Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Santa Fe Photography Workshop

Vertabre on the ranch
This summer I had the opportunity to spend a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico, taking a photography course with Santa Fe Photography Workshops. This was the first time that I have invested in my photography, and pairing that with a chance to visit one of favorite places in the United States, well, I couldn’t turn down the class.

Santa Fe Photography Workshops holds courses in at a retreat center run by a Carmelite Monastery. The rooms are all suites and very comfortable. Breakfast and lunch are provided by a fantastic local caterer. Most importantly, the classes are taught by wonderful photographers. The class I chose, Seeing Light, was taught by Tony O’Brien, who brought his 40 years of experience to help us grow.

Our first assignment, on our first evening, was to take pictures of light and shadow. I was sitting in my rook, studying the wall, things on my desk, even the floor, looking for interesting pictures, when, all of a sudden, I looked out of the window and saw the amazing colors of the sunset behind the mountains. I rushed out to take some shots, and stayed outside, using the building lights in the growing darkness to take full advantage of the evening colors and shadows.


Night Tree

Wall Sahdows

The next day we were sent out in small groups with two goals; to take photos of reflections, and to take portraits. I was teamed with two other students, and we made our way to Canyon Road. The area we visited is home to many art galleries and restaurants. We walked along looking for the best places to take our photos, using windows, gardens and artwork as backdrops.

Day Three was supposed to include a trip to the town of Chimayo, but I threw out my back, and I was stuck in town. After seeing a chiropractor, I took a walk through Old Town Santa Fe. I was still looking for reflections and portraits, along with the play of light and shadow.

On the fourth day, we had a real treat and opportunity. The workshop arranged the use of ranch out in the desert, along with seven models. Over four hours, we were able to walk around the grounds with the models, using a barn, a saloon and some rock outcroppings to frame our shots. It was an amazing day, and something I had never had the chance to do before.

Our last day gave us the following assignment - Go to the Plaza in Old Town, stay there for one full hour, and take only two pictures. It was a great exercise in observation and allowing the picture to come to me.

Seeing Light was an amazing chance to observe and work with excellent photographers, talk about choices and methods, and have my work critiqued. If you want to seriously increase your skills as photographer, I strongly recommend taking classes, and I can put Santa Fe Photographic Workshops high on the list of experiences that you might try.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Turquoise Trail is a beautiful trip through New Mexico

Tinkertown Saloon

Traveling from Albuquerque to Santa Fe is a beautiful drive, even on the interstate. But on a trip this summer, I took the more scenic route along the Turquoise Trail, and I was rewarded with great views and fun places to stop.

The Turquoise Trail follows route NM-14 from Tijeras in the south to the suburbs of Santa Fe in the north. It follows the eastern edge of the Sandia Mountains. I first drove this route a twenty-five years ago. The Amazing Ms. D and I were drawn the promise to seeing three ghost towns along our trip. Today, the towns of Golden, Madrid and Cerillos are no longer abandoned. They have become centers of growing arts communities, and homes to the two stops I made this year.

My first stop was at the Tinkertown Museum, in Sandia Peak. Tinkertown is a labor of love, created by Ross Ward. Ward began carving figures while in junior high school. He continued this hobby while traveling the country as a painter for all of the major carnivals and circuses. He turned his hobby into a traveling attraction, one that he brought with him on the road.

Checker game in the Gerneral Store
Mary Poppins visits Tinkertown

The Monarch Hotel

Shotgun wedding

General Store
Trading Post

In 1984, Moss opened the Tinkertown Museum, filling up one room. Today the museum covers twenty-two rooms. The two main exhibits are the Western Town and the Circus displays. Each features hundreds of miniature figures, many of which have been animated. All show Moss’ respect for and humor about his subjects. There are many more objects of nostalgia on display, from midway games, to dolls to classic signs. It is worth the 1 to 2 hours that a full tour will take.

One-man Band

My second stop was in the town of Madrid. Madrid was a thriving coal mining town, a company town, from the 1880’s through the end of World War II. By 1954, mining was done in Madrid, and the town was mostly abandoned. In the 1970’s artists started to move into the area, buying up old houses and land at very low prices, at least in part because there was neither running water or electricity. Today, they have created a thriving community that numbers around 200 households. When you visit you will find art galleries, jewelry shops, and some very good restaurants. I had lunch at the Holler, on the south end of town. They have a great outdoor space, good sandwiches and offer live music on the weekends. Across the street, is the Mineshaft Tavern, which includes a small museum of local history.

