There are at least 15 amazing sites photographers can enjoy at this state. This state is one of the most overlooked states in the Union. Let’s get a good look at some of these sites and maybe you can plan your vacation here:

1 Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Comprised of nearly 120 known caves, Carlsbad Caverns National Park is hidden mostly underground. Carved from limestone deposited in an ancient sea, the alien underground landscape is one of the most famous New Mexico tourist attractions. The Park Service offers self-guided audio tours and ranger-led tours. Visitors can also experience bat tours, trips to specific caves, and walks through the outlandish geological formations. Up above, visitors will find a wide range of opportunities for back-country hikes and backpacking. Be sure to bring ample water.

2 White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument is one of the most stunning landscapes in the state, located a half an hour’s drive southwest of Alamogordo in the south of New Mexico. It lies in the Tularosa Basin, a northern offshoot of the Chihuahua Desert, and is surrounded by rugged mountains. Here, gleaming white gypsum sand has built up into an extraordinary landscape of dunes up to 60 feet high, which are constantly displaced by the wind.

3 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Each autumn, Albuquerque hosts the world’s largest hot air balloon festival, drawing crowds of more than 80,000 people. The tradition, which started in a parking lot in 1973 with only 13 balloons, has grown to occupy a 365-acre park with more than 500 balloons participating. This nine-day festival is kicked off by the breathtaking “Mass Ascension” and continues with unique displays of coordinated ballooning and nighttime presentations. In addition to the brightly colored skies, the festival offers plenty of things to do, from kids’ activities and live musicians to a juried craft show and dozens of street performers among the numerous vendors. While in Albuquerque, tourists will enjoy sightseeing in the city’s old town, where the Spanish first settled, also home to the Albuquerque Museum, which contains historical artifacts and exhibits about the area.

4 Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is a 33,677-acre preserve encompassing some of the most dramatic volcanic landscapes and archaeological ruins in the state. Former home of ancestral Pueblo people, the area was occupied from AD 1150 to 1600. Among the remains of the indigenous habitats are structures such as masonry walls and dwellings that were carved from the volcanic rock, as well as petroglyphs that illustrate the Pueblo culture and daily life. This national park has an educational museum, hiking trails, and campsites.

5 Petroglyph National Monument

The Petroglyph National Monument is managed jointly by the city of Albuquerque and the National Park Service, which help preserve this culturally significant site while educating visitors. The area encompasses 7,244 acres consisting of a basalt escarpment, five dormant volcanoes, and an expansive mesa. The park’s most famous feature is its petroglyphs, images which were carved in the basalt by indigenous peoples and early Spanish settlers centuries ago. There are a total of approximately 20,000 petroglyphs within the park, many of which can be viewed from the hiking trails. There are three main hiking routes, the least strenuous being Boca Negra Canyon, which has 100 petroglyphs along one mile of trails. Those who are up for a longer hike in the desert can take the 2.2-mile Rinconada Canyon trail or the 1.5-mile Marcadas Canyon Loop, each of which have around 300 petroglyphs. Hikers should be aware of local wildlife, especially rattlesnakes, and should be well prepared with water for the longer treks.

6 Taos Pueblo

Just outside the city of Taos, the Taos Pueblo has the oldest continuously inhabited dwellings in the United States. These adobe structures have stood for more than 1,000 years, constructed of straw-reinforced mud bricks and timber-supported roofs. These apartment-style homes are up to five stories high, and around 150 people live within the old town full-time. An additional 2,000 reside on the 95,000-acre property in a variety of traditional and modern homes. Residents welcome visitors to take a tour of the community, which has been designated both a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are fantastic photo opportunities, as well as regular markets. The Pueblo is closed to the public during several of its annual traditional events. Tourists visiting Taos can easily see the area’s top attractions on the Taos Highlights Small-Group Driving Tour, which visits the Pueblo as well as historic Taos Plaza, the St. Francis de Assisi Roman Catholic Church, and Gorge Bridge.

7 Cumbres-Toltec Scenic Railway

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a narrow gauge heritage railroad that runs between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado. Constructed in 1880-81, this cozy train ride traverses the 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass and heads through the dramatic Toltec Gorge. The ride offers stunning views of the surrounding land, from grassy, deer-filled, hillside meadows to stream-laced mountains. This is the highest steam-powered railroad in the nation, and the ride has thrilling moments as it crosses the Cascade Creek trestle 137 feet in the air, climbs the face of a cliff, and doubles back dramatically on the Tanglefoot Curve. Passengers will see many of the Railroad’s original structures along the journey and have the chance to stop in the rustic Osier, Colorado halfway through the trip for a lunch break and some exploring.

