San Rafael Valley, AZ ~~ Photo by Bill Haas

Sunday, November 29, 2009


This was my second visit to breathtaking White Sands National Monument. For a different photographic experience from that of my original visit, I arrived in late afternoon to take advantage of the soft light and long afternoon shadows.

This national treasure is located at the Northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert in the Tularosa Basin. It is ringed by White Sands Missile Range on the North, East and South, and the San Andres Mountains on the West.
The glistening, brilliant-white dunes in White Sands NM are made of gypsum, not silica, have a powdered sugar texture, and the monument is the largest gypsum dune field in the world. The dunes move constantly and form four distinct types, more easily discernible from the air: Dome (low mounds), Barchan (crescent-shaped), Transverse (long ridges formed by joined Barchan dunes), and Parabolic (inverted Barchans, anchored by plants).
At the end of Dunes Drive is the Heart of the Dunes that includes a nature center, boardwalk, picnic shelters with sails (!) and an amphitheater.
Self-portrait. I like this picture -- makes me look skinny!!!!

Yes, the roads need to be plowed occasionally -- these dunes creep, grow, and advance constantly. They appear soft and gentle, but the environment is harsh, and plants and animals struggle to survive. And adapt.
Soaptree Yucca has adapted by keeping its leaves above the sand with an elongated stem. Some plants anchor parts of a dune with their roots and keep growing on a sand pedestal even after the dune has moved on.
Can you tell I love this place?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Carlsbad Caverns turned out to be my most challenging experience this trip, even more so than swimming with sharks!

Visitors can select a self-guided tour or ranger-led tours. With self-guided tours, one can elect to take the elevator down to the Great Room, 750 feet below the earth's surface; or one can enter the caverns through the "Natural Entrance" and then walk the 1.5 miles to the Great Room. I chose the self-guided tour so I could go at my own pace. And I chose the "Natural Entrance" because it was all "downhill," and I didn't want to miss anything. Hellsfire, I may be out of shape, but I can handle "downhill." Riiiiiight!
This is the topside of the caverns, on the edge of Chihuahuan Desert in the Guadalupe Mountains, and a portion of administrative buildings built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The "Natural Entrance" is through the amphitheater where bat fans observe the daily fly-out spectacle of the famous Mexican Free-Tailed Bats -- if they happen to be in residence. But they weren't when I visited; they had already left for warmer climes in October. Drat!
What a a precious, unique gem these caverns are. The other-worldliness here is mesmerizing at every turn. So hang fast to the hand rails and join me along the trunk passage called the Main Corridor, and wonder at the mind-blowing formations of draperies, columns and soda straws, of domes, ponds and grottoes.
Snivel Alert: I stopped counting at 47 hairpins on the trail (there were probably three HUNDRED forty-seven hairpins by the time I finished! And no one said anything about 20% grades in the descent -- until it was all behind me! With all the warnings about the fitness of one's knees, there being no bathrooms along the way and all the usual "No's (eating, smoking, strollers, throwing coins into water features, pets, defacing, etc), there was no signage whatsoever that flashlights or water should be included in your day pack. ("Yes, the trail is lit." Nothing about how dim and occasional that lighting is, or how humid it is deep in the center of the earth!) But yours truly, not at all reticent about certain omissions, especially where "old people" are involved, cheerfully filled out the Suggestion/Comment Sheet and recommended that adding a few "DO's" to the signage might improve one's experience!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I don't mean to be macabre, but some of the crypt embellishments in the St. Louis Cemetery Number One in New Orleans impressed me. Yeah-Yeah! Someone once also told me I'd photograph just about ANYthing! So until I show you my "Utility Pole Series," (you think I'm joking?!!), you'll just have to settle for photos of some of the little doo-dads survivors have included on dead people's burial boxes.
Perhaps in those days, one might suppose crypt embellishments would distinguish you from the poor sap lying next door. Or your bereaved loved ones (or survivors) needed to indicate to your neighbors just how high you were held in their esteem. (Or how grateful they were to have been "remembered"!)
There's a loose head rolling around here somewhere.
OK OK, I admit: I didn't have anything better to do with these photos!!! But the real truth is, I love recognizing and capturing on film the world around me, the world I live in -- sometimes breathtaking, sometimes pedestrian, commonplace and boring.