White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. The largest gypsum sand dune field in the world. It is by far one of the most unique and photogenic locations that I have ever been to - so good that my partner Hayley and I decided to go back and visit again. The landscape is ever-changing, so it was interesting to see how the dunes had shifted and formed this time around. There is no shortage of interesting patterns and shapes to shoot here.
I thought I would share a few tips on how to get the most out of your time photographing White Sands National Monument, along with some thoughts on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III which I used to capture all the images you see in this post:
1) Camp in the park:
The park gates are closed during prime sunrise/sunset times so in order to capture the best light on the dunes you will have to spend the night at one of the designated backcountry campsites within the park. Keep in mind that there are only 10 sites and it is first come first serve.
Please follow LNT principles and bring plenty of water with you. For more info on booking a camp site click here.
2) Work for it:
This place can get very busy so the further out you go the less footsteps and people you'll find. From your campsite you can access some of the biggest and practically untouched dunes in the area. As you go deeper into the park you'll find less vegetation as well. Keep in mind that it can be easy to get lost and there is limited cell service, set a pin on your phone or GPS to your campsite or vehicle.
The best time to photograph the dunes is during sunrise, sunset and blue hour. That is when the landscape really comes to life and the dunes look their best, you can get totally different perspectives during each of those times as well. During the day when the light was harsh we went out to scout the dunes where we would shoot for sunset. Be sure to leave enough time to get out to the dunes in order to be there for prime shooting hours, it took us roughly 40 minutes of hiking one way. I typically use this website to see what time sunrise/sunset is and plan ahead for star photos looking at what stage the moon is in.
An opportunity to partner with Olympus came up prior to a series of trips I had planned for this year, including this one, and the timing couldn't have been better. I brought the 16 MP Micro Four Thirds Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III kit with me on this trip to put it to the test. The majority of the photos above were taken on this camera using the kit lens. I also had the chance to shoot a few using the M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens.
Here are my thoughts on the camera:
If you are an avid traveller or a beginner photographer who wants to upgrade from a smartphone to a more versatile camera, I would highly suggest the E-M10 Mark III. It is incredibly light and small, making it ideal for travel or carrying around in a light daypack or camera bag. I have brought it with me on a couple long distance hikes and I could fit the camera along with 4 lenses in the same amount of space as just my traditional DSLR with one small lens. I was also really impressed with the great battery life and built in 5-Axis Image Stabilization, especially shooting in colder temperatures and low light. Overall I think the E-M10 Mark III kit would really benefit someone who is new to photography and wants a small mirrorless camera that offers a lot of great features.
You can read more in depth information about the camera here, happy travels!