8 Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

North of the old mining town of Silver City are the Gila cliff dwellings: 42 rooms in six caves, built into the cliff face by the Mogollon Native Americans around the year 1300. Tourists can learn more about the Mogollon culture and the region’s natural history at the museum in the visitor center. Among the park’s geological features are numerous natural caves, as well as hot springs, some of which can be reached by trail from the visitor center. Tours of the cliff dwellings are available, although visitors should take note that the tours start at the cliff dwellings themselves, and it takes about a half hour to walk up to them from the trailhead.

9 Taos Ski Valley

Northeast of Taos, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, at 8,900 to 12,500 feet, is the magically beautiful and excellently equipped winter sports region of the Taos Ski Valley. In recent years, the ski resort has come under new ownership and undergone considerable upgrades. This hill has always been known as a skiers’ hill, with outstanding intermediate and advanced terrain. Half of the trails are for experts.

10 Pecos National Historical Park

Pecos National Historical Park encompasses what was once one of the largest Native American pueblos in the state. It was inhabited from the early 14th century until 1838, with a population over 2,000. In 1990, the park was expanded to 6,600 acres. The visitor center contains exhibits and park information and also offers an Ancestral Sites Walking tour, a guided 1.25-mile hike that explores evidence of the area’s indigenous peoples. The park is also home to the Civil War battlefield of Glorieta Pass, which can be toured via a 2.25-mile trail with or without a guide. The visitor center also offers van tours of the Civil War site, as well as tours of nearby Forked Lightning Ranch

11 The Very Large Array

In the remote rolling hills west of Socorro lies the Karl G Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) – a radio astronomy observatory located on the Plains of San Agustin. The array is used to observe black holes and other astronomical phenomena. There are self-guided walking routes through the site, and the VLA also hosts free, guided tours on the first Saturday of each month. Though reservations aren’t required, it is worth checking ahead for times. Tours begin from the VLA Visitor Center.

12 Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Perhaps one of the most stunning archaeological sites in all of North America, Chaco Canyon was occupied by ancestral Puebloan peoples from about AD 800 to 1200. It was a major center, comprised of 15 massive ruins and hundreds of smaller constructions. Located in a remote area northwest of Albuquerque, the park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Park facilities and activities include camping, an excellent interpretive center, interpretive and back-country hikes, and astronomy experiences from telescopes located in the canyon.

13 Billy the Kid Museum

Out on the eastern plains of New Mexico is the small town of Fort Sumner, the resting place of the infamous Billy the Kid. The lanky youth was shot and killed at the nearby Fort Sumner State Monument by Sheriff Pat Garrett at the age of 21. The museum hosts the Kid’s rifle, horse-riding equipment and the original Wanted poster. Rumor has it they even have some of his hair. The museum also has a collection of cavalry swords, old firearms, and antique cars and trucks. Guided tours are available.

14 Wheeler Peak Wilderness

The highest point in New Mexico is the summit of Wheeler Peak, at 13,161 ft. The mountain is next to Moreno Valley near Angel Fire in the Carson National Forest, in the Sangre De Cristo mountain range. The area is home to a variety of wildlife and visitors may be lucky enough to see marmots, pikas, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and golden eagles. Hiking is one of the most popular things to do with several trails, most ranging from 4 mi to 8 mi long.
Due to the elevation, Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area enjoys moderate summer temperatures and cold winters, when temperatures regularly fall below freezing. Most visitors come here during the summer months, which are warm but also a little wet. July and August are the rainy months, so be sure to bring a rain jacket to deal with passing showers.

15 International UFO Museum and Research Center

A top tourist attraction in Roswell, the international UFO Museum and Research Center was opened in 1992 as an information center inspired by the 1947 “Roswell incident.” This widely speculated event put Roswell on the map as a hub of UFO activity and curiosity. Despite this, the museum’s intention is not to convince visitors to believe in extraterrestrial life or government conspiracy theories. Exhibits take an objective look at local events, as well as numerous others around the world, inviting visitors to come to their own conclusion. The museum contains a variety of material, including documents, eyewitness accounts, and artifacts related to UFO research. Tourists interested in Roswell’s alien mystery will also enjoy one of the many local “UFO tours” that visit spots like Building 84 at the former army base where the downed craft and its occupants were allegedly brought by military personnel.

Boasting one of most incredibly scenic and diverse landscapes in North America, New Mexico offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. With strong influences of both Native American and Hispanic culture, the state offers the visitor a multitude of unique attractions both in large cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque, as well as the smaller hubs of UFO-focused Roswell and the artists’ colony of Taos. Center of the American Southwest, the “Land of Enchantment” didn’t gain statehood until 1912. Today, New Mexico offers the visitor fantastic nature experiences, distinctive cuisine, and an impressive fine arts scene


Have you done any photos like these?


Photos come from Bing Photos.


