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Colorado Sand Dunes NP

Photography and Adventure

From having never gone to Sand Dunes National Park to making two excursions there in 2 weeks just to play around with my camera, it speaks to how amazing this place is for photos. Everything about Sand Dunes National Park is a photographers dream. We start with the fact that its minimal.

Every direction you turn you have a simple, smooth and consistent background. This just brings focus to your subject. The fact that the background is smooth is undistracting is great, but the other benefit is that it is monotone and quite desaturated. This gives us a nice backdrop to make a color pop as well.

Completely isolated and aberrant stretch of sand in the heart of Colorado’s Rockies. Not quite a mystery but not quite solved.

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Now, what photography expedition would be complete without some comments on lighting. Well, all the benefits of the sand above has one more advantage. The sand acts as one giant soft box, reflecting uniform, soft light. Of course you have to be mindful of when you go out and shoot. Not preplanning you photography expedition to The Great Sand Dunes is a sure way to get sub par photos AND get over heated.

Both times we went we were up at 4:30 am getting ready for the day. I have to keep reminding myself that the most exciting pictures happen when you step out of your comfort zone. The comfort zone is where every wanna-be photographer lives and very rarely do interesting things come out of it. If you haven’t seen “A Tribute to Discomfort” by NatGeo yet, have a watch, it is well worth it.

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I fully endorse photography at Sand Dunes National Park. It was so good that I made the 8 hour round trip twice in 10 days. One night we stayed at the campgrounds and one night we camped on the dunes which I highly recommend. You must get a camping permit from the visiter center before going out and camping. We arrived at 6:02 the day we wanted to camp, 2 minutes after the visiter center closed.

We were thinking about making it onto the dunes anyway and paying the fine just to have the experience until we found out it was a federal offense to do that. Luckily, we found a very kind park ranger that issued a permit and sent us on our way. By this time is was late afternoon and the sun was going down. So we found a site, set up quickly and took a hike to find the best spot to watch the sun go down.

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long exposure in the desert night photography on sand dunes
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We woke up before dawn because why the hell would you go through all the trouble of getting there if you don’t get up for the best part of the experience? First on the dunes, beating even the sun, and enjoyed the solitude and environment to have some fun with pictures.

I will leave with a collection of other random photos that I think turned out decently.

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