Pic of the Week 10/19/17
"Great Dunes, Greater Mountains"
Date taken: 9/24/17
Location: Zapata Falls Recreation Area, CO
Who is ready for more Colorado photos? This weeks Pic of the Week was captured on our third day of our Colorado trip. The previous day we had shot early morning sunrise photos of Mt Blanca, hiked up the Big Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park, and ended with a rain shower blocking out our chance for a sunset. When we started to drive back to our camp for the night clouds covered our skies and we were constantly in rain. This had me worried for sunrise and most of our shooting the next day. But we climbed up in our sleeping bags and drifted to sleep with the sound of rain drops "pit-pattering" on the tent. We awoke once again very early and I stepped out the tent to observe the skies. There was some clouds off to our west, but I could see clearing to our east. In fact, I could make out the bright constellation Orion hovering in the sky above. Everyone was woken up and we tore down our campsite and gathered our gear and drove to our sunrise location. Sunrise was nice, but nothing extravagant and after we collected all our sunrise images we continued down the road to our next stop, Zapata Falls.
To reach Zapata Falls you turn down a small gravel road that leads you to the base of a mountain. The drive to the falls was very interesting. The gravel road quickly transitioned to a dirt/rock road and started to gain elevation. The road was only a few miles long, but it took us 30min to reach the end in our little Ford Focus we rented for the trip. Every dip and rise over the rocks had us grimacing and praying that we wouldn't pop a tire. Eventually we reached the top and the end of the road and the trailhead to Zapata Falls. There was a small overlook outside the campground that gave you a fantastic view of the San Luis Valley, Great Sand Dunes, and the Sangre de Cristos mountain range. The mountains were still covered by the clouds, so I didn't take any photos from the overlook.
The trail to Zapata Falls was easy, but I am not used to hiking in 9000' elevation so we took our time. The trail eventually runs into a creek and you have to wade through the creek to access the falls. The falls themselves were actually quite nice and when I had them all to myself it was peaceful, but soon many more people started coming up the trail and through the creek getting in front of my camera and ending up in my shots. But I got what I wanted and then started back towards the trail. I noticed the clouds above us had mostly cleared and I hoped it was true with the mountains. There were a few spots on the trail where we could see the tops of the mountains between the trees and I was excited to see those peaks. I might be able to capture a shot from the overlook after all.
After our hike, I reached into the car and pulled out my Tamron 70-200mm telephoto lens and headed towards the overlook. The clouds had cleared and finally revealed the mountains to us. Not only that the rain and weather on the peaks left a fresh dusting of snow on the majestic mountains. I zoomed in tight and found a composition that worked showing the flat San Luis Valley, that transitioned to the delicate curves of the sand dunes and then met with the jagged and craggy snow-covered peaks of the Sange de Cristos. Although the lighting was less than ideal the intermittent light and shadows played on the landscape making an almost dreamy scene. I snapped several image from the overlook, but I had issues with the trees around the area getting into some of my shots. To solve this, I climbed up a stone platform that rose me just above the tree line where I was able to make my images with an unobstructed view of the wonderful landscape. This image ended up being one of my favorite photos from the trip and is another photo that will be featured in my 2018 calendar.