New Mexico has a plethora of wonderful photo opportunities. As they say in their tourism advertising campaign — “New Mexico, TRUE.”


If you are going to fly into New Mexico, Albuquerque is your best bet, as it is a hub airport. It is also the center around which I’ll share my photo travel ideas with you.

Colors, texture and Chili peppers serve as décor in Old Town Albuquerque, NM.

The town of Albuquerque is photogenic in and of itself. It is in high desert. A modern downtown is distinctly different from Old Town Albuquerque.

A Spanish colony, some of the architecture dates back to the early 1700s. Old Town is filled with historic adobe buildings, such as San Felipe de Neri Church.

Like museums? There are five from which to choose. Add in shops selling Native American handicrafts and there’s something for everyone.

Balloon festival

Albuquerque is also host to the huge hot air Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It will be back this year after a Covid-19 hiatus. There are balloon glows, early liftoffs, rides and fireworks as well.

Balloons in flight at Albuquerque balloon festival
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is a riots of color and action.

If you are interested in attending this spectacular event, make your plans and reservations as soon as possible. Accommodations sell out early for this spectacle. This year the Balloon Fiesta is planned for October 2–10, 2021. You can learn more on their website.


While you will probably want to head to Santa Fe as part of your New Mexico adventure, I suggest taking the back road. You can zip there on the interstate, but the Turquoise Trail is more scenic with photo ops on the way. The “trail” even has its own website as it is a National Scenic Byway.

The town of Madrid (pronounced MAY-Drid, not MAH-Drid) is a funky little artist community with buildings lining the streets splashed with color. The population is small, friendly, artistic and quirky.

I find it fascinating and enjoy the fact that the markers in the Madrid, NM graveyard imbues the spirit of the person interred there.

Ask for directions to the local graveyard. People’s lives are celebrated with very creative monuments. You won’t find any traditional headstones here.

Santa Fe

Filled with art galleries and shops, Santa Fe is known as a center for creative art. The town square also hosts a number fine dining and casual eating establishments. Spanish and Pueblo architecture are features based around the traditional town square.

The streets are fun to wander on foot with plenty of photo ops around each corner. There is so much more than I can share in this article. Send for the Santa Fe Tourism guide for more info.

The full sun high contrast time of day called for me to break out the infrared camera. Architecture in Santa Fe is varied and interesting.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve

Bosque Del Apache NWR contains an unbelievable sight to behold with many thousands of cranes. Add to that the 20,000 snow geese and you have a photographers shooting gallery of avian opportunities.

Be sure to be on-site and ready to go before sunrise and until after sunset. I usually headed back to the hotel for downloading images, lunch and a bit of a nap before heading back out for sunset. If you are there when the cranes are, that means you need your woolies. Check the weather and plan for the cold.

There’s a lookout for the cranes as the rest nap in the glow of the morning light at Bosque del Apache NWR.

The city of Socorro and Bosque is home to the Festival of the Cranes. A major stop for Sandhill cranes during their migration. I was the featured artist in 2019 (you can see the brochure here). This year’s festival will be a mix of webinars and virtual events. Look for the live festival to return in 2022.

In the meantime you can still go to Bosque. Socorro is your best bet for lodging in the area with about a 20 minute drive to the gates of the refuge. Currently open, check the NFS website for any changes to Refuge entry.

Sunsets and sunrises can be quite spectacular in the west. Start early. Get a nap. Come back and go until after dark.

The area surrounding Bosque has lesser known, but still productive areas, for wildlife photographers.

White Sands National Park

I have yet to get to White Sands National Park, but it is high up on my bucket list. The white gypsum crystals are forever changing and cleaning themselves in the breezes that cross the desert. Be very careful, as the desert can suck the moisture from your body. Try to schedule your visit during a cooler time of year.

Regardless of the time of year make sure you push fluids, wear a hat and don’t venture too far into the desert.

White Sands image courtesy of Jeff Johnson, owner of Soul Road Trips.

White Sands is one place it would be helpful to have some guidance. My friend Jeff Johnson leads tours through the southwest. You can learn more about his offerings including White Sands by checking here. See more of his art imagery at his website.

There’s more

Of course, I can’t cover all the photo opportunities in New Mexico but it’s a great start. You might also look into the Taos Indian reservation, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch and the railroad town of Gallup while you are there. Gallup also has a balloon festival. It’s the 40th Red Rock Balloon Rally December 3–5, 2021. Have fun. Travel safe!

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob