MARK HARMEL PHOTO
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Mark of Arabia

This trip to the Death Valley sand dunes reminded me of a major plot-line in the epic movie Lawrence of Arabia.

In order to capture the WW1 Turkish seaport stronghold of Aqaba. Lawrence derived a solution to lead a 600-mile camel trek through the Al-Al-Nafud desert to attack from behind instead of engaging in a seaside attack of the well defended stronghold.

Photographing the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley posed a similar dilemma. Entering the dunes from the main parking lot meant encountering hoards of visitors to the area. Avoiding hikers swarming the dunes with their enduring trails of footsteps would also require an alternate approach through the desert.

The solution was to attack the dunes from behind. Starting at Old Stovepipe Wells I trekked the four miles in to avoid signs of human life as much as possible. Not quite the 600-mile expedition of Lawrence, however he also had camels!

Fighting with my Lawrence of Arabia hallucinations, the goal of this mid-day march was to be in the heart of the dunes to photograph the magical sunset light.

The warmer light of the setting sun created pronounced shadows accentuating the dips and curves of the dunes.

When the last rays of light fades the magic disappeared, its time for the four-mile return march requiring a headlamp and Google maps to find my way back to the Old Stovepipe Wells. 

Off to the bar for a proper British gin and tonic!


© Mark Harmel