by WES WALKER
We arrived at White Sands, reserved our camping spot and walked out on the dunes to snap a few pics. Usually, the pictures you take during the middle of the day in straight sunlight are terrible, but at White Sands, they give a different feel, I'll put a few examples to the right.
The 4 shots below were shot in extremely bright daylight, which can sometimes give you cool effects, these sorta remind me of something from Star Wars, on Luke Skywalker's planet Tatooine. Yes, I did have to just google that, sad I still can't remember that. Shooting in bright daylight isn't impossible, you just have to be creative and be ready to do lots of work in Lightroom and in post-production.
This tale really starts on a Friday in Texas, already tired from the constant lack of sleep, Will and I set off after I got off work and drove straight to Seminole. We didn't plan on staying there, it's just kind of an understood thing between us that we don't plan anything like that beforehand on road trips, but simply let the trip happen. We caught a few hours of sleep and headed into New Mexico.
We are not happy in these pics, do not let the stupid giddy half-mouth-open smiles and fake finger guns fool you, this was the breaking point of insanity. This was the most miserable and uncomfortable moment of my life. The details described in this literature are 100% fictional, or fact, they are real events...I still haven't really learned the difference between fiction and non-fiction, in my opinion, the smug librarians that made up those terms were just unhappy with the mark they were leaving on the world and decided to make up some non-sense jargon to confuse the whole planet. Just call it what it is, history or fairy-tale.
I would like to take this moment to point out that Will is wearing fingerless gloves that moonlight as mittens. Where he got these trendy hand socks I have no idea, nevertheless he wouldn't let me wear them for part of the night, I wanted to cut a deal like he wore them an hour, then I got an hour.
I don't even think I own gloves, I live in Texas, I don't lotion and baby my hands like some new age hipster. Don't even get me started on essential oils. I did that bit for a while, my room smelled like lemony goodness for 6 months, it was a decent time in my life. But this whole putting essential oils down your spine and under your tongue...I just haven't really bought into yet. That said, I have witnessed my mother cure my brother's mono by putting frankincense and myrrh on the bottoms of his feet. Sitting here thinking about essential oils and my experience I have some qualms, but also kinda know deep down their secret powers, actually I think I'm going to take a hot bath tonight with Epsom salts, lemon extract, a dash of cinnamon, and freshly cut orange slices floating on top, I will call it the Wes Wassail. Confession, most of my senior year of high school I only took baths and would drink hot tea and listen to the same Michael Buble album every day when I got home from practice.
I've wandered too far from the story, I apologize. The night spent at White Sands National Monument was the most miserable night of my entire life. That night was even more miserable than the week I spent in a cabin high in the New Mexico mountains where my cabin mates and I killed roughly 5-6 brown recluse spiders and 2 black widows every night before bed. No, I'm not exaggerating. I did not sleep for a week and had to decide whether to be hot and sweaty inside my sleeping bag or cold and risking death outside of my sleeping bag. The first 30 minutes of laying in a cozy sleeping bag at White Sands was magical, Will and I laid there swappin' manly stories until we both started to get tired and fell asleep. Another 30 minutes past and I sat up in my sleeping bag, looked at Will and saw he was awake, and then declared, "Will, I think I'm going to die tonight, this is literally the worst moment in my entire life." Will started laughing, and I started crying and made it sound as if I was laughing. This happened 3 more times during the night, we laid there feeling as if this night would never end. Oh, let the sun rise up and warm my chilling bones back from this lowly frozen tundra of sadness. I really feel pathetic saying all this, because nobody is really going to understand what it was like, and most likely everyone will belittle my outdoor savvy and know-how. Remember I'm a photographer not really an adventurer, not exactly the same thing. I'd much rather go take pictures and return to my house and sit by the fire drinking hot sleepytime tea in my slippers and robe with my dog below my feet by the fire.
Dew had come down all night, to be honest, I'm 24 and still don't fully understand what dew really is or where it comes from, I'm gonna lump it in with manna from heaven. The last hour before the sun started to come up I spent sleeping in a sort of slumped up Indian style sit/squat, it was very uncomfortable but the longest span I had slept that night. Will woke up and saw me sleeping like that and laughed and laughed and laughed until I woke up. The rainfly on our tent was frozen solid, I ripped it off like I was pulling the sheet off a million dollar statue at a famous museum. I crawled out of the tent and walked into the most blissful and pure mornings I have ever experienced. Extremely quiet just like the night before, but with a peace that could calm any soul. The entire world around us filled with soft purple and pink highlights as the sun started to creep over the mountains, one by one the stars said goodbye to us until the entire sky was a soft purplish blue, the white sands took the same color as the sky. It makes me think that if I'm completely vulnerable and white as snow, I mean totally honest and putting only love into everything in my life, then at that moment, I could truly reflect the image of God. It would be obvious, I've seen that sort reflection in a few people I've encountered in life, it's a contagious magic inside them, something that shines and can't be stopped, people with such a hope and such a positivity inside them that everyone that meets them wants to spend more and more time with them. That's who I want to be. A person that others look forward to being around, a person that when they leave, they leave uplifted and ready to take on anything. If I hold hope in one hand and love in the other, then there's not anything more important I can hold. Unless you learn to juggle, and once you become a great juggler you can add in even more and more things, but it has to start with hope and love. Juggling isn't easy, but it's life, whether I'm juggling the right objects or not we are all juggling something.
These are two of my favorite pictures I took at White Sands. I think they are favorites because of how pure they are. They show soft colors and murmur how magical the moments were. The left photo is in the morning, we were freezing walking out trying to find fresh clean sand for sunrise photos. The right photo is in the late evening of a family struggling to hike out of the sands back to their car. Struggling together, the only way struggling should happen.
This is a comparative study between the same subject matter. Will seen here above is not a morning person and also hasn't had any coffee, the shot above is way before the sun came up, but still had enough light to shoot a beautiful sleepy portrait. I shot the pic above with a Canon f/1.4 50mm, which is how I could get such a clear crisp shot even in such low light. The photo below is in the evening, the sun had just gone down behind the mountains and gave the world very purplish hue that seemed to leak into every grain of sand. One of my favorite things about the photo below are the lights off in the distance in bokeh right above his left shoulder.
God is evident everywhere, in people, in places, and in things. If only we looked closer and took the time to silence what noise is around us and listened harder, God is talking. Maybe not in words, maybe not in miracles. He silent but He is still talking. Sometimes the loudest noise is the one you hear in the silence. When I lay in bed at night I usually sleep with the fan on, but I've had a cold, so I've had it off. The still silence I hear as I lay in bed before I fall asleep is scary, it's unknown, it has endless possibilities. My mind starts to race in the silence, about my present fears, my future questions, and what my life may look like or what I hope it will look like. If it looks anything like this trip with my brother then it will be right. Tough moments, joyous laughing moments, silent moments, dark cold moments and moments of tired spirits still traveling on together.
The older I get and the more relationships I go through, not just romantic, I seem to understand that we are made to be with other hearts, to share, to hope and live together. Yeah, that seems obvious, but then again it's not. To deny yourself daily and put others before yourself is the opposite of everything the world is saying to do. Jesus shows that love knows no bounds, no limitation. Love can be put into baking a cake or into warming somebody's heart with a hug and kind hello. It is everything. I pray for hope, and I pray for love to spread.
As long as I keep juggling love and hope, then everything in my life will be touched by them. May it be so.