New Mexico Adventure

A Magical Visit to Taos

Before I go much further, let me preface this post by saying this will certainly not be the last time I visit Taos. There’s so much more to photograph and see. If not for a stubbornly painful back, I likely would’ve stayed another day or two this trip.

UGH my back.

Let’s get to talking about why it hurts in the first place. The hike.

The Hike

What a cluster this was truth be told. My plan was to hike up to the Williams Lake area above Taos Ski Valley. I honestly was expecting some snow, just not the entire route to be snow packed. Because of this, I was somewhat unprepared but feeling like I was in reasonably good shape to pull this off, it was only ~4 miles round trip from my parking spot.

While technically everything I said turned out to be true, it was way tougher than I expected.

Hiking in the snow is REALLY hard in standard hiking gear. The trail, even though it was packed, left me slipping and sliding and cutting into the snowpack at times. Not great bob. The entire hike was done at over 10,000’ and I was feeling it by the end. There were times I wanted to quit, but I knew I wanted to capture the alpine wilderness completely snow packed with the crisp blue skies overhead.

This was a really incredible scene visually. There were zero clouds in the sky, so the entire scene took on this surreal appearance because it felt like you were touching the heavens in some ways.
When shot in black and white, this scene really opened up in other ways. The texture of the snow and distant mountains set against the hues of the lowering sun made for some dramatic scenes . I’m always questioning how much to push the blues out when shooting B&W, I think this was an appropriate choice given the full scene being on the brighter ends of the spectrum.
In many ways, I enjoyed this scene for what it was. It was the culmination of a lot of physical effort that I’m still sore from two days later. I’m definitely not a professional hiker and I’m definitely not in the absolute greatest shape, so this feels like a giant accomplishment to me and I’m going to be embarrassed at how easy this trail is when I return later this summer.

After I finished my hike, I began noticing some small bits of soreness in my back. My pack was a little heavier and my back has a long history of having issues. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never really been a hardcore storm chaser who drove 1000s of miles each year and also why I tend to not do big marathon hikes. There’s a balancing act I have to keep and unfortunately this was way out of balance. I knew this probably meant I had finished all hiking for the weekend, which is a bummer as I think about other hikes I maybe could’ve done instead.

Regardless, I was able to do two more small shoots which I’ll share a couple of brief images from.

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

The evening after the hike, I still felt relatively good despite my back slowly hurting more and more. I decided to shoot the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge at sunset.

It wasn’t the easiest shoot as I’m used to dynamic skies complimenting my foregrounds — so the cloudless sky made for some challenges for me creatively but I am somewhat happy with my initial shots from here.

This bridge sets over the Rio Grande gorge, carrying travelers of US64 to either side of the gorge. In the distance are the peaks which I hiked just 2,000 feet shy of the top earlier in the day.

San Francisco De Asis Church

Another famous spot for artists is the San Francisco De Asis Church in Ranchos de Taos, which is just south of the town of Taos.

The morning after all the hiking shenanigans, I gave this a go. My back was hurting but this was a low effort affair I could easily do. One of my big influences in photography is (cliche alert) Ansel Adams — so shooting a subject he too shot was a cool feeling.

I decided to shoot the church in the early morning with the sun filtering through the two trees in the front. I want to come back and experiment with this scene, but it’ll need to be at a time when few others are around. Challenge, accepted.

The church itself was built in 1772 and has been in use since. It’s architecturally very simple, with the prototypical clean lines of many New Mexican structures.

I Shall Return

I’ll definitely be back in Taos before the end of monsoon season at the very least. It’s a flat/open valley that’ll offer incredible views of monsoon convection.

But I have so many other subjects I want to tackle here. This was a good first step into the magical lands of northern New Mexico’s gem, but I want to certainly return soon to see what else I can capture.

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.

3 replies on “A Magical Visit to Taos”

[…] I felt robbed. San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico. If you remember, I shot this Church a couple of months ago as well. It’s a must do for photographers traveling through the Taos area. Another scene that I was […]


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