Photo by bruce mars on

If someone asked me “what is the ONE thing you have done that improved your photography the most?” my answer would be Self Portraiture. No, not your average cell phone social media shot, but a fully-conceptualized project. One that is planned and executed down to the last detail, and then shot by the photographer who is also in front of the camera.

I don’t shoot people because they can be awkward and self-conscious in front of the camera. Often they have no idea how to pose, don’t listen and take direction, and can be impatient with the process. They can also be easily distracted, and you have to spend a lot of energy to keep them happy and engaged. For those who make a living shooting people/portraits, I salute you because it is hard work.

However, for those of us who don’t like to photograph other people, we are then left with a dilemma. Having a human in the shot helps us tell a more involved story, gives the viewer something to relate to, and helps us engage with the image. Therefore, using ourselves in the picture becomes a choice. Which leads us to the challenge; how do we plan out an entire image and shoot it, while being IN it at the same time?

Not only do we have to design and plan the whole shoot, which is enough of a challenge anyway, but we also have to put our self in front of the camera at the same time.

So we take something that is hard to do and make it even harder. Why would we do that? What are the benefits?

I had to come back and do this shoot a second time because all my first set of shots were not 100% in focus. I marked my focus point with a white stone this time

Creative Freedom

Using yourself as the model gives you enormous creative freedom. It allows you to try creative directions a paying client may not want to do.  You can be adventurous and take more risk with the shot style.

Some themes you could play with include:

  • 50’s pinup style shoots or burlesque or lingerie
  • Cosplay with lots of armor and weapons
  • Western-themed with a horse and a lasso
  • Fairytale redo of Cinderella or Red Riding Hood
  • A fantasy wedding theme
  • Pirates
  • Sport
  • 1920’s speakeasy
  • Zombie horror
  • Elaborate composited scenes not possible in reality like levitation and flying furniture and people

Sticky fake blood looks effective for this zombie-themed shot. It tells a story with just the hand and arm

Thinking outside the box

There are so many more ways to create a self-portrait. You can use your whole body or only a part of it. Using the hands alone can tell stories in so many ways. Many people do not like having their face in the frame, and showing complex extreme emotion is a challenging concept for a lot of people.

Why are our portraits often of people smiling and being happy? Do we not also feel sadness, grief, anger, confusion, depression, anxiety, despair?  How can we explore the full human condition?

What are the other stories we can tell using the full range of emotions available to us? How else can we create powerful emotive imagery? What stories can we tell that encompass our vision and experiences?

Are there things we personally find challenging or interesting? What fascinates and drives us? Are there demons dwelling in our psyche to be uncovered and exposed in front of a lens? What is our story? Do we want to share a reality or instead craft an alternate fantasy world instead?

My mantra is “I want my images to evoke a response.” Any response is fine. Just so long as my images are SEEN, not just scrolled past on the phone. How can they stand out from the crowd of the millions of other images uploaded every minute online? I also want them to be uniquely mine by permitting myself to create what is necessary to get a specific shot.

My question to you is “how do you get someone to stop scrolling and see YOUR image, or to like or comment on it?” How do you innovate with your imagery to make it different, noticeable or more engaging?

Learn to take risks

For the record, there is nothing wrong with the traditional style of portrait/self-portrait images, but there are those of us who strive for something more. We strive for something different, something extreme or extraordinary. In which case, starting with yourself is an excellent way to experiment in a safe, controlled environment. An environment where it is okay if you make a mistake and take twice as long to do something because you are only using your time. Somewhere everything you try is a learning experience and often a valuable one.

However, putting yourself as the subject in a shot is a risk. Everyone suffers the same doubts. “Will I look OK?”
“Will people like this image of me?”
“I hate how my face looks when I smile” and so on.

Underneath we are all the same fragile creatures, so putting yourself front and center takes a lot of courage.

If you are choosing to do something more creative, then the risk may feel greater.
“Will I look like an idiot dressed as a pirate?”
“I’m afraid of doing a nude or lingerie shot.”

It is easy to worry about what people think.
It can also be hard to overcome the ingrained societal concepts of good or expected behavior. Society expects us to be smiling and happy in a portrait shot. Many people do not cope well when presented with your screaming face covered in blood!

You may feel concerned about going outside to shoot where other people can see you.
“What is this person in a strange costume doing making weird poses in front of the camera?”
Yes, that is a real thing.

My response to that is first of all, who cares what other people think? Second, if we want the shot of a particular place to tell a story, then we do what is necessary to get the shot. Are we risking embarrassment by doing this? Maybe, but I am also comfortable with the idea that no one has died of embarrassment.

Breaking through my comfort zones and pushing my boundaries is one of the most valuable things I have done to improve my photography. Self-portraiture has been a big part of that journey because it gave me the freedom to take risks and try something new. Because I am using myself as the model, if it doesn’t work, I can try again. I can try something different, or refine my process in a better way.

