Colorado landscapes: Mesa Verde - Cliff dwellings

Spruce Tree House 1  

I like to continue my photo story about our recent trip to Colorado. Our second destination was Mesa Verde National Park. This park was created in 1906 to preserve the archeological heritage of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Mesa Verde includes over 4,500 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. I’m sure you find a way to learn more about this unique place on the internet, if you are not familiar with it yet. There is no reason for me to repeat here in the blog what much smarter people than me have already written down. I just can tell you, it was amazing what we learned about the Ancestral Pueblo people that made the area of Mesa Verde home for over 700 years, long before European settlers came to North America.

Spruce Tree House 2


Let’s talk a little bit photography. The harsh sun in the Four Corner region (Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah) creates a big challenge for landscape photography during the day. I concentrated on close-up shots of some cliff dwellings, for which Mesa Verde is most famous. The images I show you today are from Spruce Tree House on Chapin Mesa. The well preserved dwellings can be accessed self guided (other dwellings require a tour ticket and I was not sure if this would be a good choice for a photographer). I always try to keep people out of the frame. Even the best looking tourist is just a distraction from the subject, which of course is the architecture of these buildings. The overhanging cliffs keep the harsh sun away, at least for part of the day. In order to reveal the colors, that are sometimes a kind of muted during daylight, I used a flash light with dome diffuser. By just pointing the flash towards the cliff ceiling I got a nice mix of daylight and bouncing flash, just enough to enhance the colors of the stones and to give the walls some structure and dimension.

Spruce Tree House 3


A Kiva in Mesa Verde is a round chamber, mostly underground, built in or near almost every homesite and village. Entry was by ladder through a hole in the center of the roof. They were used likely for religious, social, and utilitarian purposes (source: Mesa Verde NP brochure). In order to tell the story about the architecture of a Kiva I used the widest angle available, the SIGMA 10-20mm / f4-5.6 at 10 mm.

There is more to come about Mesa Verde, so please stay tuned…