A Perfect Ten, October 2014

By , October 21, 2014 8:17 pm

A Tenth Anniversary Vacation for Abby and Richard

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, an icon of the American southwest, where Abby and I got married ten years ago, glows in pre-dawn light.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, an icon of the American southwest, where Abby and I got married ten years ago, glows in pre-dawn light.

  • Haboob, Hat and Hoodie

Abby and I packed our Chihuahuas, Max and Sierra, and the rest of our travel gear in her truck and headed west toward our first destination, Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a trip to Moab, Utah, where we got married ten years ago.

Storm clouds, rain, and high wind created a classic West Texas/Eastern New Mexico dust storm. This image was made after we drove through the heart of it.

Storm clouds, rain, and high wind created a classic West Texas/Eastern New Mexico dust storm. This image was made after we drove through the heart of it.

Russell's Travel Plaza features this impressive free car museum.

Russell’s Travel Plaza features this impressive free car museum.

At the New Mexico border, we stopped at a travel plaza called Russell’s, which replaced a “Café Motel” ruin I photographed many years earlier. Russell’s included an extensive gift shop, where Abby found and bought a new hat and hoodie, which she ended up liking so much she wore both for the rest of the trip. Russell’s also included a surprisingly large free car museum.

As we rejoined I-40 westbound, we were greeted by rain and a powerful windstorm, which generated several dust storms that resembled haboobs. At one point, we were forced to slow to about 35mph and turn on our hazard flashers.

Abby leans out of her window to make pictures of the stormy eastern New Mexico weather.

Abby leans out of her window to make pictures of the stormy eastern New Mexico weather.

We rolled into Santa Fe well after dark.

  • Fry Bread, Quail and the High Country

    Crosses pick up high country sunlight at Taos Pueblo.

    Crosses pick up high country sunlight at Taos Pueblo.

Taos Pueblo was first in my agenda. I recall that on my 1999 vacation, Villanueva, I was discouraged by the price of admission, $16, and the littered appearance of the entrance, but this time I felt it was worth a look, and I was glad. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Taos Pueblo is northeast of Taos, New Mexico. Despite crowds of tourists and photographers like myself, the people of the Pueblo were friendly and eager to tell their stories.

Ladders combine with adobe and wooden beam construction to form typical Puebloan architecture.

Ladders combine with adobe and wooden beam construction to form typical Puebloan architecture.

A tour group huddles around their guide outside the church at Taos Pueblo. Photography is not permitted inside the church, but exterior shots are perfectly fine.

A tour group huddles around their guide outside the church at Taos Pueblo. Photography is not permitted inside the church, but exterior shots are perfectly fine.

The only place you can go at Taos Pueblo that you aren’t allow to photograph is inside the Catholic Mission (Abby and I discovered this same policy 11 years ago at Acoma Pueblo), which has several boldface signs in the atrium warning that anyone taking photos risks having their equipment confiscated. The reasons for this policy are a bit nebulous to me, but I respect it.

I bought and tried some fry bread after seeing two women emerge from a shop claiming it “just melts in your mouth.” Their assessment was correct, though I found that fry bread might be the least nutritious food I’ve ever consumed.

This image shows some of the classic multi-story architecture of Taos Pueblo.

This image shows some of the classic multi-story architecture of Taos Pueblo.

I saw some small, hand-carved birds on a vendor’s table. The vendor told me they were quail, a bird my wife hunted since she was a child, so I bought her one.

I handed my camera to someone who looked like he knew how to handle one and asked him to make this picture of me at Taos Pueblo.

I handed my camera to someone who looked like he knew how to handle one and asked him to make this picture of me at Taos Pueblo.

On Greg Smith’s (I hiked with Greg last spring) recommendation, I drove father north to the Taos Ski Valley. At 9200 feet, the air was clear and cool, which reminded me of many years of skiing in the area, including at Taos and nearby Angel Fire. The aspens were turning deep yellow in the midst of pine, and made several excellent images. I also scoped out a trail head for a future trip to hike Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

Delicately illuminated aspens curve against dark pines near the Taos Ski Valley entrance.

