I arrived at a BLM area a few miles outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park about an hour after dark, just as a light snow began to fall, with 4-6 inches forecast overnight.
I started the morning on the short trails just outside the visitor center in the pre-dawn light, with temps in the single digits. The sky was still heavily overcast, and visibility of the dunes and mountains beyond was quite poor. I then explored the area throughout the morning and shot a few images from various locations, returning to my van to warm up numerous times. Overall I was pretty disappointed in the results. I debated whether to start the drive back home to Denver (heavy snow was forecast for later in the day), or wait a little longer to see what might happen.
Then, just before noon, things started looking up. The clouds thinned and became more variable, with hints of sunlight sneaking through every now and again. Still well below freezing, I put on my heavy boots and extra layers and made my first trek up into the dunes. The snow began to get heavier as I ascended, with big fluffy flakes cascading down. Soft light overhead but dark clouds beyond created a rich contrast with the fresh white snow blanketing the contours of the sand. A few of the sparse areas of prairie grasses popped up here and there, giving just a hint of definition in the foreground.
The magic only lasted for a few brief moments, and then the heavy clouds and dull, gray returned once more to cover the area for the rest of the afternoon. But I was happy to be in the right place to catch the moment when it occurred.
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor