Mario Dennis Photography

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. G.K. Chesterton


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Photographing the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is Chama, New Mexico’s premier attraction. While there are other narrow gauge railroads in the country, including in nearby Durango, we heard a number of passengers say that the C & T trip is the best in the nation._d502079

We took the C & T trip from Antonito to Chama. (There are several trip options. This one suited us best and takes a full day. Check their web site for more information.) They transported us via bus from Chama to Antonito, where we boarded for the return trip to Chama. Many of the folks on the train were clearly fans of train travel and knew a great deal about trains. The hosts in each car pointed out landmarks, described the C & T’s history, and explained railroad operations. (It’s more complicated than you may think.)

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Traversing the Chama Valley

We took our trip in early October, when the aspen were at peak. Unfortunately, a strong front came through a couple of days earlier and blew off some leaves, but the trip timing was definitely worth it. (Note: reservations are an absolute must and should be made weeks in advance.)

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Photographing the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Although I’ve been to New Mexico many times (I have family roots there), I had never had the opportunity to attend the Balloon Fiesta, held every fall for the last 45 years. Kathy and I scheduled in three sessions at the Fiesta’s opening weekend during a recent photo trip to NM. (A session is a morning launch period or an evening glow event; virtually nothing takes place mid-day. Each session’s admission requires a separate ticket. For comprehensive information, visit their web site.)

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Inflating for the Dawn Patrol

The Fiesta is efficiently managed and they shuttle thousands of visitors in and out on buses from satellite parking lots. Be sure to get tickets online ahead of time: you’ll save a few dollars and avoid standing in the ticket line at 5:00 AM, not an appealing proposition, but we saw plenty of people doing it. We got to our shuttle at the Coronado Center at 4:30 AM. (Yes, you read that right. If you want to capture the Dawn Patrol, roll your butt out of bed, grab your equipment and move it, Sparky.) The ride to the Fiesta was about 30 minutes. Dawn Patrol inflations began about 5:45 and they lifted off about 6:00 AM.  Even at that dark, early hour there were plenty of people at the Park. There is food and coffee available, so don’t worry about eating breakfast first. Continue reading

Photographing Shiprock

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Shiprock (in Navajo Tsé Bitʼaʼí, “rock with wings” or “winged rock”) is a huge rock that rises almost 1,600′ above the  desert in the northwest corner of New Mexico. I arranged my schedule to shoot a sunset and a sunrise in December 2015. Getting there is easy, up to a point. From Highway 491, about 7 miles south of Shiprock, NM, turn west on Indian Service Road 13 (Red Rock Highway.) Drive about 7 miles and turn onto the dirt road just before the dyke that leads to Shiprock. You can’t miss it.

While you can photograph Shiprock from the turn-off, if you have the right kind of vehicle and weather, I encourage you to consider (at your own risk) driving at least two miles up the flat dirt road that runs parallel to the dyke. I drove a 4×4 Jeep Cherokee and the ground was frozen and dry; no problems. I drove no faster than 5 miles an hour and carefully picked my way through the ruts and across the washboard. I would not recommend this if the ground is soaked or in a regular passenger car. If the weather is decent, you can also walk this without difficulty if you’re up to a 4-mile round trip hike. It was very cold and windy when I shot, so walking was not an appealing option.

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