Delicately illuminated aspens curve against dark pines near the Taos Ski Valley entrance.

  • Morning, Noon and Night

I have photographed Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, many times and in many varied lighting conditions, but never at sunrise. When we rolled into Moab the night before and I told Abby and I wanted to be on the trail before sunrise, and that it would be about 40ºF, she wished me well and told me she and the dogs would sleep in.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park; this shoot was my best so far at this feature.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park; this shoot was my best so far at this feature.

A fellow traveller used my camera to make this image of me greeting a chipmunk as the light matured after sunrise at Delicate Arch.

A fellow traveller used my camera to make this image of me greeting a chipmunk as the light matured after sunrise at Delicate Arch.

I arrived at the trail head about 90 minutes before the official sunrise time of 7:25, and was a little surprised to find I was alone. In addition to sunrise, this would be my first time at Delicate Arch by myself. I blasted up the trail at my usual impatient pace. Their was a waning half moon, so I only needed the red beam from my headlamp, which preserved my night vision well.

As I rounded the last few corners of the trail, I saw the sky start to take on color, so I muttered to myself, “Push, push, push, push,” and halfway ran the rest of the way to catch the light. It was a good call, since I was able to started shooting right away, and I feel like I made some of my best Delicate Arch images so far.

I had several flashlights with me on my Delicate Arch hike, and used one to enhance the illumination in this image.

I had several flashlights with me on my Delicate Arch hike, and used one to enhance the illumination in this image.

At one point, a chipmunk approached me, hoping for a handout. It was so tame it actually stood on my shoe and tasted my hand before scurrying off.

These fins to the northwest of the Delicate Arch area caught the first light of sunrise.

These fins to the northwest of the Delicate Arch area caught the first light of sunrise.

This view looks southwest toward Delicate Arch from the formation across the canyon. Its exploration turned our to be a great idea.

This view looks southwest toward Delicate Arch from the formation across the canyon. Its exploration turned our to be a great idea.

On the Arches National Park map of the area, I noted a very interesting outcropping of formations just north of the immediate Delicate Arch area, which I saw and photographed many times, but never explored, so I vowed to check them out this time. It was an easy jaunt, with some fun up and down moves, and a little bit of route-funding. There is a largish natural arch in the midst of it which, according to the kiosk at the visitor center, is called Echo Arch.

The formations surrounding Echo Arch were all of a similar hue, and seemed better expressed in black-and-white.

The formations surrounding Echo Arch were all of a similar hue, and seemed better expressed in black-and-white.

The Polaris Razor was the dominant off-road vehicle on the Hurrah Pass road.

The Polaris Razor was the dominant off-road vehicle on the Hurrah Pass road.

I decided to take Abby’s Nissan Frontier, whose off-road credentials had only been tested in the snow (which it owned), west on Arches’ Willow Flats road, where it did just fine. After lunch, I took  it on another off-road jaunt, up Kane Creek to the Hurrah Pass road. I took it to the pass and turned around. It took the road without a single complaint. Aside from me and a Nissan Xterra, there were Polaris Razor four-wheelers, and a Jeep full of drunk guys. One of them told me, “Dude, this road is very mellow.”

The sign at Hurrah Pass; the road wasn't all that difficult, but it was rough and required four-wheel-drive in a few spots, which was no trouble at all for Abby's Nissan Frontier.

The sign at Hurrah Pass; the road wasn’t all that difficult, but it was rough and required four-wheel-drive in a few spots, which was no trouble at all for Abby’s Nissan Frontier.

Hurrah Pass is particularly significant because Abby and I have looked down on it from the Anticline Overlook on Hatch Point several times (most recently in 2009) and vowed to one day drive on it.

Late afternoon sun turns Wilson Arch a deep orange in this three-frame hand-held high dynamic range (HDR) image.

Late afternoon sun turns Wilson Arch a deep orange in this three-frame hand-held high dynamic range (HDR) image.

