Plaza Blanca is an area of Abiquiu largely hidden from the casual traveler, but is well worth the visit. Artist Georgia O’Keefe painted here and for the photographer, it is pure gold.
There are no signs directing you to the area; you have to find it on your own. Briefly, drive US 84 to County Road 155, which is just west of Bode’s General Store and the village of Abiquiu. Take 155 about 2.3 miles (mostly paved but smooth where it’s not) to the entrance of Dar al Islam on your left. Turn into Dar al Islam and drive about 3/4 mile to the small parking area on your right when the road splits. The dirt access road is relatively smooth; no problem getting to the area in dry weather. (Note: this is private property to which Dar al Islam generously allows public access. You should check with them before doing any commercial photography.)
There are a relatively limited number of traditional (i.e., printed) photography guides. For many years Laurent Martres’ guides to the Southwest have been the most popular general guidebooks. Anyone planning a photo trip to the Southwest would be well-served by his books.
However, there are two other resources that I want to bring to photographers’ attention, both written by photographer Cheyenne L Rouse. Cheyenne is one of the best-known photographers in the Southwest and she knows the area intimately from her own work and from the tours and workshops she conducts. She has distilled some of her favorite locations in New Mexico and Utah into two e-books available only from her web site.
I have used both guides and have frequently consulted them before trips to the Four Corners area. If a PDF could be dog-eared, mine would be well-worn.
Martres’ books are very useful; however they tend to offer very brief descriptions of many sites. It can be difficult to know whether a lesser-known location is really worth the time and trouble. Continue reading “Cheyenne Rouse’s Photoguides”→
Let me begin by saying that I have mixed feelings about the Taos Pueblo. On the one hand, it is stunningly beautiful and located in an equally beautiful location. The lines and colors of the adobe homes are visually appealing, especially to a photographer. The fact that the inhabitants choose to live without electricity and running water is also impressive and makes a visitor reflect about such a lifestyle. The nearby cemetery with its wooden crosses and church ruin are evocative and remind you of the lengthy history of the pueblo. Add several friendly dogs soaking up the sun, and you have a unique community that is a sharp contrast to nearby Taos, which is pleasant enough, but highly commercialized. I went in mid-September and there were dozens of visitors, so get there when it first opens and shoot the pueblo first and then the cemetery.
On the other hand, I felt uncomfortable walking through and around the living quarters of the pueblo, and wondered how I would feel if tourists landed in my neighborhood to see how my neighbors and I live. I realize that this is a choice of the tribe, and I respect that, yet I still felt self-conscious. Some areas of the pueblo are off-limits to preserve privacy and the boundaries should be respected.
Nevertheless, I highly recommend a visit to the pueblo. If you’re a photographer, first thing in the morning when the pueblo opens to the public is best for good light and a relative absence of visitors, who start spilling out of buses and wandering into your frame by mid-morning. When you pay your admission fee you are reminded that you may not photograph residents without their permission. I chose not to photograph tribe members, but concentrated instead on the adobe homes and the cemetery. Visitors are not permitted to enter the cemetery, but you can get excellent images from outside the adobe fence.
Limits aside, this is a very worthwhile place to visit and photograph, and easily the best reason to make the drive to Taos.