Nestled near the southern end of New Mexico is White Sands, a National Monument with a landscape that is seemingly from another planet. With blinding white dunes as far as the eye can see, the desolate view is striking and can even be disorienting. For photographer Navid Baraty, these aspects made it all the more alluring to visit. During the course of his solo 7,200-mile road trip, this site was a must-stop for him.
“I spent five days driving around all of New Mexico and it was my favorite place on the trip,” Baraty tells My Modern Met. “There's something about the landscape that's just so magical and mysterious, and I see why New Mexico's motto is the Land of Enchantment.” His resulting photos from White Sands reflect the state’s tranquil beauty and otherworldly feel—both at night and during the day.
“I'd seen many photos of White Sands over the years,” Baraty says, “and I've always wanted to go see it for myself.” Inspired by the contrasting sand with the deep blue sky, he intended to photograph the National Monument during the daytime. He was also curious about how the landscape would change at sunrise and sunset. “I found that the look and color of the white gypsum sand changed so much with the varying light and shadow at different times of the day,” he explains. In his images, the sands shift in color ranging from yellowish tints to blue-gray hues.
To capture these images, Baraty arrived for sunset and stayed through sunrise until about midday the following day. “I'd planned to camp on the dunes the night I arrived, but unfortunately there were storms and lightning in the forecast,” he explains, “and they don't recommend camping on top of dunes when there's potential lightning as it can be quite dangerous.” During his visit, Baraty also felt the confusion that’s common at White Sands. “It's so easy to get lost and lose your sense of direction. You really only have the mountains on the horizon and some trail markers in the dunes to orient yourself.”
So, does Baraty plan to go back? Of course! “White Sands just felt so otherworldly and standing atop the white dunes looked like being adrift on a sea of an alien planet.” Next time, he’ll try and camp during a full moon to see the locale in yet another light.