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Trip the Light

Adventures in White Sands

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“In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.”
- Rumi

My photography is based in the American Southwest and my motivation to explore a new location is simple curiosity. My interests in hiking, camping and backpacking and the various information resources I peruse on a daily basis keep a steady stream of luscious landscapes, descriptions and images constantly feeding my imagination and sense of adventure. Living in the Sonoran Desert, I've fallen in love with the history, geology and the complex environments of the desert.


Technically speaking the dunes are not sand but a 275 square mile white gypsum dune - the largest gypsum dune field in the world.
White Sands National Monument located in Southern New Mexico between Las Cruces and Alamogordo has long been on my radar so I recently made the trek. Technically speaking the dunes are not sand but a 275 square mile white gypsum dune.  It is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.  It is the result of an ancient lake that dried up millions of years ago leaving the mineral deposits behind.

As I head into any new location I'll first check the National Weather Service reports to see what I may expect for my skies. Unfortunately, heading in I knew I'd encounter completely clear skies so I had to formulate a game plan. Rarely do my landscape images ever hold an empty sky. My first time visiting a new area I'll keep my expectations low. I arrived at the dunes in the late afternoon to get a feel of the monument and where I wanted to shoot the next morning as I'd be coming in, in the dark.

You can se more of Valerie's photography and writing at http://valmillett.blogspot.com.

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  • Fabulously soft, pastel colours in your images enhancing and not distracting from patterns and textures! Great description of your journey to the White Sands National Monument.

  • Thank you Beata Moore!! Appreciate it!

  • Super works as always Valerie. I remember. many years ago, seeing photos of White Sands for the first time and thinking what an incredible place. I don’t recall any more beautiful than these. As you say, there’s a brief time when clear skies can give you the most wonderful gentle colours and you’ve used these superbly to create compelling compositions – no.5 is my favourite I think. Hope you have a fabulous 2015 and look forward to seeing more from you!

  • Hey Lizzie,
    Thanks so much, that’s a very fine compliment!! Thank you and hope you have a wonderful 2015 as well!!

  • Kevin Fidler

    Superb photographs, Valerie – the forms are so simple yet beautiful as are the colours. Your observations of the desert are interesting, I’ve had a brief excursion into the South West and your remarks about early light resonate with me very much (and it’s too hot to move once the sun is up). I was particularly captivated by your comments on calming down, not rushing about to get the shots but taking time to enjoy and experience the place. A lesson for us all there whatever the location.
    Thanks for sharing these images.

    • Thanks Kevin,
      I find that I often have to tell myself to calm down as I can get anxious that I wont be able to capture what I’m seeing, especially in a new unfamiliar landscape. The rushing is to detrimental to process anyway. Thanks again!

  • CathR

    Thank you so much Valerie for sharing your beautiful images of White Sands. I have very fond memories of a trip to New Mexico a couple of years ago but unfortunately I didn’t get to White Sands. Your images certainly make me want to return there one day.

    Thank you also for sharing something of your experiences in taking your photos. As a photographer who also likes to be alone what you say resonates very strongly with me. I am doing a project just now on full moon rising. I am totally captivated by that moment when the large moon first appears over the horizon but then always fearful about finding my way in the darkness when I am done.

    Good luck with your work on the moon at White Sands – sounds so brilliant.

  • cgwphotos

    Beautiful and inspiring images. White Sands looks haunting in your superb vision. Another place to add on my Bucket List

    • Go see it, you’ll fall in love as well, appreciate the comments!!

  • Adam Pierzchala

    Simply beautiful; very inspiring images and I too believe that these are surely amongst the best I’ve seen from this area.

  • andrewgenner

    What a fabulous set of photographs, and beautiful set of words to accompany them. Thank you. My favorite is number 7. Or number 10. Number 11 is very powerful too.

  • Valerie – I have a quick question for you – is there some kind of special permit you can get to enter the park during darkness? Just I was looking at the National Park website and it seems to suggest you are not allowed to enter the area before 7am? Just thinking ahead to a possible trip – maybe… many thanks, Lizzie

    • Lizzie, yes you can make arrangements with the rangers to come in early or stay later. It does cost a bit more per hours.

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