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Great Stormy Dunes

Great Sand Dunes NP (CO)

Photographers know that oftentimes the most uncomfortable and adverse conditions make for the most interesting photos. Despite that, I rarely find myself out in bad weather. In the summer, storms happen fairly regularly here and you are strongly advised to NOT be on the dunes if you hear thunder...

But first, the hike. Though my GPS tells me I did not hike very far, this was one of the more difficult hikes I've done. To get into the dunes themselves, there is a very large ridge of dunes you must hike up and over. They're about 600-700 feet tall and very steep. Sand itself is brutal to walk on because for every step you take you tend to slide back a half a step. I was about 7000 feet in altitude higher than I am used to, as well. I was carrying a lot of water and for this trip I rented a big honkin' telephoto lens, which made my pack obnoxiously heavy (weighed in at over 25 lbs). All these factors combined, I had to stop and rest every 30-50 feet or so to catch my breath. Each time I recovered really quickly though, and I am told this is common at altitude.

As I hiked up the first ridge, I could see some epic light as the sun passed behind storm clouds and I muttered expletives under my huffing breath that I was missing it. It took an hour or more to get up the high dune. When I got there, the sun was mostly set and there was a group of adventurers that were celebrating the moment and being at the top. Though the best light was gone, luckily there was a beautiful storm over the mountains. We heard a couple of thunders but did not see lightning, and the storm was not over the dunes. I probably shouldn't have been out at this time, so I found a sexy curve in the dunes, snapped a few photos, and bailed. The way down was super fast and easy! I am really happy to have a photo like this in my collection.

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Captured: July 2018
Camera: Nikon D610
Lens: Nikon 16-35 f/4
Settings: ISO100, 16mm, f/11, 0.5 sec

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