Fine Art Images from the American Southwest

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Location Scouting, Rio Grande del Norte, National Monument, NM

It’s fun to hit the road or lack thereof, just for a day out. We made this day a fun day out with photography the secondary factor. I always have my camera on hand for when images present themselves when I least expect it. Then there is the other perspective of a preconceived image. Ansel Adams referred to it as pre-visualization. The former is how I mostly find subjects by allowing the day to unfold and present itself to me. I guess one would call it being open to the moment. I’ll settle for that. This day we were out with our friends, Chris and Carla. Company is a good thing when going off the highway on muddy, rutted roads. The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument is a place where you are pretty much as far away from civilization as you can get in this part of New Mexico. Speaking of location scouting, I found several locations worthy of different weather conditions with dramatic lighting pre-visualized for future trips. Thanks for looking. G

San Antonio Mountain
San Antonio Mountain from the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Road through the Monument
Road through the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Rocky field with Cerro Chiflo
A rocky field with Cerro Chiflo in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

I’ve added a few images below from previous trips into the National Monument. Enjoy!

Ground cover on the Volcanic Plateau
Ground cover on the Volcanic Plateau in the RGdN National Monument.

Lone tree on the plateau
Lone tree on the Volcanic Plateau.

Elk herd in the Rio Grande del Norte
Elk herd in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument looking east to near where we live.

Pronghorn in the Rio Grande del Norte
Pronghorn in the National Monument looking to the east and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Rain on the plateau in the National Monument
Rain on the plateau in the RGdN National Monument.

ute mtn rocks 0115 0121
On the east rim of the Rio Grande Gorge with Ute Mountain.

You can read more on the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument here.

Rio Grande del Norte: An Intimate Portrait

From the foreword by Taos Author John Nichols:

In this collection of images, Geraint Smith has given us a view of the Rio Grande del Norte area that is sublime. The view can be subdued and delicately poetic … or truly sensational.

Quotes from the book:

The natural beauty of the rivers that flow through spectacular landscapes, inhabited by an abundance of wildlife, is perhaps the common denominator that continues to inspire people who live here as well as those visiting for the first time. Over time things change; often unnoticed are things that remain the same. Transformation happens quickly on the Mesa and compels a close look. Old corrals scattered across the plateau are dilapidated memorials to the large sheep herds that once grazed the Mesa’s grasslands. To see all or any of these magnificent creatures, the  intimate details of nature, and the vast landscapes and canyons we share, I encourage you to venture into The Rio Grande del Norte with reverence and wonder. The adventure just might change your life.

Reviewed by John Senger February 25, 2015:

Breathtaking photographs of the Rio Grande landscape and wildlife reveal an emotional connection that pushes for conservation. In Rio Grande del Norte: An Intimate Portrait, photographer Geraint Smith boldly paints a powerful and colorful portrayal of nearly 240,000 acres of wilderness. Smith’s photographs are often breathtaking as he forcefully drives home the point that this beautiful piece of land needs to be preserved for all to enjoy.

The land in question is the Rio Grande Gorge and the surrounding high desert and mountains, located in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument was designated as such on March 25, 2013, by President Barack Obama, and consists of some of the most spectacular scenery in the lower forty-eight states. Geraint Smith is a photographer who grew up in the coal mining areas in England. He lives in Taos, New Mexico, and has been living in and taking pictures of this area for more than twenty-five years. His knowledge of and love for the Rio Grande del Norte shines through each photograph.

Like skilled painters, talented photographers do not merely record images. They study and capture light and its relation to the images presented in their photographs. Smith is very good at this. Some of his photos, such as “Cottonwoods and Sangre de Cristo Mountains,” are startling in their clarity and complexity. It is a simple picture: trees, mountains, and a field. Yet the light is the real focus, and elevates the composition in artistic value.

Smith has sprinkled throughout the book brilliant images of the various animals that populate this wilderness. The photographs “Morning Bobcat” and “A Three Coyote Morning” are particularly charming.

This book can be enjoyed over and over again; the reader will find something new and stimulating at each sitting. Photographs such as “First Snow” will captivate the viewer. The simple moment reflected here is of a road through the forest disappearing at the horizon. But there is more to it than that—it is an almost mythical entryway of gold, green, and orange, inviting the traveler into a land never before experienced.

Smith made the correct choice in letting his photographs tell the story. There is a minimum of accompanying narrative, and the collection is enhanced by a few quotes from environmentalist John Muir.

Rio Grande del Norte, in addition to being a wonderful collection of outstanding photographs, will serve as an informative guide to the armchair traveler who may never get an opportunity to visit and experience this beautiful place in person.

Rock Wren, Rocks, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, NM

Rock Wren on the rocks in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, New Mexico. From the vast landscapes to the smallest creatures that inhabit them, when I show up and paying attention these sights present themselves, without question and without fail, every time. Thanks for looking. G

Rock Wren, Rocks, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, NM

Lone Tree, Wild Rivers, Rio Grande Del Norte

Lone Tree, in the Wild Rivers area of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. I can’t pass up a lone tree, especially a bare lone tree. Here is today’s tree. You can’t tell from the photo, but the sage was wet from an afternoon downpour. The aroma was heady. Thanks for looking. G

Lone Tree, Wild Rivers, Rio Grande Del Norte

Glyphs, Signs, Rio Grande Del Norte

Glyphs, signs, an encrypted language, lines of code? in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, NM. I have no clue what, who, or why? It spoke to me so I made an image! Thanks for looking. Be safe out there this weekend. G

Glyphs, signs, an encrypted language in the Rio Grande Del Norte?

Tree, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

Tree in the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument an area within the Taos Plateau volcanic field. It is an exceptional area and perfect right now if you want to roam alone. From here you can see a hundred miles north to the snow capped peaks of the Rocky mountains in Colorado. If you prefer solitude to crowds this is the place to be. As you may have gathered distancing here is easy. Check out this link for more info on this area. Thanks for looking. G

Tree, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

Top Of The World, Rio Grande Del Norte, National Monument

Top of the World, Rio Grande Del Norte, National Monument. This day 04-04-16, four years ago. I’d just bought my fifth Toyota 4 Runner, (I love 4 Runners), so Pami and I took it for a days drive through the National Monument. During the 100+ miles we covered, some roads were passable, others heavily rutted with mud. We did make it up this hill with no problems and have done so many times since. It has great views in all directions, especially the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north and east. I know it’s not exactly the top of the world, but it feels like it and incidentally, you can see “The Top Of The World Farm” on the New Mexico, Colorado state line from here. When things get back to normal, join me on a photo tour in the Rio Grande del Norte, and I’ll show you around this area. Thanks for looking. G

Top Of The World, Rio Grande Del Norte, National Monument

Petroglyphs, Rio Grande Del Norte, National Monument

Petroglyphs on a story rock panel, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. There are many more “peckings” on this rock, located alongside the great river in the Wild Rivers Recreation Area. This image shows Mule Deer and Bighorn Sheep. Below the first image is a photo of a Bighorn Sheep, also photographed in the gorge. The indigenous peoples would have documented the wildlife in the area and this rock has an array of footprints pecked onto it also. When things get back to normal I encourage you to make a trip here. Thanks for looking. G

Petroglyphs on a story rock panel in the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.

Bighorn sheep ram on a rock panel in the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument.

Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument

Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, New Mexico. On a photo tour/workshop today, we dropped into the Orilla Verde Recreation Area of the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. What started out with overcast skies and grey clouds, turned out really well. Image making is the objective. Perseverance is the key. Thanks for looking. G

Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument