Eye Scene: Photographer, Ryuichi Oshimoto Travels with Sigma Camera & Lenses
Title Photo: The Taos Pueblo is a Native American village in northern New Mexico and the natives have inhabited the land for the last 1000 years. Heading over to the village square, I walk through the gates of San Geronimo Church, built in 1850, and turn around at the entrance. The shadow of the church entrance created from the morning light stretched out and the majestic mountains in the background were covered in wispy white clouds. Setting the ultra wide-angle zoom lens on the DSLR, the beautiful building and sacred air was captured.
From Santa Fe, New Mexico, I travel north on Highway 285 then northeast onto State Road 68. Driving up the mountainous trail with the Rio Grande on my left, I felt there was a large gap between the big city life in Santa Fe and this deep mountainous area.
The western mountain blocked the setting sun. This old wooden bridge lay over the Rio Grande. I did not have the courage to ignore the sign and cross the bridge, but it sparked a sense of adventure in me by just looking at it. Click here to view full image.
The river widened as I ascended the path and the landscape was bathing in golden radiance from the late afternoon sun. The higher the altitude, the more beautiful the landscape became. Having higher expectatations for the landscape ahead, I pressed the shutter with much enthusiasm.
The road veered away from the Rio Grande. The end of the trail hit a plateau and opened up to a vast plain. With nothing obstructing the setting sun, the landscape was soaking up the golden sun, but the sky was still blue and it seemed like hours before the sunset.
At elevation 6969ft above sea level, the town of Taos was only moments away. I was drawn to the contrast between the blue sky and golden field. Suppressing my excitement, I firmly planted my feet and quietly recorded the vast landscape. Moments later the sun hid behind the horizon.
Upon arriving at the town of Taos, I stayed at a motel on the southern end of the town. The next morning I left before the sunrise and left the town to head toward Taos Pueblo. Proclaimed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark by the US, I arrive at the village in the dark. While I stood around the village entrance to assess the situation, a woman who seemed to be a descendent of the Pueblo Indian walked toward the village. I asked her if I could walk in, but she told me it is open to the public in two hours. After she left, 5,6 cars entered the village, but they all seem to be affiliated with the Taos Pueblo.
The road leading to Taos Pueblo. The eastern skies were getting brighter, but still dim. The horses were feeding.
After returning to the town, I wasted my time at the café. A truck carrying horses stopped in front of the café and the area smelled like horse.
I see cloud cover on top of the mountain from the foot of the town this morning. Changing to monochrome, a quiet vacant morning air was captured.
When I returned to the town after 8am, many cars left the village. There must’ve been a gathering earlier this morning. A couple came out of the only car parked in the lot outside of the town. They were waiting for the visitor center to open.
At dawn, the sun reached Taos County. The horses bathing in sunlight were completely immobile and observing me. Attempting to look non-threatening, I moved closer to the horses and quietly pressed the shutter.
I noticed many dogs in the residential homes near the Taos Pueblo neighborhood. The unleashed dogs seem to know their place. I photographed from inside the car to avoid confrontation.
At 8:30am sharp, the Taos Pueblo opened for the public and I entered the village after the couple. As I walk on the red soil, the mountains beyond the village appeared to protect the land like a guardian angel. I read in a brochure that the sacred Taos Mountains controls who can step foot on this land. On this sunny morning, I wondered if I had approval.
“The river was much wider since my last visit,” I overheard two women who were overlooking the river. The Red Willow Creek flows through the village. The small church, built in the southeastern corner of the village, faces the mountain. According to the Taos Pueblo website, “Catholicism is practiced along with the ancient Indian religious rites which are an important part of Taos Pueblo life. The Pueblo religion is very complex; however, there is no conflict with the Catholic Church, as evidenced by the prominent presence of both church and kiva in the village.”
In the village there are two large buildings believed to be constructed over 1000 years ago. One of them called Hlauuma, is built on the north end of the village. The dogs, who probably never had been leashed, walked freely around the area.
This original church was built in 1619, on the very land where a cemetery was constructed with the help of Spanish missionaries and the Native Americans. In 1847, the church was destroyed by the Americans during the Mexican-American War.
