Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rambling photographer finds some great light at White Sands National Monument

Here's the latest word from Ethan Meleg, who has nothing better to do than drive his VW camper around North America for the next year or more photographing landscapes, birds and other wildlife. "After two intense weeks of photographing birds at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico," says Ethan, "I packed up and drove south to White Sands National Monument in late November.

"I'd been up since 3:30 am and was completely exhausted when I pulled into White Sands in mid-afternoon. It was rainy and overcast, so I did what any self-employed landscape photographer would do -- I found a quiet parking lot, put my feet up and dozed off almost instantly. When I woke up a couple hours later, the clouds were breaking and it was shaping up as a great sunset. In my groggy state, I instinctively grabbed my camera gear and ran out into the dunes. Time was precious!

"The combination of the dramatic clouds and the stark white dunes was tantalyzing, so I chose a two-filter combination to capture the scene: a Singh-Ray LB Polarizer and a 2-stop hard-edge ND grad (the handy 4x6" size). The polarizer helped emphasize the drama of the clouds without shifting the natural color of the dunes. And the grad allowed me to control contrast throughout the image -- preserving detail in both the sky and dunes.

"There was only a brief window of great light that evening, but I made the most of it by staying until well after sunset.

"Although I went back the next morning and spent several hours shooting the dunes, the clear blue skies just couldn't compare to what I had experienced the night before. I don't know how often rain and ominous clouds descend on White Sands, but I felt very lucky that it happened on the day I was there."

All of Ethan's images were taken with his Canon EOS 1Ds III on a tripod and using a cable release and mirror lock-up. Each image was made with a Singh-Ray 4x6-inch ND Grad handheld in front of lens.

Ethan will report again soon to update us on his travels. It's certain he'll find many more great images just up the road. You can track his photo journey by bookmarking his website and blog. Ethan is also a regular contributor for Outdoor Photography Canada magazine.

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