San Luis Valley, A Different World


“Dune Patterns” Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

We had our fourth annual Sandhill Crane Photo Workshop at Zapata Ranch in the San Luis Valley last week with a great group of photographers from all over the country. The one constant is Zapata Ranch hospitality, but it’s remarkably different in the valley year over year. Michael Forsberg, naturalist John Rawinski and I try to mix things up and keep a flexible schedule. Thousands of mostly Greater sandhill cranes were there, but not in the usual spots, the wind didn’t blow, and the high Sangre De Cristo Peaks lit up every morning as sunrise grazed their 14,000 foot summits. We made two trips to nearby Great Sand Dunes National Park, where towering dunes pile up against the flanks of the Sangres. Dune fields sprawl out 50 miles square and literally look different every day, shaped by wind. Besides making many excellent crane images, our group explored the dunescapes and made many fine images in the eco-zone where Medano Creek divides the dunes and rabbitbrush/ponderosa, which transitions to piñon-juniper forest below the peaks. It’s a landscape rich in biodiversity. This image is a simplification of just dune ripples leading to higher dunes in the last hour of daylight.

The 2015 Sandhill Crane Workshop at Zapata Ranch will be in early March. Let us know if you’re interested!

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