Here’s wishing everyone a very safe and Blessed Christmas!
I recently attended the annual River of Lights held at the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens. Each year they make it bigger and better! I hadn’t been for awhile so it was a real treat.
I went with my friend Dia and we had so much fun. This year they offered a “magic hour” from 5-6. You could purchase tickets for this time and they limited the number of participants so you could get some great photos without the crowds. We loved having the place practically to ourselves. The gardens are big enough that we really didn’t see many people.
We took a few photos of each other in the beautiful lights. It felt very festive!
Here’s a slideshow of all the fabulous lights we saw. If you are viewing this post on a cell phone, click on the photo below and you can scroll through the images.
This past weekend was the annual Jemez Historic Site Luminaria Celebration. Each December for one night only the historic site lights traditional luminarias.
Some of you might not know what a luminaria is. It’s a brown paper bag that has sand placed the bottom. Then a candle is stuck into the sand and lighted. The effect is very beautiful and synonymous with the southwest holiday season.
I went with my friend Valerie. We had gone once before a few years ago but we had some technical difficulties with our equipment that hindered us from getting any decent photos.
This year we had much better equipment and a lot more skill too! The event has gotten more and more popular over the years. Needless to say, we had to buy a ticket this year and it was a lot more crowded.
Thankfully long exposure photography eliminates moving objects (e.g. people) in your photo. So what is in person a busy event, in photos looks like no one was there.
My favorite photo of the evening was this one. I love the lighting and composition of it. People were walking around with flashlights, taking photos with flash photography and in general just causing all kinds of light. Which turned out to not be a bad thing! They essentially did light painting for me. 🙂
Though there was a lot of light around me, I tried getting some shots of the night sky in my photos.
Here’s a gallery of the other photos I took at the event. I was pretty pleased with several of my shots. Just click on one of the images to open a slideshow.
Back in July my friend Dia and I spent a long weekend at Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I had never been there before, so I was really looking forward to a long, relaxing weekend hiking and soaking in the hot springs.
On our way we stopped in for lunch at the Purple Adobe Lavender Farm in Abiquiu, New Mexico. (Pronounced Ab-eh-Q) It was a beautiful place to stroll and the lunch was delicious.
Purple Adobe Lavender Farm
Kelly enjoying a wonderful lunch
We also enjoyed shopping in the little store.
Shopping at the cafe
As we drove down the road, we decided to pop in and check out the famous Ghost Ranch. When people hear Ghost Ranch they usually think of the artist Georgia O’Keefe who loved to paint the beauty of the desert here. We didn’t spend long, but I did take some time to take a few photos.
Great old western wagon
Storms over Abiquiu Lake
Old hand-hewn log cabin
Beauty of the Ghost Ranch
As we neared Chama, New Mexico, we passed an Osprey nest. Of course, I had to turn around to get a photo. 🙂
Female Osprey on the nest
While I was photographing the female on the nest, the male showed up with lunch.
Male Osprey with a meal
We stayed at the beautiful Springs Spa and Resort. They have 25 different soaking pools that vary in temperatures from 96 degrees to as hot as 111 degrees. HOT! The hottest pool was called the Lobster Pot. I couldn’t get more than my foot in before I was yelping in pain!
The Springs Resort and Spa
After checking in we decided to go have lunch and let Scarlett run around a bit. Of course, she was thrilled to play in the river.
Scarlett stretching her legs after a long drive.
We ate at a restaurant across the river that had a great view of the resort. We couldn’t wait to get in those pools!
View of the resort and the San Juan River
Looks fabulous doesn’t it?
Of course, we had ourselves a giant margarita at lunch to kick off the relaxing weekend.
One of the things I really wanted to do while staying at the resort was take night photos. I don’t get many opportunities to do night photography, so this was a real treat to have a unique setting.
I first photographed the resort’s hotel. Such a beautiful place.
While photographing the hotel, a pair of girls were playing the outdoor chess game. I was thrilled they consented to let me take their photo. I think it came out nice.
