Sand Scars and Sunsets

There was only time for one last run out to make some photos before the Spring Semester lands on me with both feet.  I really needed just a breath of fresh air and to see someplace I had not been for quite a while so it was out to the Imperial Sand Dunes near Glamis.  I really did not want to go alone so my shooting partner, Cynthia, agreed to come along.

Unfortunately every dune buggy/ATV driver in this quadrant of the galaxy had the same idea and there was almost no escaping them.  I know the wind will quickly erase the scars of their passing but while we were there the once smooth dunes looked more like the back of some poor wretch being scourged for some awful crime.  The backs of the dunes were slashed open in some places so deep that if they had had any bones they would have been laid bare.  I kept telling myself it doesn’t matter as they will heal themselves quickly.  Indeed by later in the day as we were leaving some of them were already softening as the evening breezes filled them in.  Still…

Additionally the light was mostly from overcast skies and was F L A T !!!!  That light would have worked in some places but it is not all that good for sand dunes.

I took advantage of that to drag out a 35mm film camera I had brought along to shoot a roll of B&W of patterns and details of cracked mud, etc. to give me something to demo for the Photo 100 class the Dean has me teaching.  I’ll process them this week but for the moment I’ve nothing really to show from that.

However,  as the sun was setting a couple of shots called out for attention.  The clouds began to break up over the western horizon and a bit of that golden light streaked through an opening to rim light a bush against an abstract background of dunes and mountains.

As the sun sets it painst shapes and forms on the dunes and desert bushes

As the sun sets it paints shapes and forms on the dunes and desert bushes

Looking the other direction revealed a very unexpected scene.   This sunset was very beautiful.  Not breath-taking-spectacular but soft, pastel, peaceful, and very, very soothing to my spirit, fried by the inanity of school administration seemingly dedicated to killing all non-academic programs including the one Dave and I have worked so hard to create. The breeze was cool as the night temperatures started to fall.  If you stood very, very still you could hear the rustling of the sand pebbles as they scurried like blood cells to repair the wounds in their skin.  The desert can be all things from frightening to incomparably peaceful.  Tonight was one of those peaceful times.  I needed that.  I needed the lesson from that self healing sand.  But while was soaking in that peace, something else caught my eye.

Now usually I watch the riders racing around madly and assume they are oblivious to their surroundings.  But to my surprise a number of riders stopped their vehicles on high spots, shut down the engines, and just drank in the beauty of the scenery.

ATV riders find high dunes to watch the sunset from the Imperial Dunes near Glamis, CA

ATV riders find high spots on the dunes to watch the sunset from the Imperial Dunes near Glamis, CA.  In the foreground you can clearly see their tracks in the sand.

Riders and photographers, sharing a moment and a sense of awe.  Very cool!

One 3-wheeler in mid ground (you have to look close to see him since he is in shadow) and several skylighted on a far dune, all sat and watched almost reverently until the sun had fully set and then fired up their machines and headed back to their camps in the twilight.

And that meant it was time for us to head back to town as well.



About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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