We start out this morning with breakfast at the Bent St Café and Deli, noting that this is not a town of early risers. The deli is located in a mall area with a dozen or so small business shops, all closed. We find the café will not open until 8:00, and as we are there ten minutes before, we wander around until they open. The other shops open at 9:00, or 10:00, or …, but that is OK, as we are complete alone as far as customers are concerned even as we left the café and head back to the hotel (at 8:45). Good food, though! We say goodbye to the waitress and chef, who at that point are talking, clearly just waiting for the day to really begin.
Steve Bundy is a local photographer who conducts tours for the likes of us who are interested both in the best spots to take pictures and a day’s worth of instruction in the complexities of photography, as well as willing to pay for the privilege of his inside information. We arranged the tour before we left, and today is it! We are to meet him at 10:30, and then spend the entire day at the better spots. That’s next!
Steve is to do the driving, so we agree to meet him at our hotel’s parking lot. He shows up in a black four-door pickup truck with lots of enthusiasm. After a short get-to-know-you period, we start off on our adventure. The first stop is the Taos Morada, an adobe house built in the early 1800s by and for the Hermanos Penitantentes, and was used for religious study of ancient Catholic lay practices. The site is now under the ownership of the Catholic Archdioceses of Santa Fe. The grounds are open to the public, but the building itself is private. We will be visiting another such structure later on.
Nearby is a cemetery used by a similar group. I’m immediately struck by the attention paid to these graves, with much ornamentation maintained.
Next we head to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, where we discover a herd of bighorn sheep just off the road on the far side of the bridge. Stopping there, Steve gets out his camera to get some shots. I count 10 sheep in the picture at right. He’s retired from his day-job, he tells us, but enjoys photography originally as a hobby. He also enjoys meeting new people, so it makes sense for to do these tours as a way to pay for his hobby. It is more than a hobby for him, though, as he sells his photographs online. He gets notification while we are traveling around that the third of three pictures he offered to the state of New Mexico has been accepted for purchase and display.
Our next stop is the Greater World Earthship Subdivision, a bit further out from Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. This is a community dedicated to living as sustainably as possible. According to their documentation their goals include:
“- Produce our own energy
– Harvest our own water
– Contain and treat our own sewage
– Manufacture our own bio-diesel fuel
– Grow much of our own food
– Our buildings heat and cool themselves
– Made utilizing discarded materials of modern society”
We came away from that with a greater appreciation for how mud, old tires and bottles amongst a wide variety of other discarded articles as well as recent technologies can be used and reused to assist in enabling sustainable housing in a desert environment.
We next go down to the Rio Grande River itself to get a closer look. We stop at a number of places, at various levels to see views high and low of the river and some of the colorful plants that are to be found around it.
Heading out in another direction, Steve takes us along one of the backroads where just to the side of the road is a hill full of rocks with petroglyphs inscribed. We don’t have to get out of the truck to take pictures of these drawings, it is just “point and shoot”.
Driving up into the hills, we comes to a junction where two roads come together into a “Y”. In the patch of ground between the upper arms is a small church. Just as I am taking a picture, the local Sheriff’s car comes by. He doesn’t stop, however, so I guess he doesn’t object to our taking pictures!
The next stop is Plaza Blanca. This is a river bed with a spectacular set of white limestone canyons near Abiquiu NM. Georgia O’Keeffe made the place famous with a series of paintings called “White Place”. She lived for many years at the Ghost Ranch nearby and eventually bought and renovated an old hacienda in Abiquiu.
The limestone has been shaped into spectacular formations, reminding me very much of our recent visit to Monuments and Arches parks in Utah. Like the formations there, many of these have names, but I only found out about this after we got back. One bank has vertical columns along it, while the opposite bank has more of a sloping side. Where we enter the canyon, there is a middle section where the water, when it is running, runs around both sides of it.
The spiral rock formation, Steve tells me, is maintained by unknown hands, as he has seen it as it appears here most of the time, but occasionally he sees it disrupted.
Steve and I walk completely around the central limestone formation getting pictures in every direction.
After Plaza Blanca, we stopped at Bode’s General Store, one of the significant landmarks in Abiquiu. It was significant to us because they have restrooms there.
On our way back we visit another native american-maintained religious adobe buildings.
The next stop is the Santo Tomas El Apostol Church. On the side of that nicely maintained mission building is a beautiful example of how an adobe structure that is not in maintenance mode crumbles. I hadn’t appreciated how much maintenance these buildings required until I saw this place.
It is getting on in the day, but we are heading back up in altitude. This view overlooks the Rio Grande again. Steve tells us that he occasionally sees kayaks making their way around the bends here.
Next stop is the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center, a much larger complex than I anticipated. As indicated above, Georgia O’Keeffe lived there for awhile. We drive in and tour around for awhile. The views, like some of the other places we visited are magnificent, but the clouds limit the photographic possibilities.
The last stop is the San Francisco de Asis church in Taos. Quite beautiful, but the sun has truly set, so the picture gives me the opportunity to see how Ansel Adams would have tried to capture it!
Well that was quite an adventure! Steve took us to a number of spots, and I learned so much. He is someone who believes in Aperture priority as the best way to control how to get the picture you want. So, along with the marvelous sights he has shown us, he has helped me understand how to structure how I take pictures to do much more effectively what I want to do.
Amazing stuff. He also was able to help me see pictures in what I was looking at, finding the interesting things to focus on (in groups of three, preferably), and then getting them into a framed pattern.
While this was great fun for me, I’m afraid Gwen got rather bored. She was a good sport though, and she enjoyed the variety of scenic views.