After spending a few days in the desolate Chaco Canyon, the crowds at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado came as a quite a shock. My first stop was the visitors' center. At least 30 people were standing in line to purchase tickets for the ranger-led tours to the various ruins.
I envisioned a shot from the interior of the kiva at the Spruce Tree House ruin. However, the line to enter the kiva was always at least 25 people deep. At any given time, the kiva was packed with people. There was no way that I could squeeze into the kiva let alone set up a tripod to capture an image in the dark space.
It was a challenge to photograph the ruins without having massive crowds of tourists throughout the frame. This image provides some perspective on the crowd as it approached the Cliff Palace ruins in front of me:
In the above photo, one tour is approaching the ruins while another is exiting from the other side. If the ranger who is leading the trailing tour waits a bit before moving into the area with the ruins, a photographer has a brief window of time to capture some photographs without tourists in the frame. Sometimes, there is no window of time because one group enters the area before the other group leaves. Other times, the photographer might get up to a minute or two. On average, the ruins might be unobstructed for 30 seconds every 30 minutes.
It takes some patience, but by waiting 60-90 minutes, I was able to get several shots within about two minutes of shooting time! At times, a few stragglers would remain in the frame from the previous group, but they were easy enough to remove in Photoshop. Fortunately, the weather cooperated during those couple of minutes of shooting time.
Often times, I think our world has become too crowded. There's a good possibility that overpopulation and the resulting demand on limited resources is why these dwellings were deserted--and why they look they way they do today.