Traveling Photographer

Dramatic nature, fascinating people, unique architecture -- how to shoot the best of Santa Fe.



Santa Fe has long been home to visual artists for a very good reason: its unique beauty. Winding streets of pueblo architecture. Markets packed with handmade pottery and brightly colored wares. A landscape of canyons, mountains, and outrageous geological formations. Shimmering, high-altitude light sure to bring out your inner painter.

Visiting photographers won't have trouble finding inspiration here in New Mexico's capital, where shooters of all stripes flock to classes at the highly regarded Santa Fe Workshops ( But with so many subjects, where to start? Try these four can't-miss settings:

1 Santuario de Chimayó. The last surviving Spanish fortified plaza in the southwest, Chimayó is home to this adobe church (above), a beautiful example of Spanish Colonial architecture. Wrapped in a garden and mounted on a hill with views of surrounding mountains, it's as wonderful for landscape shots as it is for architecture. Take a bit of dirt home with you -- it's said to have sacred curative powers. And during the last week of Lent, this site draws pilgrims from around the world. Don't leave without dining on traditional New Mexican cuisine at Rancho de Chimayó, which is one of the oldest restaurants in the state. (One mile south of the intersections of Highways 76 and 520, Chimayó, NM., 505-351-4889)

2 Santa Fe Plaza. Early morning is a great time to visit this cultural center; you'll catch locals walking to work or setting up shop as the sun streams over the mountains into downtown. Return in late afternoon for shadows in the architecture as vendors gather on the "portals" (porches) of pueblo-style buildings, such as the historic Palace of Governors, and sell pottery and turquoise. Capture people of all ages gathered on the sprawling lawn and benches to chat or to see a show on the newly built stage.

3 Jackalope. Though it may not be the biggest open-air market in Santa Fe, it's certainly the most eccentric -- and colorful. Bright hues and fascinating geometry of pots and crafts brought by vendors of goods from Mexico and Thailand vie with local potters and artisans practicing crafts such as gourd-carving and glass-blowing. Bring a macro lens, as well as carrots for the prairie dogs in the mini petting zoo. (2820 Cerrillos Rd.; daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

4 Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. In a land of geological wonders, this is a stand-out. Layers of volcanic rock and ash from a long-ago eruption have eroded into cone-shaped rocks ranging from a few feet to 90 feet high, all within the basin of a slot canyon and dotting rock walls up to the top of the mesas. An easy, 1.2-mile hike brings you to a lookout from which you can shoot a landscape more alien than the Extraterrestrial Highway. Be sure to stay on the trail -- unless you're not afraid of rattlesnakes. (Take I-25 to the Cochiti Pueblo Exit 264 onto NM 16. Turn right off NM 16 onto NM 22, and follow the signs., 505-761-8700)

For more on visiting Santa Fe, contact the Santa Fe Visitor's Bureau:, 800-777-2489.