By Gary Farber, Hunts Photo & Video

I’ve been honored to have opportunities to visit Bosque del Apache and participate in Festival of the Cranes for over ten years now, building relationships with Friends, the refuge staff, and other visitors along the way. When I first began working with Friends and Festival of the Cranes, I was one of the only vendors and was set up inside the visitor’s center. Over the years, much has changed and I’ve been excited to help Friends build up the photography side of the Festival and bring on many new vendors. In recent years, Friends began setting up a giant vendor tent outside, to fit everyone in one place, and this really helped to create a community. These experiences have allowed me to meet many new customers who have a love and passion for photography, as well as nature. I have built long-term working relationships and friendships with so many people thanks to my connection with Friends of Bosque del Apache and Festival of the Cranes!

In addition to the attendees, the refuge and Friends staff and volunteers I’ve met at the Festival have always been a joy to work with. They are friendly, welcoming, and willing to help the vendors and attendees with anything they can! Every time I visit Bosque del Apache, I am treated like family. I consider myself fortunate; without my connection to Festival of the Cranes and this wonderful refuge, I would have missed so many amazing opportunities!

Mule deer stag

While I am usually working on my trips to Bosque del Apache, I recently enjoyed a visit to the refuge in a different role: Photographer. Because Friends hasn’t been able to host the Festival in person for the last two years due to Covid restrictions, I participated virtually in Crane Fiesta in 2020 and 2021. But I missed the captivating sights and sounds of this magnificent place and wanted to visit the refuge in person again. So, this past December I spent five days with two great friends of mine, Gary and Judy Malloch, exploring the wonders of Bosque del Apache with my camera. It was truly magical:  The experience of seeing all of the sandhill cranes, geese, and ducks during the morning fly-out and evening fly-in; the quality of the light; the beautiful landscapes and wildlife I photographed. I started and ended each day feeling inspired and joyful.

Snow geese at Bosque del Apache

Ever since my first trip to the refuge ten years ago, I have always suggested it as a “must visit place” for bird and wildlife photographers. I tell everyone how amazing it is and that the feelings you get while visiting Bosque del apache are unlike any other place – it is food for the soul!

Sandhill cranes fly over the mountain top

And speaking of food… another of my favorite things about visiting Bosque del Apache is enjoying the world famous food in the surrounding communities. Bodega Burger Company is one of my all-time favorites and, in my opinion, the best place to eat in Socorro! The restaurants in San Antonio, the tiny town right outside the refuge, are very good too. Buckhorn Tavern and Owl Bar are both known for their excellent green chile cheeseburgers, some of the best in the nation according to Food Network, and an endless source of debate among locals and visitors alike as to which is better (I weigh in on the side of Buckhorn but maybe your opinion depends on your mood that day!). On my most recent trip, I also visited the San Antonio Crane Mexican restaurant for the first time, and both the food and the service were incredible – some of the best Mexican food I have ever had! San Antonio, NM sure is a small town that knows how to take care of its visitors!

For so many reasons, Bosque del Apache is one of my favorite destinations. It is truly a special place that I look forward to going back to every year to make new friends and acquaintances, catch up with old ones, enjoy phenomenal photography opportunities, and file away new memories to last a lifetime!

All photos by Gary Farber and taken at Bosque del Apache NWR
If you have photography or equipment questions, Gary can be reached at gfarber@huntsphoto.com

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