The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a place like no other. When I first heard that we might stop there on our trip, I was very neutral. I figured it would be somewhere I would just check off my list of places I’ve been too. It turned out to be one of my favorites stops on our trip.

When you first view the dunes at a distance, they seem small and thin, but they quickly grow in size as you drive towards them. They appear as a mountain range of sand, lying alongside another mountain range. With heights of over 750 feet, it is a sight to behold. We arrived a few hours before sunset. When the low sun was still out, it offered great contrast and detail to the dunes. As fate would have it, the clouds got the better of the sun. The shaded light brought it’s own uniqueness to the landscape; not better or worse, just different.

We climbed to the top of one of the smaller and closer sand dunes, and just sat and soaked it all in. The quietness is what struck me as much as the serenity of it all. It makes you realize how small you really are, but in a good way.

I can truly say that I hope to return one day and take the time to hike in deeper and go “sand boarding” down a few dunes. Maybe camp the night and try some night astrophotography there too, as it is one of the darkest parks in the country.  It’s definitely on my return-trip list.

This is one of the panographs taken while there. It turned out to be 34,656 x 3,516 pixels. That is a 12 foot print at 240 dpi. The file is just too large to upload, so I split it into a 3 image series, shown below.

 

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano - Part 1

 

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano - Part 2

 

 

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano - Part 3

 

Here is a “thumbnail” version of the entire pano.

Great Sand Dunes pano - lo res

Golden Valley

For a guy from the flat lands of the Gulf coast, it seems like everywhere you turn in Colorado, the view is breathtaking. One of the best views is a stretch on Highway 82 between Aspen and Twin Lakes, known as Independence Pass. Our trip took us almost three hours just to drive the 20 miles to the top; not because of traffic or anything, but because we were pulling over for photo opportunities. The day we went, the clouds were clinging to the top of the mountains, like a smokey veil. While the colors may not have been as vibrant as a sunny day, it had a peaceful sense of wonder, yet mystery.

This panoramic scene was taken just leaving Aspen on a small bridge just off of 82. It was a great way to start our trip up Independence Pass.

 

Golden Valley by Tim Stanley

Colorado Gold

I recently had the great opportunity to travel to Colorado for a week and it came just in time.

It’s been a busy year. Just like most of you, our daily lives have a way of dictating what we do with what little free time we might have. Our jobs, family responsibilities, quality time with the family, chores and even the time it takes to walk the dog, all eats away at our limited free time. For me, it’s been all these and more as to why I haven’t shot and posted as many photos as I had hoped to this year. I felt like a fish out of water. Then came Alex.

My friend Alex Santiago asked if I wanted to travel to Colorado and visit some of the national parks in late September. We would be hitting “color week” when the aspens turn gold. There was only one correct answer.  I’ll share some stories of our trip in future posts, but suffice to say that it was a super week and we had a great time. I have always had a love for the mountains, and this trip only solidified that desire to go back.

While in Rocky Mountain National Park, this view along the one mile path to Alberta Falls was the norm all morning. Gold was everywhere in the mountains.

 

 

Colorado Gold

Fluffy Petals

Some flowers are soft and some flowers are bold.
I enjoy shooting flowers and it never grows old.

Okay, I’m sorry about the campy poetry. Now you know why I’m not a writer. I do find it fun to shoot floral close-ups though that bring out the detail of these pretty subjects. I’m always amazed at how delicate they are and that it’s truly a moment in time, as most flowers do not stay with us very long.

 

This flower has the feeling of soft, fluffy petals against the soft background.

Yellow Iris

Continuing with my garden theme, this yellow iris was just down the fence from my roses. The yellow petals were so bright, I waited for a cloudy moment, so the details would show up better. This small iris is a pretty flower, but many times it can look wilty (is that really a word, wilty?) or can look unbalanced as it hangs awkwardly on the long stem. I had to look for a good angle and wait for the wind to stop blowing to capture this pretty example.

 

 Continuing with my garden theme, this bright yellow iris was just down the fence from my roses.

Springtime Offerings

Springtime is a fun time for photographers, if you like flowers that is. I didn’t expect to, but I have acquired an appreciation for the simplicity of flower images.  For a few weeks, my backyard offers up a selection of roses and lilies that make good candidates for the camera. I have to hurry though. A good rain, a few bugs or a hot spring day can change things in a hurry.

 

Spring offers up a rose from my garden.

Big Yeller Flowers

After several years of constant photo-taking, it has finally happened. I’ll look back on a few photos and for the life of me, I can’t remember where I shot them. No, it’s not the obvious ones from Europe, Washington D.C or some other famous location. I’m talking about the “generic” photos like a simple sunset, or a big yellow flower (sunflower I’m guessing).

If I go back to the original set of photos, I have the a-ha moment when I realize where it came from. Many are from a quick shot with the iPhone that didn’t mean taking out the bigger camera, tripod, camera bag and more. Those photos require more work, helping me remember the event better.

 
Two large yellow sun flowers are all wrapped up, just waiting to brighten up someone's day.