Adventures in Taos, New Mexico – Part 2

Hi again,

Welcome back for part two of my photographic adventures in Taos during a photo workshop in April. Our second day started at “0 dark 30” so we could catch the sunrise at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge about 10 miles west of Taos. At 565 feet above the Rio Grande River it’s the seventh highest bridge in the US. After reaching the parking lot, it was about a quarter mile trek on a path littered with stones and the roots of sage and mesquite, mind you in the dark! After setting up our tripods and checking camera settings, we had a short wait until the sky began to lighten. I’m not exactly proud of my photos taken during that sunrise but here’s a couple to give you an idea what we did.Around Taos Part 2-7648Around Taos Part 2-3355

After the sun rose over the mountains, our early morning shoot was over and we headed back to the El Pueblo Lodge for some breakfast and more importantly coffee! Soon we were on the road again towards Abiquiu, a distance of about 65 miles on roads winding through the desert and skirting the Rio Chama. At the turnoff from the main highway there was this big sign for PiGS! Curious, I requested the driver stop so I could take a couple of photos. I found out that there’s a farmer just down the road that raises and sells pigs for slaughter. I was thinking it was some kind of protest sign but after hearing the story, it made sense but funny seeing a sign like this out in the middle of the desert!Around Taos Part 2-7655

The next stop was in the small village of El Rito. Some in our group thought it was the lunch or pit stop but not so! We spent about 15-20 minutes photographing some of the old buildings and the very weird Mars Polar Landing built out of stuff destined for the dump. We asked ourselves what would possess someone to do such a crazy thing, the answer was because they could! It made us stop and look!Around Taos Part 2-3364Around Taos Part 2-3366Around Taos Part 2-3371Around Taos Part 2-3370

Our lunch stop was at Bode’s General Store that featured excellent food and all kinds of interesting merchandise one doesn’t find just any old place. As we were getting ready to head out, I saw this trailer with a horse and Hereford bull close to the sign for the Frosty Cow, tickled my funny bone.IMG_3581.jpg

Just a few minutes away, up a winding, dirt road is the Penitente Morada. The Penitente’s are a confraternity of lay Catholic men common in parts of New Mexico and Colorado. Sometimes called a secret society due to it’s history of self flagellation especially during lent. These practices caused bishops to attempt to suppress their gatherings as the church began it’s campaign for modernization in the 1800’s. During our photo shoot, a guy came by and shouted at us to quit taking photos. There was a huge No Trespassing sign that we honored but we told him were standing on a public road. After he vented at us and took off, we continued photographing. Here’s some of my favorites.IMG_3585Around Taos Part 2-3394Around Taos Part 2-3399

Up the road, we stopped at a turnout overlooking the Rio Chama. It was a beautiful, pleasant day so the view made for a nice panorama of the oxbow in the winding river.IMG_3587

We stopped along the road at the Santa Rosa de Lima near the Rio Chama that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This area was the location of an early Spanish settlement in 1734 with a church build in the 1744. The adobe church is in ruins from years of neglect, the hot sun of summer and erosion during the spring run off and monsoon season. The church ruins are owned by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and is considered to be sacred space.Around Taos Part 2-7677IMG_3579IMG_3576Around Taos Part 2-7689

As we made our way to the Ghost Ranch, we made stop along the highway to photograph the red rock formations. We had to photograph from the road as these majestic rock formations are located on private land. I really enjoyed this stop especially for the deep red color in the landscape.IMG_3590Around Taos Part 2-3467Around Taos Part 2-7714

Don’t worry I had a spotter when I was taking this photo of the highway! It reminded me of that scene in the movie Forrest Gump when he stops running on a similar road and returns home to Alabama. Around Taos Part 2-3474

The next photo of me was taken by our photo tour guide, Geraint Smith who also had a spotter in event cars came whizzing along. My spouse just shook her head when she saw this photo muttering something about the many risks taken just to get a photo!IMG_3791.jpg

The Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu is an educational and retreat center owned by the Presbyterian Church. It’s main claim to fame is that it was for a time the home and studio for the famous artist Georgia O’Keefe. She loved the geography so much that she moved here permanently from New York and included the surroundings in many of her paintings. Here are few photos taken at this stop. As you can see from my photos, I was most fascinated by this mesa.Around Taos Part 2-7724Around Taos Part 2-7729Around Taos Part 2-3485

Our last stop of the day was at the area known as the Plaza Blanca due to the “white” rock formations in this valley. Georgia O’Keefe created a series of paintings that she called the White Place or in Spanish Plaza Blanca. While held by the private Dar Al Islam education center and mosque, it’s open to the public for hiking, photography and communing with nature. Here are some photos I took during this interesting stop.IMG_3599Around Taos Part 2-7749Around Taos Part 2-7750Around Taos Part 2-7743Around Taos Part 2-7776Around Taos Part 2-3522Around Taos Part 2-3509Around Taos Part 2-3489

Weird photographs happen when four photographers stop to shoot the same scene!Around Taos Part 2-7771

After a long, fantastic day of sightseeing and photographing, it was off to get a bite to eat, download photos and then to bed to rest up for the last day of our workshop.

We were in no hurry to get moving the next morning, after we learned that one of our destinations for the day, the Taos Pueblo, was closed for maintenance until the following week. While disappointing, it gives me a big incentive to return to the Taos area for more sight seeing and photography. Before moving on, a little about the Taos Pueblo. Pueblo’s are communities or villages of Native Americans in the US southwest, surrounded by their grazing lands, fields and gardens. The pueblo (think something like a modern apartment building) is usually constructed from adobe and features access to rooms through ladders as a way to protect themselves from a surprise attack. Construction on the Taos Pueblo is said to have begun between 1000 and 1450 AD and is believed to be one of the oldest, continuously habituated communities in the US. There are currently about 150 residents living in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also were told that it is one of the most photographed places in the Southwest, imagine that in a place with photographs around every corner!

Our disappointment quickly passed when our tour leader took us to the edge of town  to photograph the interesting Love Apple Restaurant housed in what was once a church.Around Taos Part 2-7781Around Taos Part 2-7786

Just down the road was a stop at another restaurant and gift shop that had some old trucks sitting around just waiting for a bunch of geeky photographers to descent on them! Here’s some photos I made at this stop.IMG_3600Around Taos Part 2-7801Around Taos Part 2-7830Around Taos Part 2-7800Around Taos Part 2-7794

This person was having their morning coffee mediating and soaking up the warm sun and stunning views.Around Taos Part 2-7788

We made a trip out of town a ways for one of the photographers in our group who was interested in photographing roadside memorials. Here’s what we saw, quite an elaborate memorial to a couple of people killed in a car accident.Around Taos Part 2-3534

Once back at the El Pueblo Lodge, we edited and shared photos with each other and our tour leader. All good things seem to come to an end so it was time to bid everyone adieu until the next time our paths cross. One member of the group is working on a photographic gathering at Crater Lake in Oregon, hope I can join them. Since I was staying for another night, I spent the rest of the day doing more photography and exploring in the area. More on those adventures in a future post.

Next up, Bandolier National Monument.

Until next week, travel safe.