands migrate here to play in the sand. Fortunately, the much larger part of the area is set aside as a pure wilderness... no vehicles or other man made activity is allowed except for hiking and nature watching. So, as peaceful and desolate as this image may look, a mile or so behind from where I took this is all the motorized craziness. Wandering out in this direction, you can barely find another human footprint, but if you look closely in the foreground you can see part of a few prints that look like a coyote had walked by, and we found numerous beetle and bug tracks in the undisturbed sand also. There are no trails, obviously... you can just wander around up and down the dunes wherever you want until you get tired, which doesn't take that long walking in the loose sand. Dangerously hot here in the summer, but winter is very comfortable.
I mentioned this area briefly in a previous post, and have been struggling a bit since then with how to present these; going back and forth between B&W vs. color so many times that I'm not sure which I prefer... depends on what particular day I happen to look at them I guess. For today, I'll show a color image and then maybe a B&W one later... I'm always curious about what people prefer. Since it was winter and the days were short, we stuck around until late in the day to capture the low golden light and deep shadows just before sunset.
You can get a sense of scale and see an interesting shot of the dunes taken from the international space station
here.

21 comments:

Dagrun said...

It's truly beautiful in colours! What an amazing place.

William/The Author Of * said...

Don't you have to drive through that, or at least the edge, to get to Julian. I remember San Diego fondly. That I could go from temperate and nice seldom rain climate, through desert, and into alpine. All within an hour and a half or so. Nice photoblog. Educational too.

Russ said...

Beautiful image. I think I like this one in color. To be some images cry for color, others for monochrome. I not sure I can articulate it.

Poetic Shutterbug said...

The dunes look as though they are a stairway to the stars. Beautiful shot.

Mook said...

A stoater of a shot as we say here! Love the coyote tracks excellent bit of composition sir. And not to be missed I really like that sky, nice one!!

Amy Lilley Designs said...

PERFECTION!!!!

Mark Alan Meader said...

Thanks, Dagrun.. good to hear from you. A little bit different landscape than Norway, yes?:)

William: Thank you. No, this is not anywhere near Julian, nor anywhere between San Diego and Julian... you must be thinking of somewhere else. Perhaps you travelled through the Borrego desert to Julian from the east once?

Russ: not sure I can either. Sometimes both work equally well, just different, so it's personal preference.

Joanne: Thanks a lot.. glad you enjoy stopping by here and I appreciate your comments.

Mook: No coyotes in Scotland?:) Thanks and cheers.

Amy: Well, I guess I can stop working now?:)) Seriously though, thanks.. and good luck with the art festival in June. I need to get out and try to sell some pieces this coming long weekend.

roentarre said...

Seriously, I thought the shot was taken in north Africa. Great image as usual coming from a great photographer like you

The sand pattern again is interestingly composed and you have revealed another true beauty through your lens

Patrick said...

Hello Mark,
Just like James i thought this one came from Africa. As usual, beautifully exposed and composed.

A large print should be beautiful, showing all the sands ripples and shadows details.
I also think that the top right corner is an interesting part of the composition.

storybeader said...

that's a crazy looking aerial - way, way aerial!! So telling. There's so much texture to the sand - I wonder how the wind affects the landscape there.

I love the color photo - it shows nature in all its beauty!

Mook said...

Mark no coyotes just ferocious man eating hairy haggis :))) If this taken on the shoot where your wife fell asleep on the beach towel.. well she missed a great view!

betchai said...

oh, your shot is so inspiring, it really speaks of solitude. hopefully, i can visit that part of the southwest one day. never been there, just have been to the sand dunes in death valley.

earthtoholly.com said...

So gorgeous, Mark. I imagine this would look just as good in b&w as color, though I do love the colors here. And I really like those shadows, too...

Scott said...

This is really fantastic. I agree with Patrick - I would love to see a large print of this! I am looking forward to exploring more of your blog.

Lynda Lehmann said...

Gorgeoooooous composition,Mark!

I love the high horizon, which is always a good idea in terms of aesthetic proportion, and in this case adds tremendously to the feeling of vastness. The tiny paw prints also add scale and emphasize the expanse.

I share your conflict between shooting in color or B & W. Part of the infinitude of beauty that we tap in to, is having to make these tough choices. It's always difficult for me, to choose the best view or version of a subject, and let the others go.

I'm not getting around as much lately, as we are building an entire house with our own hands, but I will always catch up with you and my other favorite bloggers. :)

Mark Alan Meader said...

James & Patrick;
I've never been to Africa (north or south) so I guess I have to consider myself very lucky that I have access to such a wide variety of landscapes and climates within a relatively small area to where I live.. we pretty much have it all except for glaciers falling into the sea! Thanks, guys.

Mark Alan Meader said...

Deb:
The wind totally creates this particular landscape.. the largest dunes themselves are just bigger versions of the smallest ripples just a few inches across that you can discern in this image... that's what I found so interesting in the shot from space. Thanks!

Mark Alan Meader said...

Mook: Hairy Haggis is something I don't want to see!

Betchai: You've been almost everywhere around here, so I'm surprised not this place. As I said, the solitude is found right along side the opposite of anything you could call solitude. Don't go in the summer though unless you love the heat.

Holly: I did this originally in black and white, but came back to color on this one. I have a different view that I will put up in B&W soon, if not next. (I never know what I'm going to do from one post to the next:)

Scott: good to hear from you.. you've been MIA for a while on your blog.. doing some work out in the field I hope:)

Mark Alan Meader said...

Lynda: thanks! I've been working more in B&W lately after mostly color for quite a while and finding it refreshing to get back to my "roots" so to speak (i.e. the previous times when I was using film and couldn't afford to do color:)
I know exactly how involved you probably are in building a house.. we also did that about 8 years ago(still not 100% finished, in fact, but we don't live there full time yet). It's an all-consuming endeavor, for sure. Good luck and you will feel a great sense of accomplishment when you finish.

Light and Voices said...

This is such an artistic image. I'm impressed with your technical skills as well as your eye for a photograph. Excellent job!
Joyce

Raj Khatri said...

Great Stuff....!


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