A friend and I headed down to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve outside Mosca, Colorado, this weekend to shoot sunrise Saturday morning. I had gone to the Dunes for the first time with my family two years ago, but this trip would be all about exploring and photography, albeit a quick one. Accessing the sand dunes is incredibly easy from the main parking lot and once across Medano Creek adventure and endless exploring await. The vastness of the sand dunes seems otherworldly, but the backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains reminds you you're still in Colorado. The juxtaposition of the dunes and the mountains just seems odd, almost inexplicable, but it's just another example of Colorado's unique geography. I'm lucky to be able to live here.
The day before we arrived a fairly potent spring storm had lashed the area with fresh snow. Little of it remained on the dunes, but the sand had absorbed a lot of moisture, making travel much less taxing and undoubtedly more enjoyable. The moisture had also left beautiful patterns and shapes in the sand that morphed as the sun warmed and dried out the landscape. Wind is usually a common feature (and annoyance) at Great Sand Dunes, but Saturday's weather was just about perfect: a subtle breeze at times, mid-50s, and high clouds. We were able to change lenses relatively worry-free and photograph the myriad shapes, lines, and formations in the sand without getting sand-blasted.
Here are some images from Saturday's outing:
The Milky Way over the Sangre de Cristos and a large dune very early Saturday morning (20mm, ISO 4000, 25", f/4)
Distant San Juan Mountains, the San Luis Valley, and sand dunes just before sunrise (149mm, ISO 100, 1/10", f/8)
Sunrise from the dunes (17mm, ISO 100, 1/25", f/16)
Long shadows across the dunes at sunrise (122mm, ISO 125, 1/200", f/8)
Wind-sculpted sand and plants (20mm, ISO 125, 1/200", f/10)
Dunes, dunes, and more dunes (17mm, ISO 125, 1/100", f/16)
Black and white sand and sun scene (22mm, ISO 125, 1/160", f/16)
Late morning sun angle casting long shadows (26mm, ISO 125, 1/320", f/16)