Wind Power

The desert Southwest is a windy place. In many areas around southern California and Nevada, large wind farms harness the energy of the wind. Their presence is a reminder of the constant and fierce power of the wind here. The strong winds in this part of the country also play an important role in shaping the landscape.

Kelso Dunes in Mojave National Preserve

One example of how winds shape the landscape is sand dunes. There are many sand dunes in the Southwest, and the wind is responsible for forming, shaping, and moving these dunes. One example is in Mojave National Preserve. I’ve written about the Kelso dunes in Mojave Preserve before. These dunes are tall heaps of sand gathered and shaped by the wind.

Another great place to see sand dunes is in Death Valley National Park. Death Valley has several sand dune systems, including the Mesquite sand dunes. It was a very windy evening when I hiked out among the Mesquite dunes. I had to keep moving to prevent the sand from gathering around my feet and causing me to sink more deeply into it. It also took a while for my tripod to gain stability in the shifting sands. At the peak of the dunes, I got sand-blasted as the sand whipped up over the crest.

Tranquility on Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park

The landscape changes constantly as the sand dunes reshape themselves and move within the system. These changes are subtle when viewed from a distance. But when you get up close, it is clear just how much material is being moved around by the wind. Footprints in the sand alter the way the sand flows, but it does not take long for those footprints to vanish, swallowed up by the wind-powered re-shifting of the sand.

Here in Las Vegas, windstorms are one of the few weather hazards we get. This past weekend at the Boulder City Spring Art Festival, I experienced the power of the wind first-hand. My tent, along with the tents of three or four other artists, was blown over by strong wind gusts. It could have been a lot worse for me. Fortunately nobody got hurt, and the only property that was damaged was my own. I’m taking it as a learning experience, and I am making changes in my booth setup to prevent this problem from happening to me in the future. But at least I got a photograph out of it. This photograph shows the remains of my tent. Someone suggested I put a price tag on it and sell it as modern art!

That's not the kind of art I like to make, however. I much prefer making landscape photography, and I thank the wind for helping to sculpt many beautiful sand dunes for me to photograph.

Desert Heat, Death Valley National Park