Nothing says "I'm done here" for me like the arrival of a bus full of tourists, like these at Wilson Arch.

Nothing says “I’m done here” for me like the arrival of a bus full of tourists, like these at Wilson Arch.

I wanted to shoot something at sunset, so I headed south and ended up at Wilson Arch, an easy to visit but beautiful feature along U.S. 191 south of Moab. I made nice late-afternoon images of it until a tour bus disgorged a number of iPhone photographers, when I bailed. With a few more minutes of light left, I raced across to nearby Looking Glass Rock (which I last photographed in 2005), where I made it in time to shoot about three minutes of golden moment light, which was enough. The results were very satisfying.

Looking Glass Rock is just a couple of miles from Wilson Arch. I made it to this feature with less than five minutes of sunlight remaining.

Looking Glass Rock is just a couple of miles from Wilson Arch. I made it to this feature with less than five minutes of sunlight remaining.

  • Cattle Drives, Aspens and Echoes
Abby takes aim at the cattle drive we spotted going through downtown Mancos, Colorado.

Abby takes aim at the cattle drive we spotted going through downtown Mancos, Colorado.

Abby and I chose a more northern route, through Durango and Pegosa Springs, from Moab to Santa Fe. Along the way, I spotted a cattle drive making its way down the middle of the highway in Mancos, Colorado. Abby was asleep, but I quickly woke her, and we both leapt out of the truck to chase it down to photograph it. The leader was a young blonde woman in a red cowboy hat. The cowboys made the classic whistles and yips like in the movies.

Cowboys guide their herd through the streets of Mancos, Colorado. And yes, the streets were covered in waste afterwards.

Cowboys guide their herd through the streets of Mancos, Colorado. And yes, the streets were covered in waste afterwards.

Farther along, south of Pagosa Springs near Chromo, Colorado, I spotted some nice aspens and cottonwoods turning yellow in the clear autumn light. The spot was quite close to a similar shoot Abby and I made on our first anniversary trip in 2005.

Aspens and high country sky shine is this three-frame hand-held HDR image made near Chromo, Colorado.

Aspens and high country sky shine is this three-frame hand-held HDR image made near Chromo, Colorado.

A nice family from Austin, Texas made this image of me in the Chama Valley's Echo Amphitheater.

A nice family from Austin, Texas made this image of me in the Chama Valley’s Echo Amphitheater.

We made several more stops, but one of the most unusual was a feature in the Chama Valley called Echo Amphitheater. I don’t know how I missed it year after year, but I’m glad I finally spotted it. It was just us and a nice family from Austin, Texas, who I photographed with their cameras, and who photographed me with mine. The echoes in the amphitheater were like the echoes you hear in the movies.

South of Echo Amphitheater we spotted this spectacular blend of nature at its best, a deep. complex bend in the Rio Chama. The image is a two-panel panorama. (Click to see it larger)

South of Echo Amphitheater we spotted this spectacular blend of nature at its best, a deep, complex bend in Rio Chama. The image is a two-panel panorama. (Click to see it larger.)

  • The Plaza by Night and Day, and Lunch in the Sunshine
The more I visit, the more Santa Fe's Plaza reminds me of New Orleans' French Quarter.

The more I visit, the more Santa Fe’s Plaza reminds me of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

I decided to photograph Santa Fe’s historic Plaza at night, and found the experience very satisfying. Despite the Friday crowds, it made pictures. I arrived before it was fully dark, so I had some nice deep blue skies to accentuate the dazzling lights of the attractions.

I was at The Plaza in time for the last evening sky, which gave a more complex and satisfying pallet.

I was at The Plaza in time for the last evening sky, which gave a more complex and satisfying pallet.

A nice couple from California was the first among many to admire our Chihuahuas Max and Sierra.

A nice couple from California was the first among many to admire our Chihuahuas Max and Sierra.

