The Sand Dunes in Southern California is my favorite place in the world. It’s magical, mysterious, silent, roaring. I think some of the best work comes from this place, not because it’s a mirror of some distant overseas Morocco desert, but because it evokes this foreign, alien-like landscape that causes you to question your entire existence and placement in the world. Combine it with some morning sunshine during a west-to-east wind storm and you have this wonderful, insane, bizarre magic. 

The Process

We left San Diego at 5:00am on a Sunday and traveled to the Imperial Sand Dunes, a destination ~two hours away. Typically, Google maps leads you to the front end of the dunes, where bikers and ATV-riders zoom around, but luckily, we were detoured through the back of the dunes where we ended up staying for the entire shoot. The back of the dunes is close to the campground area, which had been deserted during our session, making the endless rolling hills ours for the day (with no bikers in sight). 

The Shoot

It was breath-taking and a bit chilly. On our way out from San Diego, there was a severe rain storm; luckily, we arrived at the dunes and it was sunny (but definitely had a chill crisp to it). The rule of thumb is whenever there is a rain storm in San Diego, there is a wind storm in the sand dunes. We did not know this at the time so we were met with some fast-moving winds that brought sand into every bag, item of clothing, camera equipment, you name it. It was wonderful for photos. The sand crept into every corner and kissed our legs in each shot. The light bounced off the white sand, creating a natural reflector for beautiful skin tones. The quiet slow-moving hills dissolved and were rebuilt in minutes. 

The Brands

I love to work with independent retailers so I was excited to include a few beautiful pieces of clothing from Pyne & Smith Clothiers, Barnaby Jack Vintage, and Ali Golden. Let me introduce you to these wonderful companies. 

Pyne & Smith Clothiers creates gorgeous linen dresses, sustainably made in California. They are airy, light, and definitely make you feel like you need to be laying in a prairie or having a picnic in a bed of flowers. Joanna sent a beautiful indigo striped v-neck maxi dress, which Serina adventured in flawlessly.

Barnaby Jack Vintage is wonderfully curated with vintage goods so everything is one of a kind. All of Sara’s picks are straight out of my desert-themed dreams. From summer cotton dresses to woven bags to vintage western boots, she continually restocks her shop with items of the best quality. 

Ali Golden, a shop based in Oakland, has some of the most beautiful minimal designs I’ve ever seen. They sent me a lovely pinstripe jumpsuit, which was so comfortable and airy.