Spending time in Santa Fe

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

Photographers spend a lot of money on gear, often too much money. But one of the best things we can spend our money on is photographic education. Workshops, lessons, books. No lens or camera will teach you how to be a better photographer. In May of 2017, I had the pleasure of taking a national geographic photo workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

National Geographic Expeditions partnered with Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, a photo school in Santa Fe. The lead instructor was National Geographic photographer Amy Toensing and additional instructor Carlan Tapp. Both successful and very talented photographers. After meeting both of them during the welcome dinner, I knew the next few days were going to be both fun and informative.

The daily shuttle bus picked up attendees from the hotel and brought us to the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops campus. A beautiful location that is shared with a monastery. We met there for instruction, critics, breakfast, and lunch. The food was homemade and very good. Dishes from a different region of the world were on the menu each day.

The workshop started at a Monday evening welcome dinner. This gave the students a chance to mingle and meet the instructors and staff at the school. It was fun to meet students from every area of the country also. Everyone brought there own perspective and artistic eye to the critics during the week, which is invaluable to any creative course or workshop.

Tuesday focused on street photography in Santa Fe. We were encouraged to meet people and take street portraits. We had the opportunity to travel as a group or solo while exploring the streets around the plaza area of the city. The people and architecture were incredible and provided many photographic opportunities. There is a lot of culture in Santa Fe, so I would encourage any visitor to enjoy the many galleries and restaurants throughout the city. It’s a good opportunity to converse with the staff and get a locals perspective on the city and surrounding area.

Wednesday was photography at Ghost Ranch and group dinner at a local restaurant. Ghost Ranch is where Georgia O’Kief did many of her renowned paintings. It’s also where the movie City Slickers was filmed. It’s a fantastic location for any photographer or hiker. The color palette was stunning and the trails were beautiful. My only regret was the time of day we went. We were there in the afternoon and missed out on sunrise or sunset opportunities.

Thursday provided a model shoot at Eve’s Movie Ranch. This was arguably the most fun location of the week. The ranch is a recreation of an old west town where numerous western movies were filmed in the past 30 years. The entire town was designed and built to have flattering natural light during any time of the day. It’s a photographer’s and film maker’s dream. The workshop provided models dressed in western attire. We were able to bring the models in and out of the various buildings for our shots. Some of the buildings included and old church, homestead, and saloon. The models were great to work with, and the amazing natural lighting provided a nice cinematic look.

Friday was a final critic and slide show of each students work.

Unfortunately National Geographic no longer offers this specific workshop, opting to focus on more premium trips, but Santa Fe Photographic Workshops offers plenty of quality workshops to pick from.

abstract photography