cole Thompson Photography Newsletter

Issue 99   -  May 11, 2017


Dunes of Nude No. 191




Dear Cole: 


I love photographing sand dunes and have visited a number of different dunes around the country. Some are extremely isolated while others are Disneyland-like in their popularity and population. 


While none of my adventures have been particularly dangerous, I have been tracked by coyotes, buzzed by F-16's and once got lost in the desert.


I was on the dunes in White Sands, NM where just a couple of years earlier a French couple and their 9 year old son were hiking when they became lost. The husband and wife gave their water to their son and as a result they died of dehydration. The boy barely survived but was found. It was quite a tragedy and I wondered how that possibly could have happened. 


Fast forward to my visit to White Sands: I had photographed on the dunes for several hours and then started to head back, confident that I knew the way to my car. I had always been pretty good at dead reckoning when I was scuba diving and so I felt comfortable that I knew where I was at. 


However, I could not find my way back. 


After searching for a couple of hours and becoming concerned that I would be spending the night on the dunes, I tried calling the park rangers but my cell phone didn't have enough of a signal. However it did have enough signal to get a text message to my wife, and I asked her to call the park rangers and have them come look for me.


They found me, but I sure felt stupid because I had been very close to my car. I don't think I was in any real danger, but I had made a series of unfortunate moves: I went out on my own, no one knew I was there, I did not mark my location on my GPS and I didn't bring any water. I hope that I have learned several good lessons from that experience.


That's about as exciting as it has gotten for me while exploring the dunes. Mostly my time is spent quietly photographing and enjoying the solitude. And even when I'm not photographing, I'll just lie on the sand and enjoy the sun and the silence. 


I recently spent three weeks in Death Valley and made a number of trips to the Mesquite Dunes. I go to a place where there are smaller dunes and where you rarely encounter people or footprints. While there I created several new images, additions to my "Dunes of Nude" series. You can see the new images below and the entire portfolio here:




Dunes of Nude No. 212


Dunes of Nude No. 208


Dunes of Nude No. 194


Dunes of Nude No. 193


Dunes of Nude No. 192





Dunes of Nude No. 190





Dunes of Nude No. 187





Dunes of Nude No. 178





Dunes of Nude No. 176






Exhibition at Lincoln Gallery, Loveland, CO

Moai, Sitting For Portrait


My "Moai, Sitting for Portrait" series will be featured at the Lincoln Gallery in Loveland, CO for the month of June with an opening reception on June 9th. 


Here is the artist statement for this series:

In January of 2015 I spent two weeks photographing the Moai of Easter Island. This fulfilled a lifelong dream, one that started when I was 17 and read the book "Aku Aku" by Thor Heyerdahl. I became fascinated with the Moai and they have been on my mind and influenced my art for these many years.

As I traveled to Easter Island and tried to imagine what I would encounter, something interesting happened: I fell asleep and dreamt that I had invited the Moai to come and sit for a formal portrait. 

When I awoke I thought "why not?" 

I knew there would be challenges: the Moai are reserved, aloof and almost unapproachable. They had suffered greatly at the hands of outsiders and the question was: would they come to trust me? 

Distance was the first hurdle to be overcome: the island is small by automobile standards, but when we are talking about the Moai who walk everywhere, traversing the island to get to my makeshift studio could be difficult. Then there was the Moai's physical condition: many were incapacitated by war and the ravages of time and could not make the journey. And how would I accommodate the size of the Moai, with some towering 33 feet tall? 

Facing these challenges and armed with nothing more than a dream and hope, I issued the invitations...but would they come?

Initially only a few came; the younger and less suspicious ones. But slowly, as word spread of their experience, others started to arrive.

Photographing the Moai created some interesting situations: one older Moai refused to allow me to photograph his face and turned his back on the camera. Another arrived with a hawk and insisted on having his portrait taken with the bird atop his head. Several Moai with bullet wounds, inflicted by outsiders, insisted that I document those scars.

And there were tense moments, as two rival Moai came together face-to-face in the studio, but which ended well when they agreed to be photographed together. And there were touching moments as old friends were reunited after years of separation.

The Moai are quiet, stoic and could even been described as "stone-faced." And it's true, not once was I able to photograph a Moai smiling, but instead they have a dignified poise that transcends time.



Here are the exhibition details:


The Lincoln Gallery, 429 N. Lincoln Ave, Loveland, CO


Opening Reception: Friday, June 9th from 6 - 9 pm


Artist Talk: Friday, June 9th at 6:30 pm


If you are in the area, I hope to see you there!





Print Drawing


Run Aground

The winner of the "Print of Your Choice" print drawing is Lara Arnold! Please send me your mailing address so that I can mail this off to you Lara.


The print to be given away for this newsletter is "Run Aground" and which is my favorite image from my recent Northern California Coast trip.


To enter the drawing, send me an email ( and put "Run Aground" in the subject line. 






Cole Thompson Photography



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