Last spring (a year ago today, in fact) I joined a group of shutterbugs led by photographer Mike Shipman on a 5:00 p.m. photo crawl at Bruneau Dunes State Park. Mike couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful day or more perfect setting. The sun beamed down from a cloudless sky and I found the spring breeze more refreshing than chilly. We gathered at a picnic table beside a peaceful pool that mirrored the surrounding shrubbery and the sun-washed dunes behind it with amazing clarity. As we ate, Mike explained he had scheduled this late afternoon crawl in order for us to capture the imagery lent by the lengthening shadows, the changing colors of the dunes as the sun went down and, hopefully, a spectacular sunset. Then, with still a good hour before dusk, we scattered in search of photo ops.
Besides their cameras, most of the group had brought tripods and a variety of lenses. I have a Canon PowerShot S3 IS, a fine enough camera but with a non-removable lens. Close-ups look fine; my landscape shots, however, leave something to be desired. I did get some nice pics; but as I wandered around the park I became captivated by the character of the sand itself. Tracks, shadows, vegetation, and miniature dunes had interwoven into an intriguing pattern. So, while my more advanced photography companions sought sweeping panoramas from atop the dunes, I opted for an ant’s-eye view of nature’s wonders.
The world took on an almost surreal look as the sun sank lower. I photographed a shadowed dune with a pyramid on one end and then started for it. Along the way I noticed a strange imprint. At first I thought of a snake, but every snake I’ve ever seen sort of wound its way along instead of shooting forward in a straight line, although this one might have been riding a little motorcycle with knobby tires:
At any rate, I reached the dune and started up the side. Just looking down, it looked like plain sand, but when I knelt for an ant’s-eye view it looked more like fine volcanic ash:
Returning to the bottom again, I headed south across an area where wind and rain had arranged the restless grains into swirls and swells resembling an ocean’s waves.
Gentle ripples to choppy waters to rolling swells and breakers.
Farther on I came across rabbit tracks and followed them up a low bank where, to my delight, I spotted the rabbit near the rim of a shallow bowl and was able to snap him a split second before he darted away. (He’s that tiny speck on the edge of the dark spot about two-thirds up in the center. I need a bigger zoom lens!)
I circled the bowl to a puddle in its center. From a distance, the sand surrounding the puddle appeared uniform in color. As I approached, however, I saw the lighter ridges on its outer perimeter where the sand had dried.
By now the sun had settled into the distant mountains. Its dying rays glowed eerily on the sandy swells. I took two more shots and rejoined my companions atop a dune to watch the sunset.
I love panoramic shots but these ant’s-eye view photos continually amaze me, for I see something new each time I look at them.