Commonly seen in New Mexico, the dried chili peppers were hung in the village. Even the food culture has deep-rooted history.
After the tour around Taos Pueblo, I went to the Taos Ski Valley as advised by the man controlling traffic at the entrance of the village. The road (State Road 150) leading to the slopes becomes a narrow uphill road and eventually leads into a village with neatly-lined stores.
I encountered a quaint village, Arroyo Seco, on the way to the ski slopes and saw shops lined up on a slope. Hanging the digital compact camera around my neck, I walked around the village while casually snapping away.
From the village, the road ascends considerably and by the time I arrived at the slopes, I had reached 9207 ft above sea level. The snow-less slopes were sparse with people. I rode on one of the nine ski lifts with a camera bag on my shoulder. The eight-minute ride to elevation 10,824 ft was a long and lonely one.
The base of the slope at elevation 9207 ft. Feeling revitalized from seeing the cosmos flowers, I got onto the lift.
A view of the snow-capped Wheeler Peak (elevation 13,161 ft) after stepping off the lift. The large aperture telephoto lens clearly captured details of the mountain’s slope that couldn’t be detected by the human eye.
After seeing the heavy cloud cover over my head I wanted to quickly descend on the lift, but thinking about the lonely ride back down, I took an hour to walk down by foot.
I saw some deer as soon as I descended. Using the large aperture zoom lens, the deer in the background was blurred and quickly framed the shot.
Flowers were nowhere to be seen at high altitudes, but the base of the slope was germinating with purple flowers. Once I sat down to take a photo, my tired legs refused to move for some time.
Quickly descending the mountain, I passed the town of Taos and drove south on State Road 6 to State Road 570 running parallel to the Rio Grande. While heading north, I overlook the river where the source starts from the San Juan Mountains and eventually leading out to the Gulf of Mexico. There were several campsites along the river and I would have stayed in any of those campsites since they were in such excellent locations. The road became a dirt road after crossing the river. After driving up the narrow road, a vast 360-degree view of field came into view. The Rio Grande on the east was no longer visible.
The road along the Rio Grande leads to a bridge. The photograph was taken on the bridge. At the time, clouds covered the sky and it changed its expression rapidly over the reflection of the water.
There is a large valley beyond the plain and the Rio Grande flows through it. The clouds dramatically change shape emphasizing the presence of the sky and the land embraces the drama. Capturing nature’s spectacular scene with the super wide-angle zoom lens and turned monochrome, the presence of the clouds were emphasized.
The road leading to the plain becomes paved. Speedily heading north and turning east on State Road 64, I crossed the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and easily crossed the colossal valley. Parking the car on the eastern side of the valley, I walked over to the middle of the bridge and look at the 656 ft drop down the Rio Grande. The sound of the river is heard loud and clear from the bridge. Returning to the road I came from, I drove along the river again.
Overlooking the Rio Grande from the bridge, I take a photograph of this dramatic scene of heaven and earth and I realize I am part of this landscape too.
Unlike the river I saw from 656ft valley, the water here was flowing gently. With the bright reflection from the afternoon sun in the background, small orange flowers grew in the foreground.
Moving in the same direction of river flow as the Rio Grande, I left Taos County. Lightening clouds covered the skies, but not one drop of rain fell while I was at Taos. However 130 miles southwest of Taos, lightening clouds surrounded the Albuquerque area. Loud, angry thunderclaps and lightening conquered the area and with the heavy downpour and zero visibility, it caused several accidents on the freeway. On this night in the heavy rain, I stopped at the first gaudy motel sign I saw from the freeway and stayed there for the night. The short trip from the car to the room caused my clothes to become soaking wet. The next morning when I went outside while it was still dark out, the rain clouds had disappeared and the moon was floating in the western sky.
Early morning before entering Arizona from New Mexico, the big moon was about to sink.
The heavy rain and thunder from last night cleared my mind, so this morning I felt very refreshed. Gazing at the round moon, I thought that the thunderstorms was Taos’ offerings too.
*All artwork on this page was processed from RAW data (X3F) with Sigma PhotoPro software. After processing, some selected images were imported into retouching software to remove dust. This photo essay is currently running on Sigma Japan’s site and it is published here two months later.