5 Best Photo Opportunities in Albuquerque
Lee Van Grack
As a life-long resident of Albuquerque, I've only started to appreciate the special relaxed, friendly and photography-friendly nature of this city. The sun-filled days vastly outnumber the gloomy ones, and the mesh of modern and historic landmarks guarantee a memorable photo album. Come prepared, you never know when that perfect rainbow over the mountains will appear or when a feisty roadrunner crosses your path and strikes the perfect pose for you.
It's tough to narrow great photo opportunities in Albuquerque to just five, but these spots showcase many special facets of Albuquerque' culture and landscape.
The Romantic Photo: Los Poblanos Inn
I stumbled upon the Los Poblanos Inn and oddly, some of the most romantic photo opportunities in Albuquerque while on a shopping adventure with my mom. We saw a sign for "Farm Shop" while we were winding our way down historic Rio Grande Boulevard and thought it could prove a fun diversion. From the moment I turned down the quarter-mile drive flanked by dozens of tall, leafy cottonwood trees, I instantly pictured how beautiful wedding pictures would be in the spring with the cotton gently blowing as a couple walks down the path. Los Poblanos added to the romantic feel by infusing the outdoors with the aroma of fresh lavender from the lavender farm to the right of the drive and incorporating a beautiful inn at the end of the path.
The Quirky Photo: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
So many might not consider the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta quirky, but my theory is that any event that takes place just as the sun rises, during a month when it starts getting cold, only if the weather cooperates and involves thousands of people standing around patiently watching slow-moving aircraft inflate and fly away is more than a little unique. That said, the Balloon Fiesta is a picture-taker's paradise and definitely a worthwhile destination. It takes place the first nine days in October, with mass ascensions of hot air balloons Saturday and Sunday mornings. Experiencing the Fiesta from the balloon park field provides photo opportunities emphasizing the epic scale of a hot air balloon (many average over seven stories in height and showcase an impressive array of colors). For the perfect panoramic view of hundreds of balloons dotting the New Mexico skyline, pick a pedestrian path along one of the bridges over the Rio Grande River and hope the "Albuquerque Box," a wind pattern that allows for a lovely round-trip over Albuquerque and back to the balloon park, sends the balloons calmly over the river.
The Fun Family Photo: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
For a great way to spend a Saturday, head to Mountain Rd. between 18th and 19th Streets. To the east glows the prismatic dome of Explora, a center that is, according to its website www.explora.us, " part science center, part children's museum, part free-choice school, part grandma's attic, part grandpa's garage, part laboratory, part neighborhood full of interesting people, and part of many people's lives." The hands-on,"don't worry-you can't break it" approach to discovering how things work provides perfect motivation for shots of the kids joy and excitement at learning something on their own. Cross the street to the west, and tangle with some of the prehistoric giants that roamed the state at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. "Spike" and "Alberta," two life-size dinosaurs greet guests and willingly hold their poses for hours on end. Once inside, action photo opportunities abound, including a rare opportunity to escape being eaten by a Tyrannosaurus Rex or whipped into the stratosphere by the Seismosaurus' tail. Be sure to activate the flash for the journey through, yes-through an angry volcano.
The Scenic Photo: Sandia mountains
For photo opportunities that capture the unique beauty and spirit of Albuquerque, just drive west from the interchange of I-25 and I-40 for about 12 miles to Paseo Del Volcan and head north until a safe place to pull to the side of the road presents itself. Arrive about half an hour before sunset and face east, making sure there are no obstructions to the panoramic view. The Sandia, or "watermelon" mountains serve as the dramatic eastern backdrop to the city that lies in the valley below. As the sun begins to set, the Sandia mountains take on vibrant pink, purple and blue tones that change the typical landscape of Albuquerque for a short while. From as far west as Paseo del Volcan, this great panoramic shot will be free of unsightly house-tops and power lines.
The Classic Photo: Historic Route 66
A trip to Albuquerque wouldn't be complete without a detour to one of the most famous roads on the map. Historic Route 66, or as John Steinbeck called it, "The Mother Road," once served as the road to travel west from Chicago to the Pacific coast. A sizeable length of it stretches through New Mexico, and cuts right through Albuquerque itself. Known as "Central Ave." on local maps, Rt. 66 leads drivers through the Nob Hill/University of New Mexico district, full of unique locally-owned boutiques and eateries with neon signs that conjure memories of the history of the great American road trip. A nighttime cruise through Nob Hill showcases the neon glow of Rt. 66. Head further west on Central, and arrive at the heart of Downtown Albuquerque. Many of the buildings along the street maintain the brick-covered faces and architectural detail popular in the early 1900s. Stand outside the historic Kimo Theater at the corner of Central and 5th street for fantastic daylight pictures capturing the busy heartbeat of downtown Albuquerque with the nostalgia of Route 66 as the backdrop.