The next morning Abby and I returned to The Plaza with the dogs, who wore Abby’s handmade sweaters. Max and Sierra are always popular, but with a festive Saturday morning crowd, it was pretty amazing. There must have been at least 20 people who commented or admire them, some of whom wanted to pet them. The dogs seemed to do just fine with the attention lavished upon them.

Also popular were Abby’s cowboy boots, which looked very Santa Fe-esque, but which she bought at our home in Oklahoma.

Another item on our to-do list was Loretto Chapel, home to a famous spiral staircase. The dogs were welcome as long as they were leashed. A popular wedding spot, Robert‘s sister Deb (who hiked with us in 2011) was married there. When planning our visit, we discovered a made-for-television movie about it called The Staircase, which we ordered for $3 on Amazon.com. The movie was waiting for us when we got home.

One of our checklist items for the Santa Fe Plaza was Loretto Chapel, home of the spectacularly engineered (though not "miraculous" as it is claimed) spiral staircase, seen on the left side of the frame.

One of our checklist items for the Santa Fe Plaza was Loretto Chapel, home of the spectacularly engineered (though not “miraculous” as it is claimed) spiral staircase, seen on the left side of the frame.

By two in the afternoon, we were in Madrid, New Mexico, which I photographed early one morning in March. I predicted Abby would love its shops and galleries and its small-town appeal, and I was right. At one point she said, “I would love to live here.”

Abby smiles at an outdoor café, The Hollar, in Madrid, New Mexico. "I could live here," she said.

Abby smiles at an outdoor café, The Hollar, in Madrid, New Mexico. “I could live here,” she said.

We had lunch outdoors at a place called The Hollar, which included free bowls of water for our dogs (and plenty of other people’s dogs), and a dog menu. Abby had fried okra and sweet potato fries, and I had one of the best chili rellenos I’ve ever enjoyed, stuffed with plenty of green chiles.

South of Madrid about ten miles in Golden, New Mexico, I spotted a small, meticulously preserved and/or restored Catholic mission called the San Francisco de Asis Church. Another couple and I were photographing it from outside the gate when a man approached and said he’d let us in to take pictures if we would put something in the donation kiosk. It was a lovely spot in wonderful afternoon light.

Golden, New Mexico's San Francisco de Asis Church shines in high country sunshine.

Golden, New Mexico’s San Francisco de Asis Church shines in high country sunshine.

By evening we were in the Clines Corners, New Mexico, gift shop, which is Abby’s favorite place to buy souvenirs. To emphasize my sense of celebrity, which I embrace, a couple across the store said, “You’re from Ada! You’re the picture guy!”

Additional images:

Crosses fill the cemetery at Taos Pueblo. I thought it odd that no one is allowed to photograph the inside of the church, but the cemetery is fair game.

Crosses fill the cemetery at Taos Pueblo. I thought it odd that no one is allowed to photograph the inside of the church, but the cemetery is fair game.

A double kiln stands in bright midday sunshine at Taos Pueblo.

A double kiln stands in bright midday sunshine at Taos Pueblo.

Dogs like this one were a common sight throughout Taos Pueblo.

Dogs like this one were a common sight throughout Taos Pueblo.

The high desert light of Taos Pueblo creates a scene of striking contrast, like these crosses on the church set against a clear sky.

The high desert light of Taos Pueblo creates a scene of striking contrast, like these crosses on the church set against a clear sky.

This bold black-and-white rendition of the main structures at Taos Pueblo emphasize its linear construction. Compare to...

This bold black-and-white rendition of the main structures at Taos Pueblo emphasize its linear construction. Compare to…

…a color rendition of the Pueblo brings out more texture.

…a color rendition of the Pueblo brings out more texture.

Almost all of the areas open to the public at Taos Pueblo contained businesses like this one.

Almost all of the areas open to the public at Taos Pueblo contained businesses like this one.

This store front at Taos Pueblo shows off the location's color and character.

This store front at Taos Pueblo shows off the location’s color and character.

The northeast corner of Taos Pueblo features this structure with fascinating shadows.

The northeast corner of Taos Pueblo features this structure with fascinating shadows.

