Much like Oregon, my home state of Colorado seems to always charm me. Whether it’s a Ben Howard concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, skiing at Keystone or spending the day in Aspen visiting Maroon Bells, I am always reminded of how lucky I am to have grown up in the Centennial state. Wanting to do a little traveling while I was home for break, this UO Duck brought along a few CU Buffs to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the southwest corner of the state for a photoshoot.
The national park’s landscape is one that looks like it could have easily been torn from a children’s fairy tale book. The dunes span Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a plain between the San Juan Mountains and the Sangre de Cristos Range. The unique placement of the dunes allows them to move in moderate increments over time but never drastically. Adults and kids alike get lost in the 132 square miles of beauty by hiking, sliding down the terrain on sand boards or roaming around the creek at its base.
We arrived at the park in the midday, which normally could create harsh lighting, but the cloud cover saved us.
I’m drawn to working creatively with my friends primarily out of a sense of familiarity and dependability. I know how they like to work, and we never fail to have a hilarious time while doing so. I also know that if we shoot together, it doesn’t have to be a big plan with extravagant details. We can be comfortable in simplicity. After knowing a group of people for as long of a time as I have, you start to realize that your friends really are your chosen family, despite how cliché it may seem. I’ve come to realize that working with my friends is as rewarding as it is inspiring.
Kyle, a friend from high school, came up with the original concept for the shoot: to put a mirror in the sand to create a reflective image. Kyle goes to the University of Colorado at Boulder and is in the Technology, Arts and Media program. We share many memories together, ranging from Saturday nights spent in the school parking lot listening to Troye Sivan to not so legally stealing “Speed Hump” signs from his neighborhood.
Kyle and I have been to the sand dunes once before. However, visiting in the summer made for a less than ideal situation due to the extreme heat. Even in early June, the sand was so hot it burned the bottom of my sandal-clad feet. Regardless of our unimpressive first encounter, we were determined to meet with the dunes once again.
Veronica’s boyfriend, David, serves as our handyman and carries the mirror up the slope.
Our chauffer for the day was none other than Michael David Graham Boyles the second, but he normally goes by just “David.” He is still in high school but is finishing his senior year this spring and plans to study at CU Boulder, joining Veronica and Kyle.
Our model, Veronica, not only happens to be one of my best friends, but she also goes to CU Boulder with Kyle. Veronica and I became friends in our eighth grade musical theatre class when we performed in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” together. I played Violet Beauregarde and Veronica was Mike Teavee’s mom, but since then, our friendship has been much less dramatic. During high school, Veronica served as one of my primary partners in crime, and the majority of the memories I anticipate I’ll remember 20 years from now are those that took place in the loft above her family’s garage.
This isn’t Veronica’s first time modeling for me. I usually ask her anytime I feel like taking photos. Frankly, I’m lucky she still agrees to my requests at this point. For this shoot, she wore a medallion belt and scarf from a vintage store in Fort Collins, Colorado; a Free People sweater; and a pair of distressed denim jeans to complete the look.
Veronica fashions the mirror so that it reflects the sky.
Whenever I go back home, I am reminded of how much I took for granted the beauty that constantly surrounded me. From Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to Oregon’s Skinner’s Butte, this trip was evidence that you can create your own kind of storybook magic wherever you are. You just need the people and drive to do it.
Words and Photos by Brooke Harman, @brooke_harman