After arriving in Taos and checking into the El Pueblo Lodge (highly recommended place to stay) I met up with seven of the photographers that I took a photo workshop with at the Madeline Island School of the Arts (MISA) in the fall of 2015. The MISA group stayed connected over the past few years and a couple photographers proposed a reunion and photo workshop at Taos after they did a one day photo shoot with local photographer, Geraint Smith. After a evening of getting reacquainted and reminiscing we hit the sack for an early start to photograph the sites in the area.
The next morning didn’t start out so good for me as I had a suspected case of food poisoning that kept me up most of the night! I felt ok in the morning although tired and still a little queasy and wasn’t sure I was going to make the full day of shooting so I elected to drive my own car rather than carpool and infect others. I found out later that at least one other person had the same symptoms so gave me some comfort that I wasn’t imagining things.
First, a little about Taos. It’s located in north central New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with a population of nearly 6000 permanent residents. Although the city wasn’t incorporated until 1934, the area has been occupied by native peoples for a millennium. Colonization by the Spanish began in the early 1600’s and Mexico ceded New Mexico territory to the US in the late 1840’s. Since 1900, Taos has been known as an arts colony with many famous artists taking up resident in the area and making it famous through their various art forms such as painting and photography. Year around recreation is also an attraction with skiing at nearby Wheeler Peak and hiking, trail riding, biking, rafting and fishing as things to do in the spring, summer and fall.
Second, a little about Geraint Smith, the workshop leader and photographer extraordinaire! He is a native of Wales in the United Kingdom and came of age in York. His father worked in mining and the young Geraint enjoyed watching westerns at the local cinema and was interested in cinematography and film. He came to Los Angeles in the US to study film and fell in love with still photography. Over the years he traveled to Taos and eventually moved there permanently making his living as a photographer. Check out his website at geraintsmith.com and consider him for a photo tour of the Taos area.
Our first stop was at the Church of San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, a “suburb” of the city of Taos. While not the oldest church in New Mexico it’s considered one of the best examples of Spanish Franciscan architecture. The church is designated as a National Historic Landmark and World Heritage Church. This church has inspired many artists over the years including a number of famous paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe and photographs by Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Ned Scott. The church so inspired me that I stopped there four times and took a couple hundred photos during my four days in Taos! Allow me to introduce you to this landmark by way of photos.
Here are more photos from different angles and perspectives.
Here’s a couple of views from the back of the church.
During one of my stops, I noticed the priest watering plants in the courtyard of the church. I struck up a conversation with him and learned the Father Dino Candelaria had been serving this congregation for five years but still felt like an outsider to the very close knit members mostly of Spanish descent. While we were talking, two young girls approached and asked if Father Dino would come to the church office to talk with her parents as their grandmother had just died and funeral arrangements were pending. Before leaving, Father Dino suggested I visit a nearby access point for the Rio Grande River Gorge. It was a great recommendation that I’ll write about in next week’s post. A little while later, I photographed the grieving family leaving the church after Father Dino offered some prayers for the deceased grandmother.
Now for a few final photos of San Francisco de Asis.
Surrounding the church is the historic Rancho de Taos plaza. Following are some photographs of some of the buildings on the plaza.
Across the street is Old Martina’s Restaurant once known as Old Martinez Hall. Father Dino told me that this restaurant was purchased and rehabbed by a German woman, Martina Gebhardt thus the name change. It’s a very popular local meeting place with excellent food, good bar and ambience. I didn’t eat there just sharing what the good Father told me!
After a good long time photographing the church and plaza, our group moved on towards the countryside east and south of Taos. Along the way we stopped to view the scenery of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we were at high enough elevation and it was cool enough that there was still quite a bit of snow even though the area didn’t have it’s usual snowfall amount during the winter.
As we approached the village of Mora, Geraint spotted an old abandoned church so we made a stop for more photographs.
After our lunch at a local restaurant, we explored the town and made more cityscape photos such as these.
Our next stop was at another old church San Rafael Mission near Rainsville, New Mexico and part of the La Cueva National Historic District. Unlike many of the other churches I photographed on this trip, this one stood out in the middle of a large field with little nearby. It reminded me of the rural church back in North Dakota that I attended as a youth. Here are some photos of both the exterior and the interior taken through a window. I’ll mention here that Father Dino told me he helped repair the adobe on this church, said he ruined a pair of pants from the red mud!
In the church yard was this lone grave with an ornate iron fence. I was curious what the story of why here and not across the road with the rest of folks.
Across the road we noticed a large cemetery that seemed ripe for more photos! Next to it was a very old cemetery with old headstones and a stone wall. Here’s a couple of photos I took with the second one being one of my favorites from this trip.
Down the road about a quarter of a mile was the old La Cueva Mill. Next to the mill is a gift shop that sells stuff produced on local farms and kitchens, mostly related to the raspberries that are grown in the area.
As we made our way back towards Taos, there were more stops for photos such as this old barn located along the road.
And this old store front at an abandoned crossroads village.
And the last church of the day located on a country road with not much around it but still in good repair and in use by local parishioners.
While at the church, the sun briefly appeared and this landscape captured my attention.
Nearby, this old abandoned car hidden under a huge tree on someone’s private property also begged to be photographed!
After a long day of photographing and soaking in the magic of the Taos area it was time to conclude the day and prepare for our next couple of days of photographing. It was so enjoyable, it was more fun than people should be allowed to have! But then again, I say that a lot!
Next up, Adventures in Taos – Part 2.
Until next week, travel safe.