Back in May, while on a lengthy roadtrip, I stopped in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, for the night. A small town along historic Route 66, Santa Rosa pretty much exists to provide food, fuel, and beds for travelers passing east-and-west through The Land of Enchantment. Like a lot of old Route 66 towns, Santa Rosa has seen better days—there are many abandoned buildings along the highway, and some others that appear to not be far from their inevitable fate of abandonment.
Santa Rosa might be best known for a scene in The Grapes of Wrath, where Tom Joad watches a freight train cross a bridge over the Pecos River. Scars from The Great Depression are still visible if you look hard enough. The biggest tourist attraction is the Blue Hole, a natural swimming pond fed by a vast underground water system. While visiting Santa Rosa, I was asked by locals a couple of times, “Are you here for the Blue Hole?” I guess it’s a big deal, but I didn’t make time to see it.
I did make time to photograph a few of the abandoned buildings. One was an old Exxon gas station. This particular service station offered two grades of gas, two stalls for vehicle maintenance, and two restrooms. You could buy maps or a soda from a vending machine. Inside was an old Dairy Queen sign that I do not believe originated from this particular gas station, but probably another building elsewhere in town, perhaps owned by the same person.
In an empty grass-filled lot next to the gas station I found some old playground equipment. There may have been a campground or RV park there at one time, but the playground is the only thing left. I suppose on hot summer nights, the ghosts who still use the teeter-totter can get a coke from the abandoned Exxon next door.
Exploring and photographing places like this is both fascinating and frightening. It’s like a large time capsule that broke open years before being discovered, now filled with retro nostalgia and haunting decay. You don’t know what you’ll find—what’s hiding behind a corner—and even if there isn’t any danger, it’s still not safe. Going into abandoned buildings is never safe. I do believe that it’s important to photograph these places for several reasons: they’re always changing (due to nature and vandals) and will eventually be completely gone, they offer a glimpse into a previous time that’s long gone and fading from our memories, and to document the way societies deals with unwanted junk from broken lives and broken dreams. As Troy Paiva put it, these places are “steeped in Wabi-Sabi feelings of accepting loss and finding beauty and nobility in decay.”
The sun was low while I was there, preparing to set behind the western horizon—I had about 30 minutes of wonderful “golden hour” light to work with. I used my Fujifilm X-E4 with a Fujinon 27mm f/2.8 lens attached to it to capture these images. The Film Simulation Recipe that I used for these photographs was Kodak Portra 400 v2, which is one of my favorites—the Kodak-like colors and tones are just so lovely—an excellent option for this particular scene and light.
This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.
Fujifilm X-E4 Black Amazon B&H
Fujifilm X-E4 Silver Amazon B&H
Fujifilm X-E4 Black + 27mm f/2.8 Amazon B&H
Fujifilm X-E4 Silver + 27mm f/2.8 Amazon B&H
Help Fuji X Weekly
Nobody pays me to write the content found on fujixweekly.com. There’s a real cost to operating and maintaining this site, not to mention all the time that I pour into it. If you appreciated this article, please consider making a one-time gift contribution. Thank you!
Thanks so much!
Hi, Ritchie. Great (looking) shots! I had heard the owner of the Classic Gas Museum in Embudo, NM was considering moving to a larger space along a busier passage of roadway in Santa Rosa, but it seems those initial plans have stalled. Have you been to the Classic Gas Museum in Embudo? If not, I think you’d enjoy your visit there. I wrote about our visit here:
I have not. Unfortunately, it was just a quick pass through. I hope to someday do an extended trip along Route 66 from California through Texas… maybe further. If I do, I’ll definitely stop by the museum. Thanks for the tip!
Nice article and photographs, by the way!
This is a fantastic set of atmospheric images. I love the Portra 400 film simulation you’ve used, it gives a very nostalgic feel!
Thanks so much! I appreciate your kindness!
Brilliant photographs. And the faded (yet still intriguingly rich) Portra 400 colors are perfect for your subject. Really nice work, Ritchie!
Thanks so much for your kindness! 😀
Great article and photos. Thank you. It seems that everyone using old cameras tend to take nostalgic type photos. I wonder what it would look like to take up-to-date photos. Like modeling, street photos, etc. You know what I mean?
I don’t think I understand. I used a Fujfilm X-E4, which was released in 2021 (not an old camera at all). That Film Simulation Recipe does have a film-like aesthetic quality (yea!). I’m guessing you mean a non-film-like aesthetic? There are people doing that… I interviewed Troy Paiva recently: he has many film photographs, but his digital work (shot on Canon DSLRs) isn’t edited to look like film, so maybe check out his photos. 👍