Great Sand Dunes National Park

We made a day trip yesterday to Great Sand Dunes National Park, and hiked for a few hours. It’s a four-hour drive from Denver, located in the southwest corner of Colorado. The terrain there looks much more like New Mexico and Arizona than it does our part of Colorado. I am drawn to the rugged beauty of the landscape of the Southwest.

It was spectacular. These are the tallest dunes in North America, which became apparent when we tried to climb them. We got to what we thought was the top, only to find there was another top nearby. As you know if you’ve ever tried it, climbing in loose sand is tough. Snowshoes might have helped; I sank to my ankles with every step, and slid backward to lose half of each step’s progress. I thought of the Afrika Corps vs. the British in North Africa in WWII, and of Romans and Carthaginians millennia before them. It’s hard to believe that people ever fought a war in sand; not sure how a tank or truck could move through it, nor a man dig a foxhole that wouldn’t refill itself within minutes.

The wind blew steadily at, I’d guess, 35-40 mph, and we were covered in grit by day’s end. I’m still cleaning it out of my ears, and cameras. Probably the one circumstance where you’d want to cover an expensive optic with a protective UV filter. I kept my lenses either capped, or facing downwind, until the moment I took a shot.

2018012 07

Scale is always a problem with landscape photographs like these. Looking at this photograph, how would you know whether it’s huge and far away, or close and not very big?

2018012 04

Adding in a few people is one trick. I think that dot atop the sand ridge is my son. It’s a much steeper grade than it might appear:

2018012 01

My son again:

2018012 05

The place was magnificent, but I found myself wishing for better light. We got there maybe 2 hours too soon for the “best” light. I’d love to have seen it nearer sunrise or sunset. I’m never satisfied with what I find….

I shot all of these images with the new-to-me Hasselblad Superwide. This is what this camera was born to do, I think. Didn’t hurt that the camera is relatively small and portable, as I tried to haul myself up the dunes. One downside, though, is that you only get 12 shots between reloads, and the wind was blowing so hard I didn’t want to open the film magazine, lest its innards be inundated with gear-destroying grit. Guess I’ll have something to shoot next time I visit.

2018012 12

Waiting on a roll of 35mm film; should be available later today. (Thanks to Mike’s Photo.) Stay tuned.

Michael Sebastian @mikeseb