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Mike Berenson

Milky Way Gold From Sand Dunes Colorado

I've been meaning to get back to the Sand Dunes and improve on one of my favorite early night-time captures. Before I really knew much about what I was doing (with night photography), I found myself chasing a vision of the milky way south into the San Luis river valley and finally caught a good capture with the same golden light pollution glow over the little town of Alamosa, Colorado with the Milky Way above.

Yes, this is a composite image, but I did the work to get it. My wife and I did a scouting trip into the park in the afternoon where I recorded the gps track. Then that night in complete darkness (without even any moonlight), I ventured out following my recorded track. And here, my friends is where this took some real nerve (at least for me).

As I left the parking lot to head out onto the dunes, I entered a zone where the darkness became a bit freaky. I'm used to hiking in the dark, but this was really dark. And I realized that I'm used to having my headlamp light up most everything I need to see - trees up close or forest a little further away. In this case, it was much more wide open with at least a mile of visibility - to those who could see it. I could only see about 100 feet (if that). Add to that the herd of mule deer running around as I left the parking lot and I got a good reminder that I'd entered the domain of the wild.

So thanks to the gps track, I got to explore most everywhere I wanted to get to - while scouting earlier in the day. And I decided that gps track was so important that I don't think I would have been able to reach a spot anywhere near as cool without it. Route finding was still a pretty good challenge because of the limited visibility, but I thought the reward seemed well worth it. I got another shot of Milky Way Gold - only this time it wasn't just close to the dunes, it was from the dunes! :-)

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