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05-10-2022, 05:33 PM - 2 Likes   #1
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Sand Dunes

As you may or may not know, New Mexico has been wind whipped almost daily for the past four weeks, some days some areas receiving winds of up to 75 mph.

Here in Gallup and other areas, this has caused sand dunes to appear where there were none before. So I have had the opportunity to start photographing some neat looking sand dunes. Then I ran into a problem - how to photograph sand dunes.

If anyone has suggestions about composing pictures with sand dunes, that would be most helpful. They are so pretty to look at but challenging to photograph.

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05-10-2022, 05:36 PM   #2
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Stop down a bit to compensate for the highly reflective sand.
05-10-2022, 05:43 PM   #3
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For aeolian sand dunes, I found that shooting at sunset and sunrise tend to create a light emphasising well the three-dimensional features (of sand dunes), especially for smaller dunes (< 0.5 m). Your 2nd photograph does that to some extent.
I have visited large sand dunes in Europe and Australia, for which there is a lesser need to emphasise 3D, since the dune is big!

Hope that the comment may help.
05-10-2022, 06:19 PM   #4
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Manually color balance the camera with a white card in the environment prior to taking your pictures. Or take a shot of your scene with black/grey/white color balance cards (no auto balance, use fixed daylight, shade etc color temp) in it and one without (or perhaps place in the corner of the frame to be cropped out). Color balance the shot in post with the cards and use that color setting for the shot without the cards.

05-10-2022, 06:37 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by tuco Quote
Manually color balance the camera with a white card in the environment prior to taking your pictures. Or take a shot of your scene with black/grey/white color balance cards (no auto balance, use fixed daylight, shade etc color temp) in it and one without (or perhaps place in the corner of the frame to be cropped out). Color balance the shot in post with the cards and use that color setting for the shot without the cards.
Thx I never would have thought of that!

---------- Post added 05-10-22 at 07:40 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
Stop down a bit to compensate for the highly reflective sand.
Thx Robgski - I guess they are reflective at that.
05-10-2022, 06:46 PM   #6
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Lighting, time of day as suggested is good start, but I'd also play around with adding (or looking for) context and background to include,
Something to show a sense of scale, location, background, foreground, footsteps (man or animal) other elements that complement or contrast the sand patterns.
Steal other folks ideas: White Sands ? Muench Workshops
05-10-2022, 07:14 PM   #7
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I think you have a lot of good advice already so I’m just piling on. If you can get out at twilight you’ll get the best light, that happens before the sun rises and after it sets. If you get any clouds, especially wispy clouds like cirrus clouds, you may get spectacular colors during twilight. But you’ll also get good light at sunrise and sunset too. You’ll also get shadows then to add to the contrast. If you can get some interesting features, like a tree or rock all the better, and I would also try to add some sky, and maybe some without. If you can see the sand blowing, slow down the shutter as people do with a waterfall, Use ND filters if you need to, but you may not in the darkest twilight. And use those patterns as leading lines if you can, even if they lead to infinity. Try different focal lengths, it could surprise you. have fun most of all!

05-10-2022, 08:08 PM   #8
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I don't know that I can add a whole lot. However, I would concur with a late afternoon with low sun angles that would emphasize the shadowing effects. Sunset and twilight might also be nice and different. Over here in Arizona, the wind dies down in the morning hours, which might also help with the blowing sand in the afternoons.

The comments about context - again like Arizona, there has to be a fair amount of older buildings and other structures where the sand has accumulated around making a new desert scene that hasn't been seen for years and years.

05-11-2022, 06:46 AM   #9
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I only clicked this thread because of my dyslexia...
05-11-2022, 09:09 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by mymaiseygirl Quote
If anyone has suggestions about composing pictures with sand dunes
Is that EXIF information correct: ISO 5000? Why are you shooting at such high ISO? You'll get much better dynamic range at lower ISO. Maybe blowing sand was a concern but even at ISO 1600 you'll get a very fast shutter speed in daylight.


There's not much color interest to sand so consider converting your photos into black and white. Those dunes are too small for wide angle with sky included for color. Experiment with zooming into fewer dunes so the photo becomes more abstract. With respect to your 3 sample photos:


#1: I like the way reflections and shadows change across the frame. Dunes to the left side have bright edges from sun reflections, dunes to the right have dark edges from shadows. I would try cropping out the dead plants at the top edge and the dark shadow along the bottom edge.

#2: I like the repeating shadow patterns. You took this one at a different angle from the sun than #1 and you can experiment with that to get the look you want. I would try cropping out the background at the top edge because it's uninteresting.

3: Just my opinion but I don't like this because it seems like random clutter. The grass and rocks don't form interesting patterns. Zooming in close on a patch of grass, or a grouping of one to three rocks, might work for this scene.
05-11-2022, 10:48 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by K-Three Quote
Lighting, time of day as suggested is good start, but I'd also play around with adding (or looking for) context and background to include,
Something to show a sense of scale, location, background, foreground, footsteps (man or animal) other elements that complement or contrast the sand patterns.
Steal other folks ideas: White Sands ? Muench Workshops
Good Idea! Thx
05-11-2022, 08:16 PM   #12
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I also like you second photo the best also. With all the good advice you received, I am looking forward to your next images.
05-13-2022, 09:40 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MikeNArk Quote
I also like you second photo the best also. With all the good advice you received, I am looking forward to your next images.
Yes Ill post some this weekend hopefully. Thank u.

---------- Post added 05-13-22 at 10:42 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
Is that EXIF information correct: ISO 5000? Why are you shooting at such high ISO? You'll get much better dynamic range at lower ISO. Maybe blowing sand was a concern but even at ISO 1600 you'll get a very fast shutter speed in daylight.


There's not much color interest to sand so consider converting your photos into black and white. Those dunes are too small for wide angle with sky included for color. Experiment with zooming into fewer dunes so the photo becomes more abstract. With respect to your 3 sample photos:


#1: I like the way reflections and shadows change across the frame. Dunes to the left side have bright edges from sun reflections, dunes to the right have dark edges from shadows. I would try cropping out the dead plants at the top edge and the dark shadow along the bottom edge.

#2: I like the repeating shadow patterns. You took this one at a different angle from the sun than #1 and you can experiment with that to get the look you want. I would try cropping out the background at the top edge because it's uninteresting.

3: Just my opinion but I don't like this because it seems like random clutter. The grass and rocks don't form interesting patterns. Zooming in close on a patch of grass, or a grouping of one to three rocks, might work for this scene.
Thanks so much for critiquing the photos.
Lots of good advice.
I see I need to pay more attention to detail
The shots were taken at sunset with the sun behind the dunes. Ill post some later shot maybe this weekend.

thanks so much
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