I drove up to Great Sand Dunes National Monument in the wake of a robust snow storm, hoping to find some dramatic light and sky in the Sangres with the dunes as a nifty foreground. I was rewarded with not only a dramatic sky, but also snow-covered dunes.
What was even better was that, as the day progressed, the snow on the dunes gradually melted, creating wonderful patterns. In addition, the snow brought out the detail in the dunes–ripples, ridges and contours.
Occupying a corner of the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado, Great Sand Dunes is fairly compact, as the panorama shows. (I could print the panorama, but it would be 20″ X 200″ or so!) While I have hiked the dunes a few times, I find the long view of the dunes with the mountains in the background (Crestone Peak, Crestone Needle etc.) much more interesting than close ups of the dunes. I prefer White Sands for closeups because of the variety of detail and contrast in those gypsum dunes.
However, the snow brought out such nice detail and gave it such an unusual aspect that i would like to have it both ways: both the long view and a closeup of the foreground. These images I shot with my Canon 5D mkII with a 300mm lens, which yields fairly nice detail in the foreground dunes.
I also managed to find a place out of the wind to set up my 4×5 with a Fujinon 600mm T lens, hoping that I might be able with that setup to capture both the background drama as well as foreground detail. The bellows extension with that lens is around 16″, so any breeze at all will blur the image. I’m looking forward to getting my transparencies from the processor to see if I got lucky!