Think about how you could tell new or different stories if you had the time and made the opportunities to craft self-portrait images that tell your story!

Self-portrait secret weapons

  1. A Wireless Remote
  2. Shooting Tethered (either cabled or wireless with a trigger)

A wireless remote

Having a wireless remote is faster and more efficient. You can get yourself into position and shoot a whole range of different poses without having to dash back and forward between the camera and your position.

Shooting tethered

If you are in a studio or working close enough to the camera, shooting tethered makes the process even better. You can make sure your pose is within the frame, can see any issues and adjust them quickly. Shooting tethered allows you to fine tune everything while you are shooting the scene. You save time too, in case you cut your head off accidentally and need to reposition again and again.

Being able to see how the final image looks on a bigger screen is also very helpful for creative direction. Several of my shots I would not have conceptualized without the opportunity to see the potential of them on the laptop screen. Sometimes merely adjusting the tilt of the head or the angle of the chin completely changes the tone or feel of an image.

Slightly out of focus while I was trying out shooting tethered for the first time. Helped to position the fan in exactly the right place

Give yourself time to play

When you are the only set of hands and have to be in two places at once, it takes time to set the shot up. Give yourself plenty of time to shoot, so there is no rushing. That way you can deal with any issues and be relaxed about your time frame.

Also, allow yourself time to play and experiment while in front of the camera. By having time to play, you can spark up new concepts and ideas you didn’t initially have. Ideas that can turn out to be valuable. I have specifically scheduled time in my studio with a few props to experiment with a concept. With no specific intention for a shoot, just time to create visually in an unstructured manner. I can take small risks, try new things, move on to the next idea and experiment.

This exercise has taught me a great deal about posing, and how to move the body to get the best visual outcome. This exercise is invaluable for talking to portrait clients later, as you can empathize with how odd it feels, but explain why it matters too.

Planning a self-portrait image

Many elements go into creating an image. For example, subject, light, story, and mood. With a self-portrait image, you have to start from the beginning and build the entire picture. You must integrate all the necessary elements in such a way that allows you to create both behind the camera and in front of it simultaneously.

1. What

What is the concept or idea behind your image?

2. How

How are you going to execute it? What constraints or limitations are there? What are the technical or physical challenges and what lighting is needed?

3. Where

Where do you shoot it? Do you shoot inside or outside, or in a specific place? Is the background composited in later?

4. Theme

What styling or theme do you want the shot to have? Be as creative as you like or can afford.

5. Pose

How will you be posed? Is it a pose you can hold and adjust easily for a range of options? Is the pose comfortable and safe?

6. Props

What props are needed to tell the story? Do you require hair, makeup, clothing, or other accessories to tell the story?

7. Extras

Some other things you may need to consider are: site permissions, shooting fees, access, public audience, personal safety, weather conditions, and travel distance/time.

Other considerations

These are all the things you may need to account for if doing a shoot with a client or a model. You can go the safe route and do classic headshots, or outdoor portraits in a garden. It is a safe option when dealing with a client who may not want a more challenging style of image, may not have the time or budget to get dressed up in costume or isn’t interested.

Figuring out how to do this by yourself (assuming you don’t have any assistance) can take some practice. If you have an elaborate, complicated costume, can you get dressed in it by yourself? Can you do it in the back of your car if there isn’t anywhere else you can get changed? Can you wear it and drive at the same time?

How much gear are you carrying? Can you take it in one trip to the session site? Are you and your gear safe while working outside?

Everything becomes much more complicated. You need to take a normal approach to things and make it even simpler. Then you repeat until every stage is possible for one person to achieve.

The final edit from the original shot seen above


Using people in images helps tell an engaging visual story. However, not all photographers have the luxury of friends/family to pose for them or can afford a model. Some photographers may prefer not to deal with a stranger due to the complexity of the shoot, and the time required. So putting yourself in the frame may be the only option.

Putting yourself front and center can be intimidating. Some of us prefer to be behind the camera. However, we can dress in costume, wear wigs, elaborate makeup, masks or shoot in such a way that our identity is not apparent.

Masking your identity also forces you to be more creative with how you think about staging and shooting your image. It can be a challenge because everything takes longer and the complexity increases with the need to be both in front of the camera and composing the shot.

There are so many learning opportunities and experiences to be had by taking the time to play. When it is just you and a camera, there is great freedom involved to try random concepts and ideas. Things you may not have ever considered before.

Pinterest and Instagram are great places to find inspirational ideas. Start making yourself a board, gather props, take a deep breath and put yourself in the frame.

It will be tough going initially, but it is worth it. Even just for the learning experiences, you gain from making mistakes. However, don’t let that stop you. Go forth and create!

The post Expand Your Creativity by Taking Self-Portraits appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Stacey Hill.