San Luis Desolation

February 02, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Abandoned House, San Luis Valley18 mm, 1/6 sec, f/11, ISO 100 The night before Thanksgiving we went over to the Sand Dunes Swimming Pool near Hooper or, as Claire calls it, the Hopper Pool. This old deserted shack is about half a mile south of the dirt road that heads to the pool. It caught my eye because I had recently been looking at some of Aaron Groen's work ( after hearing him mentioned on ImprovePhotography's Tripod podcast. A lot of Aaron's work features abandoned houses and barns on the prairies of South Dakota set against a brooding sky at sunset or photographed at night under the Milky Way. I really like the style and mood of his photos and wanted to try something similar.

Blanca Massif and Sagebrush75 mm, 1/13 sec, f/10, ISO 100 I left the girls at the pool around 4:15 and drove back over to the shack to scout around and get the camera set up before sunset. The wind was absolutely howling and the temperature dropped quickly as the light faded. To top it off, there were heavy clouds over the west side of the valley blocking the sunset, so the sky was really disappointing. I moved around and got a few shots of the old house from various angles, then I packed it up as soon as the light faded. 

Mt. Zwischen above the Great Sand Dunes200 mm, 1/3 sec, f/11, ISO 100 When I first reviewed the images, I didn't bother processing any of them because they didn't look promising. But I've been working on post-processing technique the last couple of months (learning the tricks of the "digital darkroom" as they say), and I decided to give a few of these shots another look. I'm glad I held off on deleting these images because the top photo in this post has become one of my favorites. The sky certainly could have held more drama, but I think the more subtle colors in the clouds complement the loneliness of the old house. But I'll definitely be visiting this spot again to try to catch a more intense sky.

Tangled Barbed Wire Fence, San Luis Valley40 mm, 1/20 sec, f/9, ISO 100 If you like this type of photography, be sure to check out Aaron Groen's portfolio at


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