Outdoor chess game under the stars
From there we toured the pools. The first pool we came to overlooked the resort. I liked that there were some people relaxing the in pool. I think they added interest to the view.
Soakers enjoying the beautiful evening
Here’s some other shots I got touring the pools.
Sunken foot bridge through the warm springs
I loved the travertine formations that builds up with the flowing waters of hot springs
I took a few shots from the bridge across the river and from the other side of the river. Beautiful with the reflections in the water.
Gorgeous at night
Definitely a special place
The next day we went on a couple of short hikes. I really wanted to see the waterfalls in the area. I never seem to tire of photographing water.
The views during the hike were spectacular.
Our first hike was to Treasure Falls. It’s not a very long hike, but really beautiful. Of course, where there’s water, there is always wildlife.
American Robin with a mouthful of moths
Northern Flicker digging for grubs
This year the southwest had experienced a pretty severe draught at the beginning of the summer. Because of this, the waterfalls were pretty thin. But I think they were still beautiful.
Lower part of Treasure Falls
My favorite shot of the entire trip was taken at this waterfall. I hiked all the way to the base of the falls to discover a tranquil pool.
To my delight, I spotted an American Dipper. It’s always a real treat to see one of these birds. I love how they dip and bob along the water’s edge and dive into the pools looking for food.
Looking for goodies in the falling water
The other hike we did was to Silver Falls. Dia was my co-pilot and was responsible for finding the trailhead. She led me on a one-hour 4WD goose chase!!! DIA!!!!! I was so busy stressing over the drive, I didn’t take any photos! LOL!
We finally realized we had driven past the falls. We turned around and found the trailhead. This was also a short hike, but very steep! We followed Silver Creek the entire way. There were small waterfalls along the trail.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to the main waterfall. All I can say is WOW! It was spectacular! I think it was about 5 stories tall! The sounds of the falls was almost deafening. I can only imagine what they would look like if it hadn’t been a drought year. Dia and I spent quite some time here enjoying the view and taking a few photos.
Lower portion of Silver Fall
Lower portion of Silver Falls
My beautiful friend Dia
Dia took a picture of me at the falls. I look terrible after a stressful Jeep drive! LOL! My headband says “Jeep Hair, Don’t Care!” 🙂
We spent the rest of the afternoon and the next morning soaking in the pools. It was sooooooo relaxing. We spent some time shopping the great shops on main street before we left town. We found lots of goodies!
On the way out of town I spotted a Black-Billed Magpie. I wish we had these birds closer to home.
When we drove through Chama we spotted a little foal in a pasture along the highway. We just had to stop and say hi.
Dia made new friends fast 🙂
This guy was so new he still has his dried umbilical cord
The drought was about to be over on this trip. The monsoons started in earnest on our drive home. I stopped to take a photo of the storms over Abiquiu Lake. Monsoons in the desert can be very dramatic!
Storms over Abiquiu Lake
All the rain made the Rio Grande turn red.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my lovely weekend at Pagosa Springs! I’m so ready to go back!
On January 31 there was a lunar event that hasn’t happened in 150 years in the United States: A Blue Moon, Super Moon, Blood Moon Eclipse. What does that mean? A Blue Moon is a second full moon in the same month. A Super Moon is when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth making the moon appear 14% larger and 30% brighter. And a Blood Moon Eclipse is when the moon moves directly behind the Earth’s shadow where it cannot receive any light from the sun causing it to appear red in our atmosphere.
Of course, seeing as I wouldn’t be around for the next one unless I lived to be 203 years old, I just had to photograph this event. I got up a 4 am to drive into town to a predetermined location. I was fortunate that our local camera club had scouted out a great area that gave an elevated vantage of the city below. When I arrived, I saw the temperature was 27 degrees. Brrrrr! It was going to be a cold photo shoot!
As I hiked to the earthen dam at the northeast end of Albuquerque, I could see the eclipse had already begun. At the time the moon was still white but was starting to show a hint of red. I quickly set up my camera gear and started shooting.
Moon over Albuquerque
The eclipse happened fast. Just a few shots later, the moon was becoming mostly red.
