Santa Fe Photos: How to Capture a City in 6 Pictures, Part 2

Yesterday I sent you my shot list for photographing a city on assignment (along with examples from Santa Fe of the first three).  You can see that note and those Santa Fe photos here). Wrapping up the series on capturing Santa Fe in 6 pictures, following are the remaining three subjects (plus the wild card):

4. What’s there to eat?

No matter what part of the world you are visiting, there is always a dish or food specialty the place is known for.  Getting some shots of the specialty is always a good addition to your portfolio of images.

Santa Fe (and all of New Mexico) is known for its chilis, and you’re never far from a plate or a dish containing this ingredient. While I like to photograph the actual dishes in a restaurant, one of my favorite things to photograph in town are chili ristras, or strings of chilis. They are colorful, come in red and green, and are often used as details in magazine articles.

5. Where is a cool place (or area) to stay?

Lodgings and the surrounding area, being a traveler’s home-away-from-home, are usually very important to travel publications. Sometimes the hotel itself is famous enough to warrant a picture, while other times it’s the area that’s interesting.

Santa Fe’s most famous and storied hotel is La Fonda, a large, adobe building located kitty corner from the main plaza at the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail. Both the exterior and interior of the building are photogenic, so I’d recommend getting pictures of both. Staffers are so used to photographers roaming its halls that, as long as you are discreet, you can even use your tripod inside (low light conditions mean slow shutter speeds, so a tripod is recommended).

This interior shot was taken from the hotel’s second floor, looking down at the very popular (especially for Sunday brunch) La Plazuela Restaurant. The picture was selected for the back cover of my book, The Photographer’s Guide to New Mexico.

6. What’s a cool thing to buy?

This one is easy to answer: Indian handicrafts under the portal at the Palace of the Governors or at many of the shops and galleries near the Plaza. Turquoise and silver jewelry are very popular with tourists, but you can also buy hand-made pottery, rugs, and wood carvings.

The picture here is of black and white pottery from Acoma Pueblo. There are 17 Indian pueblos in New Mexico, and each has a distinctive style of pottery. Acoma’s is one of my favorites. Almost every article I have seen about Santa Fe will include Indian handicrafts, so you should add images of these to your collection.

7. One more thing…

Although having a shooting list is important to keep you on track, especially when time is tight, it’s also important to be flexible enough to allow for the unexpected subjects you’ll encounter.

One suggestion while visiting Santa Fe is to pay a visit to the Pecos National Historical Park, located an easy 25 miles east of town. The small park features ancient Indian ruins, a mission, and a small museum, making it the perfect place to capture an important part of the state’s history: the coming together of Spanish and local cultures.

The picture I selected shows Indian ruins in the foreground and what’s left of the hulking Spanish mission in the back. I prefer the look of this image without people, because for me the story depicted is about the past and its ghosts. However, whenever possible I also take pictures with people exploring the ruins to give editors a choice.

Keep in mind that you should photograph many more subjects than those described above. Having a shooting list is only a starting point to focus your efforts. For example, your list should also include subjects like the plaza, St. Francis Cathedral, the Lensic Theater, the Railyard, Guadalupe District, art galleries, adobe architecture, the Fine Art Museum, the History Museum, and much more. Images of all these subjects are often used to illustrate articles about Santa Fe. And, if you’re unable to photograph all the subjects on your list (I have yet to accomplish that feat myself), save the list for your next visit.

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