In the summer of 1998, my newspaper made the transition from conventional cut-and-paste production to desktop publishing, which meant instead of printing, I would be scanning my images. I happily began using my new Nikon LS-2000 scanner, and abruptly stopped making photographic prints. It happened that I still had over 1000 sheets of black-and-white glossy printing paper in stock, so I began to ponder what to do with it. Eventually I concluded that I wanted to shoot something new, preferably medium format black-and-white with my Fuji GW670III, and preferably somewhere in the desert.
By the spring of 1999, I knew I wanted to do a New Mexico tour, so I asked a friend if he wanted to join me, which he did. Another friend’s uncle had a vacation house in Villanueva, New Mexico, and agreed to let us use it for a week in July.
• Arriving in Villanueva, and The Grotto
We arrived in the tiny desert hamlet near the Pecos River by about 2 pm, and after settling in to our borrowed adobe abode, began shooting.
We walked around town to make pictures, but were set upon by a sudden downpour. Later, we hiked across the Pecos at Villaneuva State Park to an overlook to photograph clearing storm at sunset. Finally, we hiked up to grotto for view overlooking town.
• Fort Union and Capulin Volcano
We had Fort Union National Monument almost entirely to ourselves. We bypassed the campy exhibits and concentrated on photographing the ruins against a perfect morning sky. The shapes reminded us of Stonehenge.
Our next stop was Capulin Volcano National Monument. From the rim we saw excellent views of the Folsom volcano field. Nice hike.
Later we drove the length of Cimarron Canyon. Five minutes of photographic success at the Palisades were followed by rain.
• Pecos National Monument, Puyé Cliff Dwellings, and Chama Valley
At Pecos National Monument, the light was muted and the view cluttered, so we didn’t shoot much. We made a nice drive up into the Pecos Wilderness Area.
Our next stop was the Puyé Cliff Dwellings, where we shot some nice stuff, and made nice ladder climbs and hikes. In the afternoon, we drove the legendary Chama Valley. It made a few decent images before a thunderstorm ruined our light.
At Puyé, I guessed a woman’s camera’s date of manufacture on the first try. It was a 1970 Nikkormat FTn.
• Sandia Peak, Petroglyphs, and The Very Large Array
At Sandia Peak we had good light, both sunshine and when the mountain was enshrouded in cool clouds.
By midday we were at Petroglyphs National Monumentm, which was a bust, both in harsh light and unimpressive sites.
We made the long drive to Very Large Array, where we had bad light, but excellent drive and breakthrough conversations.
Finally, we had dinner at Luna Mansion in Los Lunas.
• Villanueva State Park and The Sad Café
We made another hike at Villanueva State Park, followed by Madison Winery and The Sad Café. After dinner, I got about a million sticktights on my socks and shoelaces going into the back yard to photograph the sunset.
•The Drive Home
We stopped at an abandoned travel plaza east of Santa Rosa, New Mexico, which we nicknamed the “Plague Town,” in honor of its appearance.
My time in New Mexico is, as always, some kind of journey home to a place I’ve never lived.