Wispy clouds above the San Franciso de Asis Mission Church on a crisp spring day in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
An Icon of Taos
Located on the south side of Taos, in the village of “Ranchos de Taos”, the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church has stood out as a unique icon since it was built, somewhere between 1772 and 1816.
The Story Behind the Photograph
This famous church is one of the highlights for most visitors to Taos. Although I pass by it frequently I had never photographed in the 30 years I have lived in Northern New Mexico.Read More
Living in a “tourist town” you would think that I have been to all the famous sites in Santa Fe and Taos, especially as a photographer. Ironically, this is not always the case.
It is when friends come to visit that I often end up seeing the more popular attractions in the area. Perhaps this is a “grass is always greener” phenomena for me, and I look for adventures away from home?
When a friend, Yvan, was visiting from Quebec, the old church in Taos was one of the places on our list to see.
It is easy to miss the iconic church as you enter the south side of Taos. It is strategically centered in the historic Ranchos de Taos Plaza.
Initially, I left my camera and tripod in the truck as I was not planning on photographing it. As I walked around the outside of the church its magical architecture caught my eye. The soft lines of the adobe against the blue sky decorated with wisps of clouds were a photographers dream. My attitude improved quickly and soon I was back at the church with my tripod, camera, and wide angle lens.
As I photographed the church I tried to capture its soft curves against the sky. I imagined what it must have looked like around 1800. The small shops and galleries that make up the perimeter of the plaza we likely bustling with activity from the Spanish colonists over 200 years ago. Today, it was bustling with visitors and local parishioners attending mass.
Pigeons perched on the walls of the magnificent architecture. Through my ultra-wide lens, I could see a miscellany of delicate cirrus clouds contrast against the sapphire blue sky.
As I composed the scene through my lens I knew this would be an exciting photograph.
The deeply saturated colors of blue sky contrast in a powerful way with the warmer tones of the adobe church. The colors were so intense that I opted to create this black-and-white edition.
New Mexico skies and colors are unique and naturally very strong and saturated — so much so that some people accuse the local photographers of faking their photos. Artists have been, and still are, drawn to New Mexico for these colors.
The Science Behind the Photograph
Construction of the San Francisco de Asis Mission Church was supervised by Franciscans between 1772-1816. Spanish and Mexican families began to settle permanently in Ranchos de Taos in the mid-18th century after they moved from the larger Spanish and Pueblo community at the Taos Pueblo. Ranchos de Taos provided them with fertile land where they grew wheat and corn.Read More
To defend themselves against Comanche and Apache raiders the settlers built their adobe homes and other buildings close together around a common plaza. The San Francisco de Asis church is located at the center of the Ranchos de Taos Plaza. Before the Ranchos de Taos Plaza and church were constructed the agrarian Spanish in the Ranchos de Taos area are believed to have used Taos Pueblo, and its inhabitants, for safety against marauding Indians. After completion of the plaza and church, the villagers of Ranchos de Taos were able to better secure themselves against raids by nomadic Indians.
Because of its unique form and pleasing architecture, the church is a favorite subject for artists. Ansel Adams photographed the church for his Taos Pueblo art book and Georgia O’Keeffe painted a series of perspectives of the church. O’Keeffe once described it as “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards.”
Limited Edition Prints
(16 x 24 inch print in a 25 x 33 inch frame shown here for scale)
“Heaven Above” (c) Ed MacKerrow / In Light of Nature. ( 5739:3804, 20160409__D3_6162_3_4_5_6_7_8H-EDIT )