After our morning visit to Valles Caldera, we made another stop in the Jemez Mountains. The Las Conchas Trail is a…

picturesque trail through a grassy canyon. There is a beautiful stream running through the canyon in a calming swirl.

We were surrounded by great pine trees and multi-colored rocky cliffs!

The trailhead is a small parking lot so not many folks can be here at a time. We only ran into a few people along the trail. There were a couple of guys working at climbing this cliff face.

This trail is part of the Santa Fe National Forest. It is at an elevation of 8,400 ft. Other than a somewhat steep climb down from the road at the trailhead this is a fairly flat trail.

As we started the trail, the first thing I noticed was a bird that flew in front of me. I had my wide-angle lens mounted for landscapes but this woodpecker flew close enough that I was able to get a decent image!

Hairy Woodpecker

But my eyes were quickly drawn to the colorful rocks in the cliffs and a bit further down the trail, the stream (a fork of the Jemez River) started to get my attention!

The lighting here was a challenge as the sun was shining over the cliffs on the west side, lighting up the east side and throwing the west side in shadows. I shot three bracketed exposures (2 f stops apart) each time to make sure I had all the dynamic range I needed in this high contrast shooting situation! Many of these images were three exposures combined as HDRs in Photoshop and Lightroom to get the full dynamic range in one image.

As we walked along the trail I noticed in some places that the colors of the foliage, rocks and sky were reflecting in the water. So I eagerly went looking for compositions that gave me a view of these reflections.

At one point along the trail, I was being scolded by what I thought was a squirrel. I eventually found him in the branches of a very old tree. The squirrels in New Mexico actually sound a bit different than our Florida squirrels.

There were a lot of interesting plants along the trail. I am always looking for interesting combinations of shape and light.

As the sun dropped lower behind the west side of the canyon wall we turned back toward the trailhead.

The blue sky was reflecting in the stream when looking in that direction.

As I was getting near the end of Las Conchas Trail, I saw something out of a Hobbit movie! This huge rock looked like a giant fairyland tree!

As I walked up toward the trailhead, I looked ahead and saw that the late afternoon light was glancing across the previously burned trees on the hills across the road from the parking lot. What a contrast to the lush area around and along this wonderful trail.

Las Conchas Trail is a must-see if you are in the Santa Fe area. Check out the Forest Service website for details.

For larger versions of these and additional images, click on any image or visit my Gallery.

My next post will be from the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!

Leave a Comment