AFTER A LONG DAY ON SET—or when the weather isn’t cooperating—Roger Deakins, the two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer behind The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, The Big Lebowski, Skyfall, and 1917, grabs his Leica and goes for a drive. “On the set, there might be 100 crew members, and it’s quite an intense, collaborative process,” he says. “I love going out with my camera, by myself, where it’s my decision when I take a picture or if I don’t take a picture. It’s a far more personal experience.”

Deakins has made movies all over the globe, but New Mexico, a world away from the coastal English town where he grew up, holds a special place for him. After all, he’s not only filmed three widely acclaimed movies here—No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and Sicario—but he’s made some of his most memorable photographs in the Land of Enchantment as well. This month, he returns to Santa Fe with a stunning exhibit of photographs at Obscura Gallery, a signing of his photo book, Byways, and a screening of No Country for Old Men with a Q&A hosted by Collected Works Bookstore at the Violet Crown Santa Fe. Here, Deakins takes us behind the lens of three of his made-in-New Mexico images.

The Passing Storm

“We were shooting In the Valley of Elah [2007]. On the weekend, I’d just drive around, exploring. This is a little cemetery in Albuquerque, on the way to the airport. You can see it from the freeway. I’ve taken a number of photographs here over the years, but on this day, I was just waiting for the right light or a thunderstorm or something natural to contrast with the crosses. It was sort of a lucky day, really.”

"Lightning Strikes" captured a lightning bolt illuminating the New Mexico sky. Photograph courtesy of Roger Deakins.

Lightning Strikes

“When we were first talking about Sicario, Denis [Villeneuve, the film’s director] and I were imagining skies that were quite bland. We didn’t imagine dramatic New Mexico thunderstorms, and we didn’t imagine the sky becoming a character in the film. But we embraced it. Some days, the production would shut down because a storm would come in and it was too dangerous to continue shooting. That’s when I’d go for a drive and find somewhere to take a photograph. One day, I drove to this old, run-down airport or military base north of Albuquerque. It was raining, and I was sitting on the hood of my car with my finger on the trigger, just waiting. It was getting dark, and when the lightning came, I pressed the button. I must have shaken a bit in surprise because the image is very slightly soft, which I actually quite like. That one lightning bolt—it’s like the finger of God, you know.”

'The Power Line" by Roger Deakins showcases the contrast between a thunderstorm and a burst of sunlight. Photograph courtesy of Roger Deakins.

The Power Line

“I take photographs as a release from working on a film. This picture was also taken when we were filming Sicario, probably an hour after the crew had wrapped. I sort of hung around the set just to see what would happen. And after one thunderstorm, there was this blast of sunlight. I thought the contrast was staggering.”

Read more: A new book showcasing famed photographer Ernst Haas highlights the beauty of New Mexico and the West.

Book signing and Q&A, 4–6 p.m.; screening of No Country for Old Men; Violet Crown Santa Fe, 1606 Alcaldesa St., Santa Fe; 505-216-5678

Roger Deakins: Byways
Opening 4–7 p.m., Obscura Gallery, 225 Delgado St., Santa Fe; 505-577-6708