New Mexico Adventure

Valles Caldera, May 2019

I shot the following pictures last weekend on my grand tour through portions of northern New Mexico. Despite the calendar saying May, the temperatures at the elevations the caldera sits at were nearer to freezing (the altitude is over 10,000 feet).

Thus, this was an unexpectedly chilly shoot but I wanted to capture the sunset here for the first time just from the rim after my Plaza Blanca shoot.

My eating habits led me to Blake’s Lotaburger in Espanola and the typical horrifically long wait time ensued, so I was feeling the pinch to get set up as soon as possible on the caldera rim. I took this trip as the first opportunity of many to come to shoot the caldera, which is among the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

The forests around the rim were full of the warm light of the setting sun. This area gets a lot more precipitation than the Rio Grande Valley below the mountain range where Albuquerque sits — so its a lot greener and it feels much more moist. Altogether a completely different climate. This difference in climates over a short distance has always fascinated me.
A black and white of the caldera floor at sunset. This was an exceptionally hard shot to get and was maxing out my poor little Panasonic sensor. However, I ended up making this a slight lean towards a keeper because of the incredible light captured. The rim of the caldera sits in the distance as one of the many streams flowing through are highlighted by the setting sun rays. The scattered clouds created a beautiful differential lighting that was incredible to witness.
Same scene but zoomed in and in color. It feels as if the distance you are looking out is tiny, but it actually can be measured in miles. I am seriously yearning to shoot this area during monsoon season. In theory I’ll be able to capture some amazing scenes. in theory.
This was the last photo I took of the day and its among my favorites. This little s-bend in the road as you exit the caldera to the West is a favorite vantage point of mine. I had never seen it with almost clear skies, but the beautiful pine forests (even damaged as they are from fire) make the whole scene enjoyable to take in. The mountain forests are one of my favorite new things in New Mexico.

The simplicity of the caldera landscape is probably what draws me in. It has the flat/open plains I used to live in but the mountains at the edge. So in a way, this place represents the two landscapes that have now helped define me. Count me as excited to come back and shoot this area more in the future.

By Raychel Sanner

I'm a trans photographer and filmmaker based in New Mexico. I love adventure and travel and exploring my state. I chase down incredible storms and skies. I advocate for good mental health and for my trans siblings.

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