Following the light - Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

I never really believed Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings of fiery red and purple skies until I saw these with my own eyes. I was awestruck and humbled when I experienced these for myself one evening as I watched the sun set at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Southern Colorado.

The skies caught me by surprise. I was exploring the dunes with my dog and camera late one afternoon. My dog ran around curious about the many new smells; her hound nose working over time. I was drawn to the dunes and how their form changed as the light illuminating them transformed from a harsh, bright light, to a soft golden glow.


Slowly, the clouds started taking on a tinge of yellow, quickly erupting to gold.


And then fiery red, orange and finally a deep purple before the dark, midnight blues of twilight. I was bathed in that light for just one magical moment.


A land of stark contrasts, the dawn brings with it a quiet, meditative stillness. A gentle, calm light, not unlike the stillness of the ocean at sunrise. A new day; the dunes completely transformed. It felt like the fire and drama of last evening’s sky never happened.

Early risers head to the dunes, their worries and mundane cares first held and then absorbed by the vast landscape. Unburdened, they begin their exploration.


Families and children explore with exuberance! Toboggans, surfboards, sleds or simply taking huge leaps of faith off dune crests. A giant sand box to play in, or as a cat loving friend aptly pointed out, a giant kitty litter box for cats. So many ways for everyone, even cats (and dogs), to enjoy the dunes.

And yet, the vast, dramatic beauty is not without its subtleties. As I look down around my feet, I see intricate patterns woven by wind and sand, transforming moment by moment with the ever changing wind and light.

I have always been drawn to capturing light with my camera. The interplay of light and shadow creating form. Sometimes dramatic, sometimes subtle, it requires a certain stillness to see these. And when I do, I gently lift my camera and quietly take the shot.


Gear: Most of these shots were taken with the Fujifilm XT-2 and Fujifilm XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens.

© Nazli Nomanbhoy, Takephi Photography LLC. All Rights Reserved.