Old Coal Town Museum

A trip on the Turquoise Trail is a great way to spend a day. It is a beautiful drive through the New Mexico mountains and you can easily drive it in a day, and take the Interstate back home.

Nuts and Bolts:
The Turquoise Trail is about 50 miles long from Tijeras to the first junction with I-25 near Santa Fe. The entire round trip is a little over 100 miles.

Tinkertown Museum - The museum is 1.5 miles west of route 14 on route 536. Entrance fees are $4 for adults/ $3.50 for “geezers”/ $1.50 for children. Please check their website for Accessibility issues.

Madrid -  Route 14 is the main street in Madrid. It is 30 miles south of Santa Fe and 47 miles northeast of Albuquerque. It gets crowded on the weekends, and street parking is limited. There are private lots available for $5.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Albuquerque is a place to explore Southwest Culture and Nature

Sansia Tramway
This summer, I attended a course in photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Besides learning a lot, and getting to work with some great photographers, it gave me an excuse to return to one of my favorite parts of the country. Before and after my course I had the chance to spend some time in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city.

Old Town Plaza

Albuquerque sits between the Rio Grande River and the Sandia Mountains. The area was home to as many as twenty Tiwa pueblos before the Spanish invaded the area. In 1706, the Spanish settled in the area, building a town around a central plaza. Today, that area is called “Old Town Albuquerque.” Old town is a great place to walk around. The adobe buildings house restaurants, jewelry stores and other fun places to shop.

Classic Cars on the Plaza

More Classic Cars

Indian vendors at the Old Town Plaza

San Felipe de Neri Church

The first place I visited was Los Poblanos organic farm and inn in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque. The ranch was founded in the 19th century by Ambrosio and Juan Cristobal Armijo. In the 1930’s it was reassembled by Albert and Ruth Simms. They grew sugar beets and ran a dairy farm on the site during the 30’s and 40’s. Today, its primary crop is lavender, a low water plant that thrives in arid climates. The store on the ranch sells a wide variety of products made on site, along with a great selection of sandwiches and salads for lunch an al fresco lunch. If you want a more formal meal, make reservations at Campo, a farm-to-table restaurant at the ranch that is open for breakfast and dinner.

Another great place to visit in Albuquerque is the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center (IPCC). Founded in 1976, this museum is operated by the 19 Indian Pueblos in New Mexico. It is dedicated to preserving and supporting the culture, history and art of Indian Pueblo culture. The IPCC has 10,000 square feet of exhibition space that includes a large permanent  - “We Are of This Place: The Pueblo Story.” It presents a comprehensive history of Pueblo culture through art and artifacts. There are also galleries where temporary exhibits are on display. When I visited there was a thought provoking presentation on the appropriation of Pueblo sun symbology by the state of New Mexico and then the entire tourism industry.

Becoming One by Cloud Eagle

Historical Trauma by Robert Dale Tsosie
At the center of the museum is a courtyard that has several large murals painted on the walls that depict aspects of Pueblo culture. There is a dance circle in the courtyard where troops from different Pueblos perform on the weekends. Finally, the IPCC has an excellent restaurant, Pueblo Harvest, where you can enjoy delicious examples of traditional Pueblo food.

Dance Circle

Acoma Dance Troop

On my last day in New Mexico, I returned to Albuquerque for my flight home. But before leaving, I decided to visit Sandia Peak, on the eastern side of town. I took the Sandia Peak Tramway, the third longest tramway in the world, to the top of the mountain. It is a fifteen minute trip that covers a length of 7,720 feet ((approx 1.5 miles) as it climbs from 6500 feet to a height of 10,300 feet. At the top of the mountain there are a myriad of trails to walk, ranging up to 7.5 miles long. You can walk along the ridge, and take in wonderful views of the city below. Or you can hike down, or up is you so desire, the eastern side of the mountain. There is a new restaurant at the top of the mountain, unfortunately it was not yet open when I visited. The views are amazing, but when you visit, remember, you will be at an altitude of 10,500 feet, so be ready for the effects.

Albuquerque offers a wide variety of options for visitors. From nature to history great food, there are a lot of great ways to send your time. So, before you head out to the big name places to visit, spend some time in the big city.

Nuts and Bolts:
Los Poblanos: Lunches are reasonably priced, dinners are a bit more expensive. There is also an inn to stay at for around $245/night.

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center: Open Monday-Sunday 9:00-5:00. Entrance fees are $8.40 -Adults/ $6.40 - seniors, military, and NM resident/ $5.40 children over 5.

Sandia Tramway - Flight tickets are $25 adults/$20 students, seniors, military/ $15 children. There is also a $2 parking fee for the park.