Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The High Road to Taos Scenic Byway - A beautiful trip through the New Mexico highlands

New Mexico Highlands

After spending a week taking the “Seeing Light” photography course in Santa Fe, it was time to put what I learned into practice. So I drove from the capitol to the town of Taos, taking the High Road To Taos Scenic Byway.

Nambé Falls

My first stop was at Nambé Falls, which is about 17 miles north of Santa Fe in the Nambé Pueblo. As your drive in, you arrive at an area with camping and picnic sites. There are two hike to the falls. One travels along the riverside. It is relatively flat and ends at the bottoms of the falls. According to reviews it is a nice walk, but they all warn that you will get wet on this trail. I had several hours of driving ahead, so I chose option two. This is a hike up to an overlook of the falls. At 0.5 miles, it is not a long hike, but you will climb over 200 feet in that distance. Given that the trail starts at 6500 ft of elevation, it takes some work, and rest sops were a must for me. From the top of the trail there is a good view of the falls, although in July, they’re not at full force, and partially hidden by other rocks. That being said, it is a beautiful walk, and the overlook is a really nice place to sit and enjoy nature.

Nambé Overlook Trail

Hikers at the Overlook

Fishing at the Nambé Reservoir

My next stop was the unincorporated  town of Las Truchas (pop. 560). Truchas sits on a ridge, about 8000 ft above sea-level. It is home to the 200+ year-old Nuestra Señora del Rosario. Unfortunately the church was closed on the day of my visit. However, I did find that the two was holding a parade to encourage kids to participate in the summer literacy program. In 1988, Robert Redford used Las Truchas as the filming site for his film The Milago Beanfield War. Before leaving town, I stopped at the Truchas General Mercantile on Route 76, north of the center of town for a pit stop. I was greeted by two very large, but friendly dogs, and equally friendly staff and owner. The cappuccino was good, and the scone was excellent.

Nuestra Señora del Rosario Church

Leaving Las Truchas, it was a beautiful drive through the Santa Fe national Forrest to the town of Las Trampas (pop. 66). Sitting in a little valley, at an altitude of 7000 ft, Las Trampas’ main attraction is the San José de Gracia Church, on the town square. The Church is around 200 years old, and its ground consist of an extensive graveyard.

The last leg of this journey continued through the Santa Fe National Forrest and brought me into the southern end of Taos. It had been a wonderful morning traveling along the back roads of New Mexico and through the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Nuts and Bolts:

Nambé Falls: From Santa Fe, take NM 84 north for 17 miles to NM-503. Turn right onto 503 east. After 3 miles turn right onto Poechunu Poe. Travel for 7 miles to the tribal gate. There is a $15 fee for entering the Pueblo.

Las Truchas/Las Trampas: From Nambé take 503 east to NM 76. Turn right onto 76 north which goes through both towns.

Taos: Continue on Route NM-76 north for 13 miles to NM-75. Take NM-75 east 6 miles north to NM-518. Take NM-518 north for 16 miles into Taos.

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.