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March 21, 2010

Algodones Sand Dunes Wilderness

Sand dune in the
Algodones Sand Dunes Wilderness,
Imperial County, CA
My photo buddy Denise and I went to the Algodones Sand Dunes Wilderness in the far south-eastern corner of California recently. This is more a dune-buggy heaven than it is photographers' paradise, unfortunately. Although about 8 miles wide and 40 miles long, most of it is given over to recreational vehicles. The Wilderness part per-se is on the north side of State Highway 78, but for almost the entire 8 mile stretch, there is a no parking restriction on both sides of the road.
Access is gained at the western end of the stretch of Highway 78 where there is a large parking area used by the "off-roaders". You have to park your car there and walk back to the highway and cross to the north side. Unfortunately at this point most of the dunes have petered out, so if you want to get into the decent dunes you need to hike from this point east. On the other side of the highway, however, the splendid and mammoth dunes are abuzz with dune buggies and bikes.

Oh well, we had to make the most of it since we'd come so far.

We deliberately aimed to arrive late in the afternoon so that the sun would be low in the west and casting long shadows over the dunes. I was to discover, however, that the environment amounted to a pretty big challenge to getting good photos because of the high-contrast setup: bright blue sky, bright western sides of the dunes, and dark shadowed eastern sides. It's the kind of scene that would best be shot using "bracketed exposures" and then processes the files as HDR images. Unfortunately that requires you shoot from a tripod and I didn't bring my tripod along with me. Another boo-hoo, and more reason to go back again someday and do it all over again.

Here's a previous post about bracketing and HDR photography.

Anyhow, despite all the challenges, I did manage to come up with a few photos that are worth sharing. Check them out in my Desert Southwest Photography gallery at Imagekind.

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