The Obvious View

Great Sand Dunes National Park No. 4 Colorado, 2014

Great Sand Dunes National Park No. 4
Colorado, 2014

In landscape photography, sometime it’s the obvious view that’s the best (or, if not the best, at least pretty darn good).

On the day I made this capture, I arrived in Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park with the idea of hiking out into the dunes, far enough to get away from all the tracks and footprints near the parking lot, in order to photograph the dune forms and shapes in their pristine condition.  Unfortunately, as so often is the case with landscape photography, the weather had other plans for me.  Specifically, it was a terribly windy day, and the wind was whipping up sand in the dunes like spray on the ocean.  I’m usually pretty willing to take my camera out into all kinds of adverse conditions, but one situation I avoid is wind-blown sand.  It’s just too easy for sand to get into the lens and camera, which can really pose a problem for those moving parts.

Instead, I had to make do with what was available.  I drove around to different ends of the park, seeing what there was to see, occasionally snapping a photograph or two, but not really coming away with anything that spoke to me.  As the sun began to set, I figured I would call it a day, and I pulled into the now-deserted visitor center parking lot to pack up my things before getting on the road.  As I was stowing my gear, I noticed a short trail making a quick loop around the visitor center – from the trail, one could take in the view of the dunes as seen in this photograph.

Turns out it’s a pretty nice view!  So I grabbed my camera and spent 20 minutes or so experimenting with some long exposures.  The one benefit of the windy day was that the clouds were really moving through the sky.  As a result, I was able to capture the movement of the clouds over the dunes as seen in this image.  On this day, at least, it was the obvious view that was the best.

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