Coral Pink Sand Dunes

A lot of my favorite images are the result of careful planning, but sometimes you just need luck on your side.  After an incredible 24 hours shooting around White Pocket, I was ok with the fact that I probably wasn’t going to be able to shoot sunset by the time my friends dropped me off back in Kanab.  Sunset was in one hour, I still needed to book a hotel for the night, and there’s no cell signal more than a couple of miles away from Kenab.  I didn’t know the surrounding area, but my friends suggested heading 45 minutes West to Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  I used my phone to book a room in Zion and started driving with 45 minutes until sunset.  I didn’t know exactly where I needed to park, hike, or what compositions I might find; but I embraced the odds for some spontaneous luck.  The sky looked great, and my worst case scenario was that I’d be scouting for a future trip.  Despite my eagerness, I drove carefully, knowing the approaching nightfall was likely to bring out animals.  And it was a good thing I did.  Deer jumped in front in front of my car no less than 7 times in the last few miles of the drive!  I’ve never seen so many deer in my life, and it was an amazing site to see while driving down the rustic and decaying asphalt road.  I pulled into the parking lot literally one minute before sunset.  There wasn’t a single other person anywhere in the park.  There were plenty of footprints and ATV tracks showing activity from the day, but the sunset was mine alone.  I grabbed my 25 pound camera backpack and raced across the dunes to find a shooting location.  As I was huffing and puffing (but not too sweaty thanks to freezing temperatures and a stiff breeze), I looked for some place that might be promising when I turned around to face the sunset.  The ATV tracks were hideous.  I figured I’d be cloning out a bunch of junk, even if I was lucky enough to find a good composition before the sky color faded.  I set up my 80-400mm lens on top of the tallest dune and took a photo.  The sky looked great, but the foreground not so much.  I looked to the left and saw a promising dune below me, so I started running down the dune, camera and tripod in hand.  I found exactly what I was looking for, and captured one set of bracketed exposures to capture all the beautiful color.  If I could only be so lucky all the time.

Technical details:

  • 80-400mm lens shot at 125mm and f/11
  • Two exposures, at 0.1 and 0.4s
  • Digital blending, dodging and burning, and vignette with Lumenzia

A firey red sunset over sweeping sand dunes

Greg Benz Photography