Tell Us A Story Assignment Winner Tim Williams

“Sandblast Sunset” By Tim Williams

Congratulations to Tim Williams, whose image “Sandblast Sunset” and the story behind the shot won the Tell Us A Story Assignment.

“Wandering the dunes on our first-ever evening at White Sands National Monument, my friend and I marveled at the dramatically collapsing lines. Indeed, that’s all we focused on, as the sky was rather drab, with featureless dark clouds hanging over all. Discussion was about enjoying the incredible uniqueness of landscape forms all around, but being seemingly shut out for any ‘working of the light’ with our initial sunset opportunity. Being monsoon season, things change quickly, as we were about to discover in dramatic fashion. First began a severe uptick in the wind, as outflow from a thunderstorm began to reach us. We could see its menacing darkness back to the east, along with the occasional flash of lightning. This soon developed into a gale force event, as we were stung by an endless flow of blowing sand. ‘Free dermabrasion!’ Michele exclaimed, as we kept our backs to the wind and kept marching on, stopping on occasion to shoot dune features with sand flowing over their crests like water. Keeping hold of the tripod was a major factor, and you had to think really hard about whether that bag really needed to be opened for gear! Gradually the unexpected happened, as light began to grow towards the west, and hints of sunlight penetrated the cloud cover. The bursting forth of crepuscular rays seemed to happen all at once, creating a surreal and truly otherworldly scene across the dunes. This was followed by the quick realization that there was a dramatic bonus that came with the sandblasting we had endured—glowing against the darkness of the distant mountain range, a gleaming wall of sand that must have been hundreds of feet high. In fact, all of the cumulative airborne sand made the light rays that much more diffuse and magical. I found these slanted beams and their interaction with the mountain layers to be one of my favorite shots from the event. Needless to say, any discomfort was quickly forgotten while shooting this scene, and the trudge back out of the dunes after it subsided was quite satisfying. A memorable start to a great trip!”

Equipment: Nikon D600, Tamron 70-300mm, Induro tripod and head.

To see more of Tim William’s work, visit