Eclipse well underway
Then it finally happened! It was a Blood Moon. I zoomed as far in as I could and it was a beautiful sight!
The full eclipse was to be a 6:30 am. My last shot was around 6:15. The sun was rising and the sky had really started to lighten. I quickly changed lenses and took a picture of the Blood Moon hanging over Albuquerque. As you can see, I was definitely shooting in the “blue hour” by this time. But I thought the photo was so beautiful.
Blood Moon over Albuquerque
After that last shot, the sky just became too light and the moon had dipped into the hazy horizon above the city. So I packed up my gear and hoofed it back to my car.
I figured since I was already in town and it was dawn, I should take the opportunity to go birding. Logical train of thought right??? 🙂
I headed over to Alameda Open Space to see what might be around at the pond and along the river. I had heard a Mew Gull has been sighted among the Ring-Billed Gull flock. That would be a lifer for me if I could find it.
I started systematically taking photos of the flock as they rested on the sandbar in the Rio Grande. I figured I could look through photos later to see if I captured the Mew Gull.
Ring-Billed Gulls with rare visitor California Gull in the middle
I had snapped a few photos working my way down the line, when all of a sudden they all erupted into flight. Startled me good!
I had wondered what frightened them. I was thinking maybe a coyote had tried to sneak up on them or something. No sign of any ground attack, I looked up for a possible aerial attack. And right above me was a Bald Eagle! Beautiful! We get them here every winter, but you just don’t see them that often.
You can see the size difference of the gull to the Bald Eagle
Look at that wingspan!!
He soon caught a thermal and soared higher and higher until eventually he was gone. Since now the gulls were all stirred up, I figured my chance to see the Mew Gull were pretty much nil. So I started hiking along the river to see what other goodies might be about. Here’s some pics of my finds.
Common Merganser female
There are 3 Black-Crowned Night Herons in the trees
Great Blue Heron
Common Mergansers – 2 males and 1 female
Wood Duck pair
Mallards with a Killdeer
Western Bluebird – so beautiful!
We came across a giant beach along the river and Scarlett decided it was a great place to run and play in the water. Even though that water had to be freezing she wanted to play. I had fun capturing some photos of her while she played. Goofy dog!
Scarlett having fun in the water
So much fun to run in the shallow water
She likes to bite at the water as she plays
My beautiful girl
Isn’t that a look of pure joy! LOL!
After a couple hours of hiking, we headed back to the car. I stopped briefly at the bridge crossing the bar ditch next to the parking lot. There’s usually some good small birds in the area. I heard a constant buzzing noise. It took me a minute to narrow down where it was coming from, but eventually I fount its source. A Marsh Wren – in plain sight! Now many of you know those Marsh Wrens can be a real challenge to photograph as they mostly live deep in cattails. So I was thrilled to be able to watch one work along the edge of the water for a little while. He was deep in shadows and at a little distance, so it was a challenge getting a good image. But I was pleased with what I got.
Hmmmm…anything good under water?
I had a little time left before I needed to head home and get back to work. So I stopped in at the Embudito Trail parking lot. There’s been sighted a Golden-Crowned Sparrow among the White-Crowned Sparrows feeding at a feeder next to the parking lot.
When I arrived I saw a Cactus Wren singing in a tree. I can never resist photographing these beautiful birds. And their song is the epitome of desert birdsong. I think it’s the most used birdsong in commercials and movies depicting the southwest.
I then saw a bunch of White-Crowned Sparrows fly in to the bushes next to the feeder. I was hopeful the Golden-Crowned Sparrow was among them.
I searched and searched and finally! there he was! By this time the sun was bright and trying to get a good pic was a challenge. But finally I managed one that showed his beautiful gold crown even though it’s muted in his winter plumage. A lifer for me!
Now it was time to go home and take a nap!!! (work could wait LOL!)
