Photographing Chaco Canyon offered both challenge and reward.

Sunrise and sunset offered stunning desert colors. Light filled the canyon in ways I could never have anticipated.

But it also offered its challenges.

I arrived late Friday afternoon and left early Sunday morning.

Saturday, the only full day in the canyon, the light was dull. A front had come up from the Gulf of Mexico, lending a flat grey to the sky and later a sand storm swept through the canyon. In addition the Anasazi ruins were nearly the same color as the cliffs behind them. With little contrast or light, photographing Chaco Canyon on this particular set of days was, for me, rather difficult.

Throw in my usual issues with ISO and shutter speed, and I am grateful to have gotten the photos I did.

Click Here To Read About Camping In Chaco Canyon


CancerRoadTrip visits Mesa Buttes and Badlands while Camping Chaco Canyon and Bisti Wilderness

Sunrise at Chaco Canyon

I have to say that I am totally enjoying learning photography with my Nikon 5500. This model is a good mid level camera. A good photographer should be able to take a good picture with this camera, and that is what I aspire to. (Photos are fun; not a professional endeavor!)

I’ve been taking pictures for just a year now as I’ve traveled. I am still a beginner, but here are some of the lens related lessons I can pass along.

For Photographing Chaco Canyon (and elsewhere):

I now have three lenses*:

Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip

Great for short shots.

*Nikon DX VR AF-P Nikkor 18-55mm 3.5-5.6G

This lens and the zoom lens below were included in the initial bundle when I bought my camera. It was a cost efficient way to get started and it’s worked well for me.

This particular lens I seldom use.  Partly because I have totally fallen in love with my 70-300  mm zoom. And partly, quite honestly, because my iPhone 7 Plus takes such excellent pictures, that I tend to use it for closer range shots, so that I can simply keep my 70-300 zoom mounted on the camera.

Although I did use this lens to capture a recent margarita:

CancerRoadTrip Chaco Canyon Photography

A recent shot with the 18-55mm lens

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Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip

My walkabout lens.

*Nikon DX AF-P Nikkor 70-300mm 4.5-6.3G ED

This is my lens of choice, at least for now. I just love it. It lets me work on my point of focus; offers a wide range of aperture settings and I take it everywhere with me. But after a few experiences in difficult situations–like The Gathering of Nations–I’m interested in a more serious zoom that will give me more range.

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Pow Wow Cancer Road Trip Indian Dances #GatheringoftheNations CancerRoadTrip

This picture stretched the range of my current zoom at The Gathering of Nations, where I had to shoot from shadow, up in the stands, down into a lighted arena.



I considered combining the two lenses above into a:


Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip

When I’m ready to consolidate my lenses a bit…this will be a good choice.

AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR 

which would give me an easy zoom transition through a wide array of shots, but given that I seldom used the 18-55 mm lens, I decided to use the money to buy a wide angle lens instead.


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Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip

Love the clarity I get with this lens!



*Nikon DX AF-S Nikkor 10-24mm 3.5-4.5G ED

This was my solution for wide angle shots.

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Mesa Buttes and Badlands CancerRoadTrip Camping Chaco Canyon and Bisti Wilderness CancerRoadTrip

Sunrise at Chaco Canyon using my wide angle lens


I have to say that the quality of photos with this wide angle lens is excellent, and I need to use it more to develop more proficiency. It’s the perfect lens for some of the wide open shots in the American West. And I’m also finding it to be a creative lens for capturing street scenes as well.

But I am once again yearning for a better zoom, partly for wild life, but more for being able to frame these massive landscapes that unfurl before me.

Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip


Nikon AF-S FX NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED Vibration Reduction Zoom Lens with Auto Focus for Nikon DSLR Cameras

This is at the top of my wish list. My Nikon lenses are great. But the investment is considerable, not one I undertake lightly.

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Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

So a new Tamron lens caught my eye…
It’s been updated to deal with some zoom issues and gets consistently high marks in all the reviews. It’s both lighter and less pricey than the Nikon. Stay tuned for the results!



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I also have a variety of filters. Trying to manage the light here is not easy. Other photo buffs have told me they have similar issues. Part of the solution is knowing one’s camera. And the only way to do that is take pictures, make mistakes, live, learn and adjust. Then rinse and repeat. Thank heavens for digital photography!


On Line Learning

I also take on line courses to help me through the learning process. My favorite classes are MasterClass (where it’s well worth your while to buy a MasterPass, which give you access to all their courses) and Digital Photography School.  I’ve also signed up  for a weekly walking photographic  tour of Santa Fe starting in July.


Camera Bags

For camera bags, I have two Tenbas.


Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip

Tenba Cooper 15

One is for serious travel; it’s a Tenba Coooper. Fully loaded, it’s a bit heavy, but carries all my photo equipment plus my computer (and mouse and keyboard and stand). It slides on top of either of my suitcases for easy travel through an airport.

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Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip Cancer Road Trip

An insert for my backpack

I also bought an inexpensive padded insert for my backpack, which allows me to carry my camera and an extra lens hiking.



Photographing Chaco Canyon CancerRoadTrip Camera bag

My everyday Tenba has room for one more lens!

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For around town, I bought a Tenba Discovery off Craigs List. Brand new and unused! I take this just about everywhere with me. It carries everything but my computer equipment and tripod.

And it has room for one more lens!



I travel very lightly these days. All I really need is my computer and camera gear, phone, and my trusty wardrobe of beige, grey and black. The simplicity of this is fabulous and life changing. The less I have, the happier I am.

One year on the road and I remain dedicated to KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). While I’ve rented a casita in Santa Fe while I get the healing retreats together, I am looking forward to getting back on the road again. And you’ll never believe what’s next!

Stay tuned! Sign up below to stay in the know!


Click Here To Read About Camping In Chaco Canyon


More Photos of the American West

Georgia O’Keefe Country: Abiquiu
PowWow: The Gathering of Nations
Puye Cliff Dwellings: Earth, Spirit, Fire and Art
Ojo Caliente Encore!
Road Trip: The Old American West
Photo mission: Winter at Taos Pueblo


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Mesa Buttes and Badlands CancerRoadTrip Camping Chaco Canyon and Bisti Wilderness CancerRoadTrip


If you’re interested in learning more about photography (or cooking or film or any number of topics) check out MasterClass All-Access Pass for on-line excellence.

What is #CancerRoadTrip and how did it come to be? Read this post to get the backstory! 

Follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and at Anti-Cancer Club.  Connect with me!  I may need a place or two to stay along the way!


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