Favorite Photo, January 25

White Sands, New Mexico. January 25, 1993.
White Sands, New Mexico. January 25, 1993.

White Sands National Monument is one of my favorite places on the planet. I highly recommend it as a top priority photo destination. In January you pretty much have the whole place to yourself.

The weather can be bitter cold in January, or not too bad. On this particular day the weather was quite nice with a high of 56°F and an average temperature for the day of 40°F.

My favorite images were created later in the day. The photo above was taken just before sunset. I love the color of the light on the white sand. I used a wide angle lens, and a small lens aperture (f/22) for maximum near to far depth of field. I used a hyperfocal distance chart (links below) to determine the distance to focus the lens.  The lens was only a foot or two above the sand.

This is not only may favorite image for January 25, it is one of my all time favorite landscape photos.

Moon and Venus over Yucca, White Sands New Mexico. Monday, January 25, 1993.
Moon and Venus over Yucca, White Sands New Mexico. Monday, January 25, 1993.

I kept shooting long after the sun had set. Thanks to the gorgeous colors in the sky, plus the moon and the planet Venus, this is my second favorite image for January 25.

My manual camera would not meter longer than 8 seconds, and I had no shutter speed on the camera longer than 8 seconds, other than bulb (B). As it got darker I had to do some substitute metering. It got dark enough that at an aperture of f/22 the meter gave me no shutter speed at all. So I would set the aperture at f/4 and meter the sky which might give me a shutter speed around 1 second. Then I would manually change the aperture to f/22 to get enough depth of field for the yucca, the moon and Venus. An aperture of f/22 is 5 stops smaller (less light) than f/4 so I would make the shutter speed five stops longer than 1 seconds, in other words 30 seconds. So I would set the shutter to bulb, lock my manual cable release and count off 30 seconds in my head. This trick still works with digital cameras when you get down past the 30 second limit of many of today’s digital cameras.


Series: Favorite Photos by Date – all about this series

Controlling Depth of Field

Speaking Your Camera’s Exposure Language: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO

Hyperfocal Distance Chart for full frame digital cameras and 35mm film cameras

Hyperfocal Distance Chart for digital SLRs with a 1.5x or 1.6x field of view crop

White Sands National Monument – official NPS site