Glenn Randall Photography

Extraordinary landscape photography from Colorado and the West

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Milky Way over Great Sand Dunes National Park



Milky Way over Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Milky Way over Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. These dunes, which rise 750 feet above the flat floor of Colorado’s San Luis Valley, are nestled beneath the 14,000-foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Range. They’re formed by wind scouring sand from the sand sheet to the west and driving it upwards until the wind can carry it no higher and it settles into graceful, towering waves of sand. Understanding the wind’s diurnal pattern is the secret to photographing in the dunes. Afternoons are often viciously windy, filling the eyes, nose, mouth, and camera bag of anyone foolish enough to venture into the dune field with fine-grained grit. Mornings, on the other hand, are often blessedly calm. After a windy afternoon and evening, the entire 30-square-mile dune field is covered with freshly fallen sand, creating a sandy wonderland of sinuous dunes with textured flanks.


As marvelous as it is during the day, Great Sand Dunes National Park is even more wonderous at night. The park is one of the best dark-sky locations in Colorado. Often the wind begins to die down after sunset. At the right time of year, at the right time during a clear, moonless night, the Milky Way glows brightly in an ink-black sky. One afternoon during a trip in September 2016, I scouted the foothill dunes nestled beneath the main dune field, looking for a perfectly shaped dune that would work compositionally with the galactic center, the most photogenic part of the Milky Way, at astronomical dusk, when the sky first reaches maximum darkness. I found this untracked dune about half a mile from the road. I hoped that it was far enough off the standard route to the summit of High Dune that it would still be untracked when I returned after dark. My luck held—when I returned after sunset, the dune was still flawless. I set up two lights, one to my left and one to my right, to bring out the texture and shape of the dune, then used focus-stacking to bring everything into sharp focus. This photo remains my favorite image of the Milky Way at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

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Glenn Randall Photography  |  2945 Colby Dr.  |  Boulder CO 80305-6303 | Office 303 499-3009  |  Mobile 720 320-7126

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I offer over 100 images on this site, in four or five sizes each and as many as five different presentations (loose, matted-only, framed, gallery-wrap canvas, and gallery float). It is impossible to keep every size and presentation of every image in stock at all times. Accordingly, most of the items I offer for sale on are hand-built one at a time as customers order them. It normally requires between five and ten business days to complete an order, but it may take longer if I am on an extended shoot. Shipping time is in addition to these figures. To get specific information about delivery time for a particular item, please call 303 499-3009 or email me. I will do my best to accommodate rush orders. Thanks for your patience!

All photographic prints, regardless of presentation (loose, matted-only, framed, etc.) are delicate and require careful packaging to be shipped safely. Accordingly, all online purchases will have a 15 percent charge added for shipping and handling. This shipping charge only covers shipments to the continental United States. Please contact me for a quote on shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, or to international destinations. If you would like to pick up your print at my home office in Boulder rather than have it shipped, please call 303 499-3009 (office) or 720 320-7126 (mobile) to complete your purchase and make arrangements for pickup. Alternatively, I can deliver prints in the Denver metro area for $1.00 per mile based on round-trip mileage.

All matted-only and framed prints larger than 24x30 inches, all gallery-wrap canvases and gallery-float prints larger than 30x40, and all framed panoramas wider than 30 inches, are too big to be shipped via FedEx ground and too big to fit in any standard-size art box. While these prints can be shipped, they require a custom-made crate and the cost is exorbitant ($300+). I strongly suggest that all customers who live outside the Denver metro area and who wish to purchase a print larger than the maximums specified above buy the loose version and take it to the custom frame shop of their choosing. Loose prints can be shipped rolled at the standard shipping rate of 15 percent of the retail price. I will gladly provide detailed instructions to the framer on the moulding I use and my preferred method of mounting and framing the piece.

I use elegant hardwood frames on all of my framed prints. The image above right shows the frame I use for the smallest framed size of this image. I use proportionally larger frames with the same color finish for larger prints. The moulding shape will vary, depending on the size. For more information on the frames I recommend for different size prints, please visit my framing page.

Studio Moulding frame 353-125 cherry Studio Moulding Forte 4934 mahogany-finish picture frame Studio Moulding Forte 4834 mahogany-finish picture frame

I allow returns for a full refund (minus shipping) for 30 days from the date of delivery if you are dissatisfied with the print. You are responsible for the cost of shipping the print back to me, including the cost of insuring it for the full retail value, and the print must arrive in salable condition for a refund to be issued.

All online orders are processed by Paypal, but you do not need a PayPal account to order. All major credit cards are accepted. Order processing through PayPal is completely secure. Neither I, nor anyone who might be able to hack into my computer, will ever see your credit card information. You can order online with complete confidence.

Contact information provided by the customer, including email address, telephone number, address, etc., is used solely for the purpose of completing the order. This includes information pertaining to gift recipients. Financial information including credit card numbers, expiration dates, and billing address is used solely to bill customers for their order. I will not sell your email address or any other personal information  to anyone. This website uses Google Analytics, which provides me with information on how users interact with the site. Users remain anonymous. Google Analytics does not collect any information that I could use to identify a specific person. This site also uses the remarketing feature of Google Analytics. Visitors who view certain pages on this site may later be shown ads relevant to the content of those pages  when they visit other websites. To opt out of all tracking by Google Analytics of your visit to this site or any other site, please install the Google Analytics Opt-Out Browser Add-On. You can get more information on this software by visiting this secure Google site,