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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Mesquite Dunes Abstract

In my last post I spoke about how making photographs of the Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley required a different "way of seeing" since the process was more about making abstracts than it was taking photos of sand dunes.  Well, while out making those photographs I took a few minutes to see if I could take the process one step further by making abstracts of abstracts!

How so?  I decided to try making some 'swipe' images.  These are photographs that are purposefully made into  abstracts  by moving the camera while the shutter is open during the exposure.  You simply 'swipe' your camera across the scene.  This is a process I have used before, but usually in the vertical direction while photographing trees (you generally want to move the camera in the same direction as the strongest lines in the scene).  Here, photographing the dunes, the strongest lines are in the horizontal direction and thus the movement is in that direction.  I still kept the camera on the tripod during the process as the support from below helped me to stay more horizontal during the movement.  Somehow I managed to stay horizontal enough to keep the ridges in the sand fairly smooth in the final picture.

The final adjustments and adding a bit of skew as well as the conversion to black and white with toning were all added in Photoshop.

Mesquite Dunes Abstract    © Howard Grill

Mesquite Dunes

During the workshop I recently attended in Death Valley, the group had two occasions to photograph the magnificent Mesquite Sand Dunes.  The size and vastness of the dunes are hard to describe! The time to photograph the dunes is in the morning or evening when the sun is low in the sky, particularly on a cloudless day.  With few clouds and the sun low in the sky the light is very directional and certain areas of the dunes that are brightly lit are juxtaposed with areas in shadow, drawing abstract patterns across the landscape.

Making photographs here requires a different way of seeing.  No longer are you photographing sand dunes but, rather, you are making abstract photographs based on lines, shapes, and tones. In my mind, converting the image to black and white removes the last vestige of 'what it is' and allows the viewer to simply dwell upon the these abstract features.

This is the first photo of the dunes that I have processed since returning from the trip.

Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley    © Howard Grill