Clearing storm over the Pecos, late afternoon
Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico.
In the summer of 1998, my newspaper finally made the conversion 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.
The author poses for a snapshot at Capulin Volcano National Monument, New Mexico.
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.
We arrived in the tiny desert hamlet near the Pecos River by about 2pm on our first day, and after settling in to our borrowed adobe abode, began shooting.
Your host poses at Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch on the road to Villaneuva.
• Arriving in Villanueva and The Grotto
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. On to Capulin Volcano National Monument: excellent views of the Folsom volcano field. Nice hike. Later in Cimarron Canyon, five minutes of success at the Palisades were followed by rain.
Trees and clouds, Capulin Volcano
• Pecos National Monument, Puyé Cliff Dwellings, and Chama Valley
Puyé Cliff Dwellings
This is me shooting with my Fuji medium format camera at Sandia Peak.
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. Next stop: 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 a relaxed 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 Sad Café, Ribera, New Mexico
Spire and gathering thunderstorm, south end of Chama Valley, New Mexico.
The “Plague Town” along Interstate 40 is a bleak reminder of the unforgiving nature of the desert.
•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.
This is one of my all-time favorite self portraits, in a mirror on the ground at the so-called “Plague Town” along Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico.
Church Roof and Approaching Thunderstorm, Villanueva, New Mexico.
View from Gotto, Villanueva, New Mexico
A mission church stands in brilliant morning sun in the Peco Wilderness.
Open rangeland, southern New Mexico.
The Palisades of Cimarron Canyon, Enchanted Circle, New Mexico.
Frame and steps, Villanueva, New Mexico
Self Portrait, Guest House, Villanueva, New Mexico.
Ridge and Afternoon Clouds, Eastern New Mexico.
Stream, Pecos Wilderness, northern New Mexico; I made this image on a roll of Kodak Plus-X film that had expired nine years earlier.
San Mateo Mountains west of Socorro, New Mexico.
Another view of the San Mateo Mountains west of Socorro, New Mexico. I made this image and the previous one on the drive east after visiting the Very Large Array.
Decaying adobe wall, Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico.
Clouds and cliffs near Ghost Ranch, Chama Valley, New Mexico.
Isolated cloud and rim of Capulin Volcano, New Mexico.
This is the interior of the summer house we borrowed in Villanueva, New Mexico.
Sky and Decayed Wall, Fort Union National Monument
Snow Fence, Villanueva, Mew Mexico
The author poses for a photo at Puyé Cliff Dwellings.
This is me climbing a short ladder at Puyé Cliff Dwellings. Note my Fuji 6×7 medium format camera.
A thunderstorm approaches the face of the Puyé Cliff Dwellings in central New Mexico.
The author poses for an image at Cimarron Canyon, New Mexico.
Pecos River in Villanueva State Park, New Mexico.
Building thunderstorm, Villanueva State Park, New Mexico.
Clouds envelope Sandia Peak in this view from along Sandia Crest 5000 feet about Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Clouds and trail, Sandia Crest, New Mexico.
This is the antenna farm at the top of Sandia Crest.
The author poses in flat, featureless light at the Very Large Array near Magdalena, New Mexico. The dreary light and the position of the radio telescope dishes resulted in shooting very few photos.
Your host poses for a photo at the Very Large Array. Despite the lack of photo opportunities, the drive and the scenery were worth the experience.
After a long drive to and from the Very Large Array, I enjoyed dinner at the Luna Mansion in Las Lunas, New Mexico. I ate there once before, in 1992.
Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico
Puyé Cliff Dwellings with signature spiral symbol
Interior, Puyé Cliff Dwellings, northern New Mexico.
Towering cumulus clouds viewed from the rim of Capulin Volcano, Capulin Volcano National Monument, New Mexico.
Window, adobe house, Villanueva, New Mexico.
An abandoned house stands in midday light along New Mexico highway 3.
The Pecos River from bridge at Villanueva State Park, News Mexico.
Posing for a photo at the top of a short hike, Villanueva State Park, New Mexico.