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Sand Dunes of the Southwest - by Laurent Martrès

NOTE: this exhibit appeared in August 2000. Click here to visit the current showcase.

All other exhibits: Click here to access

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First Light

First light on the sand dunes. image shot at the Eureka Sand dunes section of Death Valley N.P.

Getting a bit of elevation on the dunes before sunrise offers more possibilities to catch the first light contrasting with the rest of the dunes still in he shade. Also, in shooting downward and eliminating the sky, you can preserve detail in the shadow area.

Cresting the wave

This image was taken near sunset at the small dunes, about a mile north of the Stovepipe Wells airstrip. I felt like a surfer cresting a wave.

I like the small dunes area. It offers solitude and an almost complete absence of footprints. The hihest dunes are about 30 feet tall, which is enough for a good variety of shots. The desert terrain surrounding the dunes is also quite interesting

Great Sand Dunes panorama

The majestic Great Sand Dunes of Colorado are the tallest in the United States and are truly magnificent. What also makes them unique is the presence of a year-round stream at their base. This evening panorama shows the dunes with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background.


While walking on the Great Sand Dunes early in the morning, I stumbled upon these human footprints, which had been covered overnight by a multitude of insect tracks

Heart of the dunes

This panorama taken from far inside the Great Sand Dunes shows the vastness and height of these dunes.

The thin red line

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes, southeast of Zion Nat'l Park in Utah are beautiful little dunes made of finely ground Navajo sandstone. It happens to be a very pinkish form of Navajo sandstone. The strong winds that blow through the Mocassin Gap make for particularly fine particles. The area is popular with families and ORVs, but come off season, during the week and after a storm and you'll have a magical experience.


Under the rigt conditions, the sand at Coral Pink Sand Dunes can turn an incredibly deep red during the last 30 seconds before sunset.

Little duck floating in the waves

Sand dunes offer wonderful patterns that challenge the imagination. In this image, I saw a little duck floating in waves. You'll need a low sun to reveal these sort of whimsical patterns.

Fox tracks

Fresh animal tracks in the sand are fun to observe and follow. I caught a glimpse of a small brown fox high on the Eureka Sand Dunes one early morning. I climbed in his direction until I found his fresh tracks.

Veil of light

The Eureka sand dunes, in the northwestern section of Death Valley Nat'l Park, are the highest dunes in Calfornia and only second to the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado. This early morning shot against the light creates a cool bluish atmosphere.


The delicate shadows and gentle curves evoke the brush strokes of Japanese calligraphy. The fragile stem emerging from the stark-naked sand reminds me of the famous Zen Koan (riddle) of the Mu, or great void.

Storm on the dunes

A sudden storm caught me in the heart of the White Sands of New Mexico with my tripod in hand. I left the tripod in place and ran a respectable distance from it to avoid beoming a lightning rod. Suddenly the sun broke though the clouds. I ran back and was able to catch this intriguing evening light basking the sand.


The white color of the White Sands and the interesting surrounding vegetation create an eerie landscape at twilight.

Lone blooming yucca

Many people ask me if the sand is really white at White Sands Nat'l Monument. Well, you can judge this for ourself. This lone Yucca strikes an amazing contrast with the pure white color of the dunes.

Lone dead yucca

A dead Chihuahuan yucca emerges from from the side of a sand dunes in the early morning light.

Zen garden

Rain had been pelting the dunes during a stormy evening, erasing the usual sand ripples. The ground looked like it had been raked by a priest in a giant Zen garden.

Nuclear blast

The nearby presence of the Alamogordo missile testing grounds, whuch are adjacent to the monument, evoked in me the ominous vision of a nuclear blast.

Note: For best viewing, set your monitor to High Color or True Color (Thousands or Millions of Colors on MacOS) and at least 800x600 pixels. These images have been carefully prepared with a Gamma of 2.2 using the BruceRGB color space, which works well with most high-quality Windows monitors. If you use MacOS, choose a 2.2 calibrated Colorsync profile in Monitors/Color/Prefs or choose "Windows Default" in the Adobe Gamma control panel.

Copyright Notice: All photographs appearing on this page and direct links are the COPYRIGHTED PROPERTY of Laurent Martres, and available for usage by license only. No form of reproduction or manipulation, including copying or saving as a digital file is permitted. Any unauthorized usage of these images will be prosecuted to the full extent of the U.S. Copyright Law.

About the Exhibit:

Sand Dunes hold a strange fascination in our collective psyche. Perhaps, it has to do with ancient memories of a barren universe in which we roamed and fought for survival as early homo sapiens, or perhaps it's just the powerful imagery of novels, movies and TV commercials that helps instill in us a visceral fear of getting lost in the desert or what about the sand dunes as icons of the passing of geological time and the ticking of our biological clock as a species. Whatever it is, we love sand dunes and seek to capture their power and dangerous beauty on film, not as trophies paraded in front of admiring eyes, but as reminders of how fragile we are.

In this Showcase, I offer you a few snapshots of space and time on the sand dunes from four different parts of the Southwest: the Eureka and Stovepipe Wells dunes of Death Valley, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes of Utah, the Great Sand Dunes of Southern Colorado and the White Sands of New-Mexico. I hope you'll enjoy them in your own way.

About the Photographer:

Laurent Martres is President of Graphie Int'l, Inc., a multimedia development, management and publishing company he founded in 1982. He also sits on the Board of Directors of ASD Software, Inc., publishers of high-end security software, and Alsyd Corp., a large European software publisher/distributor. In the past two years, Laurent has spent a majority of his time doing custom cgi programming, setting up database-backed e-commerce systems and administering a network of servers offering a vast array of internet services. He is the author/publisher of Land of the Canyons - a photographer's guidebook to Utah & Arizona, as well as the principal animator of the PhotoTripUSA Showcase. Laurent goes about once a month to the Southwest for photography and is currently at work on a 3rd Edition of Land of the Canyons.

Find photos of the Colorado Plateau in Land of the Canyons, the Photo Trip USA landscape photography guide book.


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