Mallard feather on the frozen beach of the Rio Grande
Recently I was invited to a night photography workshop held near the Pecos National Monument. I have dabbled in night photography a couple times in the past with poor results. Mostly because my camera I was using at the time was not meant to do night shots. But also because I just didn’t know what the heck I was doing. :-\
So when I was invited to do a workshop that was going to be hosted by several people that were much more experienced at it then me, I jumped on the opportunity. I invited my friend Valerie to join me. We love going out together for camera time.
We drove to Pecos and arrived late afternoon. I had believed the Pecos National Monument was open until 5:30. But sadly, they closed as soon as we got there at 4:30,. Winter hours had begun. 🙁 We weren’t going to meet our group until 6 so we had a 1.5 hours to kill.
I decided to drive up Highway 63 to see what might be interesting to see. We stopped at an old historic church for a few brief photos. Usually these old churches are locked whenever I am there. But on this day, it was open! Such a beautiful sanctuary.
Further up the road we crossed the Pecos River. We just had to stop. The setting sun was glorious on the water with the stunning fall colors.
Next stop was Monastery Lake. I’ve driven by the turn off for this lake several times this summer without stopping. So it was nice to stop in this time. It was a small little lake that seemed popular for fishing. Lovely fall colors surrounded the lake.
Fishermen along the shore
We figured we better start back to the meeting place. But I had one more stop to make. I had seen this cool old garage as we pulled out from the church earlier. So I quickly pulled into the driveway and snapped a few pics.
I loved the patina of the paint
There were a couple of dogs in the driveway that seemed friendly enough. But when it came time to leave, they were determined to chase the car and run in front of us. I couldn’t go very fast for fear of running them over. We had to drive down the road slowly for a ways before they finally gave up. Whew! They almost made us late for our workshop!
We had to be at the meeting spot on time or we would be locked out. We were allowed to shoot at an old ranch that isn’t open to the public. We drove up to the gate with moments to spare!
After a quick meeting, the group broke up into smaller groups around the ranch. Valerie and I decided we wanted to go down to this bridge to get shots of the bridge, river, moon and milky way. Several of us went to the bridge – including an experienced night photographer. Yay!
We had to wear red headlamps to save our night vision. I took a quick pic of Valerie for fun. I thought I took a selfie but I guess it didn’t take. 🙁
Valerie bundled up for the cold night ahead
So we made it to the bridge, got some great advice from our expert in the group, and set up our tripods and cameras. We checked our apps to see where the Milky Way was going to be and pointed our cameras that direction. And there was a sliver of a moon getting ready to set. The sky was the most beautiful purple hue.
Beautiful purple skies
The sun set quickly and I took my first photo of the Milky Way. It was thrilling! I took a 20 second exposure with a 20 second high noise reduction setting. I was anxiously waiting to see what I got. And then it appeared on my camera screen. I was so excited to see my first photo come out so beautifully!
My first Milky Way shot!
The group then decided to try light painting the Pecos River. I have tried light painting in the past with OK results. I realized later than I used too much light to highlight my subject. On this night we literally just lit the river a couple of seconds over a 20 second exposure. I think it turned out nice.
Light painting of the Pecos River
We then light painted the bridge we were standing on. It was a little more difficult as the bridge was white. It really reflected the light. We only had to very briefly shine the light. Even then the bridge is pretty bright. But I like the photo I got.
Bridge over the Pecos River
We were really concentrating on the south side of the bridge. When I turned around and looked to the north, I saw this great deciduous tree silhouetted by the lights of Santa Fe in the distance. I just had to capture it with the purple skies and wonderful light. I was very pleased with my shot. We tried light painting the tree, but I wasn’t as happy with those pics.
By this time, several hours had passed. It went so quickly! We needed to move to warm up. By now the temperature was 32 degrees and we were getting cold standing still. We headed up the hill to the old ranch house. There’s this giant steer head sculpture on the fireplace. We took several exposures of this view but I wasn’t happy with most of them. This is probably the best shot I got.
By now we were very cold. It was time to go home. On one hand I wanted to stay longer, but on the other I was ready to leave. Those heated seats in my Jeep were pure heaven!!!
I had a great time on my first night shot outing. I’m definitely ready to do more!