Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here. –NPS
Expedition Mystic Sand took the entire expedition team from The Photo Frontier’s headquarters in Denver to the mystical sand dunes of White Sands National Monument. The goal was to connect with the creative energy generated by 275 square miles of dunes. Along the way we visited the New Mexican towns of Vaughn, Ancho, Alamogardo and Santa Fe. The following report is the official record of this journey.
- Location: Alamogordo, NM / White Sands National Monument
- Date: Nov 13-15 2015
- Expedition Gallery: Click To View
You’re about to be shooting on the surface of the sun. -Armando Martinez
- Expedition Vehicles: 2004 Toyota Tacoma
- Strongest WiFi Signal: Santa Fe Sage Inn – Santa Fe, NM
- Team Shutter Actuations: 3233
- Team Camera Count: 6
- Avg Hours Of Sleep Per Night: 5.25
- UFO Sightings: 0
- Nikon D810 w/ 28-300 (17-35 not pictured)
- Realist Stereo 3D Camera (wiki)
- Nikon 45mm PC-E (creative intent cinescapes)
- Fuji x100s
- Mood Ring
Note: Click any individual playlist to view larger.
I haven’t heard a CD skip in a long time.-Justin Balog
A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the hash character (or number sign) # in front of a word or unspaced phrase, either in the main text of a message or at the end. Searching for that hashtag will then present each message that has been tagged with it.-Wikipedia
That’s awesome….and a possible death trap. -Justin Balog
[A donut & burrito drive through?] I’m calling bullshit, that’s photoshopped. -Sean Rock
The following images are a few of our selects from the expedition. To view the entire gallery in web optimized resolutions, or purchase a print, please visit the official expedition gallery. (Click To View).
It’s anti-climatic it…you can’t chimp it. -Armando Martinez
What was a seemingly random gift from Armando’s mom, turned out to be an incredibly valuable tool. Armando opted to bring his newly acquired Realist 3D film camera for this Expedition’s creative research instrument. The camera itself is was from the 50’s and is designed to take two images simultaneously. The slides are then viewed through specialized viewers allowing the person to experience a 3D image. At first Justin will admit he was skeptical of this prospect, however Armadno’s tenacity proved him wrong. Not only was Armando able to get an exposure from this camera, he was able to scan the images into a digital format for viewing on both modern day Google Cardboard Viewers, and his 3D TV. That’s some fine creative research in any book!
Below is an animated GIF demonstrating the 3D effect in a 2D medium.
If you have access to a Google Cardboard viewer (click here to get one), feel free to download any of these files to your phone and witness the results of #TrickStereoWork firsthand!
Typology of Sand Textures
Expedition Field Guide
The Expedition Field Guide is intended as an aid to help you conduct creative research and plan your own expedition to White Sands. If you’re a member of the Fellowship of Explorers, and you have any questions, feel free to post them in our Facebook Community (click here). We are happy to answer them!
- A Long Lens – Our research and ‘select reviews’ revealed that a long lens is a crucial tool to capturing the spirit of White Sands. When you’re on location, you’ll quickly discover that making sense of dunes is a difficult task. The dunes themselves are massive, and to put them in context, you’ll need to add an element of familiarity. The compression of the long lens will allow you to leverage other explorers in the distance and the surrounding mountains to just that.
- GPS – Bring a GPS with you in case you get lost on the dunes. Cell coverage can be spotty so relying on your phone or an app that requires a connection to the carrier can be risky.
- A Versatile Lens – Your camera sensor’s mortal enemy is dust and White Sands is full of it. Changing lenses is always a bummer, but this process is elevated to a state of ‘super bummer’ at the dunes. Armando wielded his Nikon 28-300 with great efficiency and his results are proof that an all-in-one-zoom can get the job done.
- Water – Lots of it!
- Time of Day – White Sands is all about dimensional light. The bookends of the day provide incredibly magical moments both in the grandscapes and the texture details of each unique dune. You’ll want to be inside the park prior to sunrise and there are two ways to ensure you are. 1) You can camp in the park, but make sure you get a permit. 2) You can contact the rangers before your visit and schedule a time with them for an early entrance. This will cost you a modest amount of money, but its well worth it.
- Time Of Year – Another way to optimize the magic at sunrise it to work around Daylight Saving Time. In the early Spring, you want to be there the first day it springs forward, which will get you in the gates almost a half hour before sunrise. In November when the time falls back, you want to be there in the days leading up to the time change because you lose an hour after the change and will now be entering the gates a half hour after sunrise.
Lodging was provided by the Mangnuson Hotel and Suites. The Magnuson was selected because of its proximity to the park entrance, as well as its pricing. We were able to secure a two bedroom, two bathroom suite for $79/night…well within the expedition budget.
This is a bakery, I thought you said we were getting burritos. -Armando Martinez
Horchata (/ɔrˈtʃɑːtə/; Spanish: [orˈtʃata] ( listen)), or orxata (Catalan pronunciation: [oɾˈʃata]), is the name of several kinds of traditional beverages, made of ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, or tigernuts (chufas).-Wikipedia
I drank too much horchata. -Justin Balog
A Fellowship of Explorers
Although we officially call them Photo Expeditions, they’re really Fellowship Expeditions. Sure, we made a few photographs along the way. However, it’s more about the memories, the laughs we shared, and the bonds we forged while #ExploringTheFrontier.
The Photo Frontier is a fellowship of explorers, guided by creative principles, who believe photography can enrich their lives and the lives of others.
For The Fellowship
As part of every expedition, we bring back our creative research and share it with the Fellowship of Explorers. If you’re a member of the Fellowship of Explorers, make sure to log in and watch the episodes of ‘Handcrafted’ and ‘Stories From The Frontier’ where we discuss the processing of the image and the creative decisions behind it.
In this episode of ‘Handcrafted’ you’ll learn how to leverage white balance to create colorful separation in your desert skies. (click here to watch)
In this episode of ‘Handcrafted’ you’ll go big with us in White Sands as we stitch together a panorama to be processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. (click here to watch)
We set up cameras on three distant dunes and filmed a very important message for the Fellowship of Explorers. At the time, the ‘Artisan In Residence’ program was just an idea. Now, that program we are so very proud of, has become a reality. Yup, we are happy to announce that Jacob Lucas, Scotty Wyden Kibowitz and Derek Kind are full time Artisans here at The Photo Frontier. As a member of the Fellowship of Explorers you’ll learn from them and glean creative insight from their unique brand of photography. To celebrate this idea becoming a reality, you can join The Fellowship of Explorers today and save!