Friday, August 9, 2019

Taos Spanish Missions

The weather forecast was positive, so I decided I would get out very early in the morning
to gather fodder for my photo portfolio. 

The old Spanish Missions in and around Taos, New Mexico are well known. In fact the San Francisco de Asis Mission in Rancho de Taos is the most photographed mission in NM.  Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Georgia O'Keefe all used the imposing structure as subject matter for some of their works.

Arrived in Rancho a little too early before the 6:15 sunrise. But still,
captured a few images I like.

Predawn in Rancho de Taos

With the unpaved streets around the imposing mission, the look is "Old Mexico"

Rancho Street Lights

Sunrise slowly peeked over the mountain ridge but was disappointing 
as the deep shadows and bright lighlights I had hoped for did not materialize. 

Drove over to a smaller, much lesser know Capilla of the same Spanish era, 
Nuestra Señora de Dolores.
Is still an active church located in a modest neighborhood, not surrounded by gift shops or cafes like the San Francisco Mission in Rancho. But the gate was chained. 

Peaceful Nuestra Señora

Then found my way to the newer cathedral of Taos, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Built in the older mission style but with modern construction materials and engineering. The walls are not the ten foot thick adobe mud and straw as seen in Rancho.

The deep shadows and highlights I was hoping for earlier are finally appearing, an hour or so after sunrise. 

Come unto me...

So I raced back to the San Francisco mission in Rancho de Taos to try my luck again.
Morning services had already begun, did not wish to disturb the parishioners inside.

Music Dwells Within

While running from one mission to another, caught a quiet deserted Taos Plaza just as the better light appeared. If you have never been to Taos, NM, this is exactly how the old town plaza appears today- before the tourist SUV's and minivans fill the parking spots, blocking your view of the adobe buildings. 

Old Town Taos

There are two more missions in the immediate Taos area. One is located inside the Taos Pueblo with restricted visiting hours and the other is a small non-descript building wedged in between other  adobe houses. Will try to capture images of those two soon.

On the trails between Taos and Albuquerque, there are twenty-three old Spanish Missions, most on Indian Pueblo land. Some open to the public, others are not. This will provide me with many photographic subjects for many years.

Returning to Angel Fire, was treated to a sight from our deck, a mule deer buck and doe feeding together. The rut has not started yet, so he is not chasing her. Maybe are brother and sister? 
The buck is still in 'velvet'. 


All in all was a great day. Now have new images to work with.

Be safe, y'all



  1. Beautiful sunrise photos! Taos is one of those places that we plan to try and visit this year.

  2. Richard, glad you enjoyed them. Taos can be a disappointment if you only see the tourist facade and aging hippies. Looking past that and seeing the real history and culture of the area that lies in every nook and cranny of that adobe built city, one appreciates Taos.

  3. Seems it sometimes does pay to get up before the sunrise and take pictures! Very fortress-like, those structures....makes me wonder if defense was part of the mindset of the builders or just the limitations of the building material?

  4. This time is paid off to get up early.

    Good question about the structures. There were Spanish priests bringing their thoughts on church design from Mexico and the old country then modifying them based on available building materials. Since the priests initially arrived in 1598 with Don Juan de Oñate and his hundreds of soldiers, am sure a fortress design was also part of their mission. It is said they convinced the local indigenous population it was good idea to build these structures as protection from the various neighboring raiding warriors.

    Many of these missions were partially or completely destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The Spanish did not re-conquer the area until 1692. Not all of the missions were rebuilt.

    Every spring the parishioners in Rancho de Taos gather to re-stucco the walls of the church. In the open courtyard out front, they hand mix piles of dirt and straw to make a stucco mud. Then they plaster the walls to repair any moisture damage from the infrequent rain or snow of the previous year.


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