Used for shade in the center of the plaza of Taos Pueblo, these wooden structures gave me an opportunity to express the brightness and clarity of the day.

Used for shade in the center of the plaza of Taos Pueblo, these wooden structures gave me an opportunity to express the brightness and clarity of the day.

With Robert in mind (who is constantly photographing mirrors), I made this self-portrait in a blind corner mirror on the highway in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.

With Robert in mind (who is constantly photographing mirrors), I made this self-portrait in a blind corner mirror on the highway in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico.

Just steps away from the mirror I photographed in Arroyo Seco, I spotted the afternoon sun peeking over this church.

Just steps away from the mirror I photographed in Arroyo Seco, I spotted the afternoon sun peeking over this church.

Abby and I drove up the Aneth Highway in the Four Corners region of Utah. I was hoping it would make pictures, but this was the only image I got out of it, of Abby's truck.

Abby and I drove up the Aneth Highway in the Four Corners region of Utah. I was hoping it would make pictures, but this was the only image I got out of it, of Abby’s truck.

This is a fisheye panograph, five-frame HDR image of Delicate Arch. (Click to see it larger.)

This is a fisheye panograph, five-frame HDR image of Delicate Arch. (Click to see it larger.)

I have seen Delicate Arch in many different lighting conditions, but none compared to the vast variety of this sunrise visit.

I have seen Delicate Arch in many different lighting conditions, but none compared to the vast variety of this sunrise visit.

A tiny, solitary figure appears silhouetted in the center left portion of this frame of Delicate Arch; it is a fellow hiker, making pictures.

A tiny, solitary figure appears silhouetted in the center left portion of this frame of Delicate Arch; it is a fellow hiker, making pictures.

I saw this fun-looking group making an action cam selfie on my way down the Delicate Arch trail.

I saw this fun-looking group making an action cam selfie on my way down the Delicate Arch trail.

Echo Arch, across a small canyon from Delicate Arch, is difficult to photograph because it is hard to find a position from which you can see daylight through the opening. I had to lie down to get this frame.

Echo Arch, across a small canyon from Delicate Arch, is difficult to photograph because it is hard to find a position from which you can see daylight through the opening. I had to lie down to get this frame.

The Echo Arch area was fun and easy to explore. Although I have been hiking in the area since 2002, this was my first time to check it out.

The Echo Arch area was fun and easy to explore. Although I have been hiking in the area since 2002, this was my first time to check it out.

Mudstones of the Hurrah Pass region form interesting cliffs.

Mudstones of the Hurrah Pass region form interesting cliffs.

I ventured up a short pouroff on the on the Hurrah Pass road to find this deep, leading image of a short slot.

I ventured up a short pouroff on the on the Hurrah Pass road to find this deep, leading image of a short slot.

Abby's truck performed well on any of the four-wheel-drive roads I encountered.

Abby’s truck performed well on any of the four-wheel-drive roads I encountered.

I spotted this metal sculpture, a tree made of peace signs, at The Peace Tree café in Moab, Utah, while I was shopping for a gift for Abby.

I spotted this metal sculpture, a tree made of peace signs, at The Peace Tree café in Moab, Utah, while I was shopping for a gift for Abby.

Standing in Wilson Arch facing east, I saw my long shadow and made it into a self portrait.

Standing in Wilson Arch facing east, I saw my long shadow and made it into a self portrait.

Deep afternoon color dominates this image of Wilson Arch south of Moab, Utah.

Deep afternoon color dominates this image of Wilson Arch south of Moab, Utah.

Looking Glass Rock takes on a deep red hue as the last minute or so of sunlight strikes it at sunset.

Looking Glass Rock takes on a deep red hue as the last minute or so of sunlight strikes it at sunset.

Abby flirts with a life-sized Elvis Presley figure at the free car museum at Russell's Travel Plaza in Endee, New Mexico.

Abby flirts with a life-sized Elvis Presley figure at the free car museum at Russell’s Travel Plaza in Endee, New Mexico.

