Photo adventure at the Great Sand Dunes: join us!

It’s always been our attitude that even the best selection of gear in the world is meaningless without two additional critical elements: the knowledge to use that gear and, of course, the ability to find subjects. The classes and on-site photo shoots we offer are great ways to develop both of those, which is why we put so much effort into our events and education.

On the whole, I think the happy students coming to class after class are proof enough that it’s working. One occasional request we do get, however, is for more: longer, more in-depth, more immersive experiences. Well, get ready folks: we’re experimenting with a whole new level of adventure! Our biggest excursion yet is coming up at the end of this month, in my favorite place in the world: the San Luis Valley.

Photo by Macey Sigaty

We’ve partnered with Olympus to send four instructors out to a campground near the Great Sand Dunes September 26-29 for three full days of seminars and photo walks (plus an introductory evening), with plenty of time to get to know your instructors and fellow daring photographers. Bring your camera, your camping gear, food for the weekend, and an open mind! We’ll have Olympus cameras and lenses available to try for free and the Olympus instructors will be able to help you become intimately knowledgeable about their cameras, but the event is open to and equally awesome for shooters of all brands. Click here for complete details and to register now!

Check-in starts at 4:00 PM on Thursday the 26th and activities run through Sunday, September 29th. There’s still time to register, so shuffle your schedule around and get down there! I mean it when I say this is my favorite place in the world. If you’re reading this outside of Colorado, it seriously might be worth your while to book a cheap flight and rental car or drive out so you can experience the surreal grandeur in a unique photo-festival atmosphere.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park is one of Colorado’s hidden gems. The little-travelled San Luis Valley containing the park is an exciting bundle of contrasts itself: an 8,000 square-mile plain (as flat as any in Kansas) sitting at about 8,000 feet; a cold mountain desert with vast underground water resources (not to mention the headwaters of the very same Rio Grande that winds all the way down to form the southern edge of Texas); ranches and farms surrounded on all sides by mountains as gorgeous as you’re likely to find anywhere.

If you come in from the north via 285 (recommended for beauty’s sake), the way the desolate beauty spreads out before your eyes after Poncha Pass*—pure space—is an almost palpable distillation of the concept of freedom. Even if you come in off of I-25 via 160, the up-close view of Mt. Blanca (the local fourteener) and the ancient peaks surrounding it will be sure to put you into a higher frequency of being.

*Of course, I’d probably have to give the hat tip to the valley view at the end of Kenosha Pass for the most majestic pass-end of all. Leave early so you can really enjoy the drive: you’ll want to stop for lots of photos!

Then, the moment the Dunes themselves come into view for the first time, miles and miles away, you won’t be entirely sure of it. “Is that them?” you’ll ask. “No way,” your traveling partner will reply, then after squinting will add, “maybe?” As you draw closer to the pale brown patch, your certainty will grow, and as you realize how far away you still are, your amazement will, too, until you finally get close enough for the full panoramic view. Go ahead and pull off to the side of the road: you’ll want a moment to take it all in.

Click to enlarge

I truly hope you can make it. If you can’t, do visit another time, and keep an eye on our class schedule for more long-form adventure trips in the future! Sign up for our Colorado or California newsletter if you want the announcements delivered straight to your inbox.

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