Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Covid Respite #2 - Chasing Clouds
Photography is one of the things that helps me keep my psychological equilibrium, especially during the Covid pandemic.
Thanks to our choice of a place to live, I can step out my back door to catch a beautiful sunrise . . .
. . . or walk a hundred yards or so to capture dramatic storm clouds on those rare occasions when they appear in the dry New Mexico environment.
I'm grateful for this easy access to the beauty of the natural world, but during these stay-at-home days I miss the joy of taking longer trips to different and beautiful areas of the Southwest. The logistics and exposure risks of overnight trips make them less attractive, so for now I have to be content taking occasional day trips with a photo buddy . . . in separate vehicles, of course.
My previous post ("Covid Respite") was about a morning trip to one of my favorite New Mexico photography haunts, Georgia O'Keeffe's "Black Place." Here is a link to that post.
More recently, on the 4th of July, my friend Alan and I decided to make our second "covid respite" photography expedition and go cloud chasing.
The storm clouds in New Mexico aren't the awesome circular clouds that look like a giant flying saucer hovering over the plains of Nebraska or Wyoming or eastern Colorado. And we hardly ever have tornadoes. But in late June the New Mexico "monsoon season" begins -- an ironic reference to the 1 inch per month we get in the summer -- as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean manages to make it nearly 1,000 miles inland and maintain enough weight and volume to reach the ground before being dissipated in the dry desert air.
We headed north on I-25 toward Santa Fe and spotted a line of clouds building over the Jemez Mountains to the west that had possibilities. So we jumped off the freeway and drove on NM 22 north and west to get closer to the clouds.
We drove 5 or 6 miles up the road to Peña Blanca, a village of about 600 people along the Rio Grande, keeping our eyes on the clouds, which still looked good.
There we spotted three crosses on a hill overlooking a small church (which you can barely see between the center and right-hand cross). The clouds made a nice background for the image:
We stopped there to eat lunch from our coolers, and in barely half an hour the winds aloft began to flatten the tops of the towering cumulus clouds as the formation moved eastward:
We turned right and headed southeast on NM 16, stopping occasionally to photograph the changing clouds.
Off NM 16 we turned north on Tertilla Peak Road and drove until we reached a locked gate at the boundary of the Cochiti Pueblo (Native American tribal land). Virtually all Native American villages in New Mexico have adopted quarantine protocols due to the high incidence of coronavirus transmission.
On the side of the road along the way I noticed a couple of simple wooden crosses:
These are not grave markers. They are "descansos," personal memorials placed at the sites of violent, unexpected deaths -- usually automobile accidents. They appear throughout New Mexico along streets and highways.
We hung out at the gate for a while, watching and photographing the clouds . . .
. . . then headed for home. No giant flying saucer clouds today. But still good to get out in the field again.
If you would like to see these images in a larger format, please visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.