Abby flashes me a smile after we photographed the cattle drive in Mancos, Colorado. She bought the hat and the hoodie on our first day, and wore them the entire time.

Abby flashes me a smile after we photographed the cattle drive in Mancos, Colorado. She bought the hat and the hoodie on our first day, and wore them the entire time.

A splash of sunshine on a hillside illuminates aspen leaves near Chromo, Colorado.

A splash of sunshine on a hillside illuminates aspen leaves near Chromo, Colorado.

Our dogs, Sierra and Max, wearing Abby's handmade sweaters, take a break to stretch their legs in southern Colorado.

Our dogs, Sierra and Max, wearing Abby’s handmade sweaters, take a break to stretch their legs in southern Colorado.

Desert varnish decorates Echo Amphitheater in New Mexico's Chama Valley. The name was appropriate, as echoes were quite loud and distinct.

Desert varnish decorates Echo Amphitheater in New Mexico’s Chama Valley. The name was appropriate, as echoes were quite loud and distinct.

I sneaked into the gates of this business at closing time to make this image on The Plaza at Santa Fe.

I sneaked into the gates of this business at closing time to make this image on The Plaza at Santa Fe.

I photographed the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on the Plaza at Santa Fe just after sunset, showing some remaining blue sky. Compare to...

I photographed the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on the Plaza at Santa Fe just after sunset, showing some remaining blue sky. Compare to…

...the Cathedral photographed about 45 minutes later with a black sky.

…the Cathedral photographed about 45 minutes later with a black sky.

Adobe shops on The Plaza seemed particularly organic, like this one shot just after sunset.

Adobe shops on The Plaza seemed particularly organic, like this one shot just after sunset.

A monument stands at the center of The Plaza, but surprisingly, was not lit.

A monument stands at the center of The Plaza, but surprisingly, was not lit.

It is comforting, somehow, to see that people still get out at night, as in this Santa Fe Plaza image.

It is comforting, somehow, to see that people still get out at night, as in this Santa Fe Plaza image.

As the years go by and visit The Plaza more, I become more familiar with it. I've tried to shoot this window many times, but didn't like any of my attempts until now.

As the years go by and visit The Plaza more, I become more familiar with it. I’ve tried to shoot this window many times, but didn’t like any of my attempts until now.

I knew the minute I suggested it to Abby that photographing The Plaza at night would be fruitful.

I knew the minute I suggested it to Abby that photographing The Plaza at night would be fruitful.

Abby chats with a visitor on The Plaza at Santa Fe.

Abby chats with a visitor on The Plaza at Santa Fe.

These are the stairs at Loretto Chapel, made without a central pillar or any nails.

These are the stairs at Loretto Chapel, made without a central pillar or any nails.

Abby poses by a Russian military motorcycle with a sidecar in Madrid, New Mexico. She talked with the owner for a while, who said he takes it to hunt, travel on four-wheel-drive roads, and even took it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Abby poses by a Russian military motorcycle with a sidecar in Madrid, New Mexico. She talked with the owner for a while, who said he takes it to hunt, travel on four-wheel-drive roads, and even took it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

The San Francisco de Asis Church of Golden, New Mexico was immaculately maintained.

The San Francisco de Asis Church of Golden, New Mexico was immaculately maintained.

The interior of the San Francisco de Asis Church was as beautiful as the exterior.

The interior of the San Francisco de Asis Church was as beautiful as the exterior.

There was a small graveyard in front of the San Francisco de Asis Church.

There was a small graveyard in front of the San Francisco de Asis Church.

A friendly fellow hiker made this image of me photographing Delicate Arch before sunrise.

A friendly fellow hiker made this image of me photographing Delicate Arch before sunrise.

Delicate Arch stands as an icon of the Southwest, an enduring image of the beauty of nature, and, for Abby and me, a symbol of the vows we took the day we were married there ten years earlier.

Delicate Arch stands as an icon of the Southwest, an enduring image of the beauty of nature, and, for Abby and me, a symbol of the vows we took the day we were married there ten years earlier.

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