Chris Coffey Photographs

Medano Creek and the Great Sand Dunes, CO

What a wonderful sight! I'm between shows and camped in the Great Sand Dunes at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Instead of working the front of the dunes as in past years (wonderful angles and lines), I have decided to scout the eastern side which goes up against the mountains. I've always been impressed with Medano Creek - how it winds down to almost nothing after the sun sets and then grows to a wide creek during the day. Relying on snow melt from the mountains it is always there in some form and I've crossed it in the summer when it is calf deep and frigid - quite a departure from air temps. that can be in the 90's. Even now the daytime gets to 80 degrees plus yet the night drops to the 30?s - wonderful sleeping weather in the camp sight.

Yesterday's winds allowed only scouting and I raced a thunderstorm that I watched cross the valley. It arrived at my camp sight at the same time I did with little rain but lots of fireworks. At this altitude I give lightening even more respect since I am the tallest thing on the dunes and a good conductor of electricity.

The winds were howling today again - normal for spring and fall as this is what pushed all this sand across the valley - but I geared up and spent the day out in the wind, sand and mostly along the creek. By the end of the day I'd made nothing as the gales prohibited taking any equipment out of the pack and I started back to camp. Right after the sun set I began to get a little break in the wind and noticed the wonderful range of light between the backlight clouds, the dunes and the reflections of all of that in the creek and mud flats. Keeping an eye on it as I set up I decided there was nothing I could bear to live without and that a triptych was the answer instead of a single image. This is tricky business this late in the day with the sky moving and light changing rapidly - having to wait between exposures for the wind to slow could cause the skies not match up so working quickly was required.

What a wonderful end to a long day? Sometimes you just have to have the experience and forget about making a picture. Even those days have value as you are seeing the light, learning the place and becoming qualified to make work that is uniquely yours. But never ceasing to look, to see, to learn a thing... that is the job and the joy.


Travel Journal

The Great Sand Dunes
Sept. 2015