Anatomy of a photo #61: Raven tracks on sand dunes

These are the early morning tracks of a raven in the sand

Early in the morning, before the winds have had the chance to erase the tracks of the night and dawn, you can walk the loose sands of the world, reading those stories. Here raven tracks criss cross each other, meandering on the face of this dune. There are areas where it looks like the bird was traipsing drunkenly, others where it came to a run. It is a mystery story, a who-done-it.

The tracks are clues to a mysterious dance, where the motive was unknown, and only the path can be seen. In a few brief hours the story will be erased more completely than most in the world, blown away by the breezes of the day… but there will be a fresh palate by night fall, ready for a fresh story for those early readers that want to seek it out.

Often I prefer to take photographs of sand dunes when the first rays of the sun strike the dune, giving every wind wrinkled inch texture and definition, adding knife edges to the shifting contours of the distant faces. There are times though when that contrast between shadow and light can be too distracting and change the focus and message of an image. There are times when the subtleties of the dunes can speak more loudly, such as when I took this photograph in the hour before dawn, when the sky is brightening, but not yet casting its sharp shadows.

ISO was higher- 640- as I was shooting in low light without a tripod. Shutter speed for this reason was fairly slow, but not too slow- 1/50th of a second. Equally, aperture was only slightly stopped down to f/7.1. I focused a little farther from me, not right close up to maximize my shallow depth of field.

ISO 640, 24mm lens, 1/50, f/7.1

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website-
This entry was posted in Anatomy of a photo, How To, landscapes, National Park, nature photography, photography, SLR and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anatomy of a photo #61: Raven tracks on sand dunes

  1. sean lemert says:

    where were you?

  2. Hello Sean. I took this picture in the Eureka Sand Dunes, which is in the northwest corner of Death Valley National Park (though not in Death Valley itself). These are the tallest dunes in California, and some of the largest in the lower 48 states

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