Q&A with Photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins

What’s it like to shoot the evocative landscapes and vibrant culture of Santa Fe alongside a veteran National Geographic photographer? Below, read our interview with popular workshop instructor Ralph Lee Hopkins to find out what makes Santa Fe a dream destination for photographers.

Q: What makes Santa Fe a great subject for photographers?

A: With its amazing mix of mountain scenery, culture, and cuisine, Santa Fe is a dream destination for photographers. There is something for everyone – the Southwestern details along Canyon Road for artists, the street scenes around the plaza for travelers, the quaking aspens in the high country for hikers, and the red rocks and grand landscapes at Ghost Ranch made famous by Georgia O’Keeffe.

Q: What is unique about the National Geographic Photo Workshop in Santa Fe?

A: Santa Fe is known as the “City Different,” and it doesn’t take long to discover what makes any visit to Santa Fe special. In autumn, the crisp air, pinyon smoke, roasting red chile, and a thriving farmer’s market make a workshop here is a smorgasbord of sight, sound, and smell. Even though I travel the world, I always try to be home in Santa Fe during October.

Q: What is the most important thing a participant should bring to this workshop?

A: The most important thing to bring to Santa Fe is your imagination and sense of wonder. A workshop in Santa Fe will help you see the world in a new way, beyond the technical limitations of your camera. Along the way, your images will become more creative and personal.

Q: What are some key learnings participants might take away from this workshop?

A: The two most important things I try to teach photographers are:

1. understanding that being a photographer teaches you to be totally in the present and in the moment. As photographers, we live from moment to moment, making images and telling stories—it’s who we are.

2. learning how your camera sees the world, so it can become a seamless tool for self-expression. Understanding how light, shutter speed, and depth-of-field become the photographer’s "paint brushes” in making images.

Q: Tell us about a favorite photo you took in Santa Fe.

A: Santa Fe is my home, so there are many special moments over the past twenty years. But one particular evening at home stands out. Both Santa Fe and Taos are known for the magic light following the monsoon rains of summer. It was September and the sunflowers in the yard were at their peak. Thunder still rumbled in the distance with raindrops still falling after a torrential downpour. For a brief moment, lasting perhaps no more than 30 seconds, warm rays of the sun lit up the sunflowers against a dark stormy sky overhead. It’s not a perfect image, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget. I live for moments like this and the image still brings back the chills I experienced in the moment.

Photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins

Photo by Barbara Ferguson

Learn more about the Santa Fe Photo Workshop.

Ralph Lee Hopkins