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Day of the Dead Photography, Oaxaca, Workshop Tour 2014 with Frank Hunter

Oaxaca, Mexico, is famous for its Day of the Dead celebrations.  You experience it and capture it for a lifetime of memories!  This is cultural immersion travel photography at its best!  Arrive Monday, October 27, depart Tuesday, November 4— 9 days, 8 nights, $2,295 base price.

  • Limited to 8 participants. Small Group. Personal Attention.
  • Beginners and more experienced photographers welcome.
  • Trailing spouse and cooking class options.
  • Registration is now open!

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This is our Fifth Day of the Dead Expedition in Oaxaca, Mexico.  More than a tour, this is a hands-on photography workshop for learning and improving technique while you experience Oaxaca’s famed Day of the Dead rituals.  By the end of the week, you will better use your digital SLR camera for visual storytelling and cultural discovery.

Your workshop leader is Frank Hunter, whose photographs are published in the New York Times, and are part of museum collections worldwide. For over ten years, Frank taught at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, North Carolina.  He now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and is represented by Thomas Deans Fine Arts gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.

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This cultural immersion workshop tour offers you a deeper appreciation for the food, religious symbols, rituals, family celebrations both in the city and in the rural Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle.  We take you into cemeteries, local homes, markets and cultural sites.

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During our week together, we will review each other’s work, give feedback, and offer supportive critiques.  The workshop includes a mix of class instruction and being out on the streets to capture the action.   We offer structured group discussion and opportunities for daily coaching sessions with Frank.

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Technical topics covered include using Lightroom photo editing software, natural light, exposure, manual camera settings, and night photography. Frank says he uses just enough technique to help you express a visual idea. 

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We emphasize documentary-style photography, an organic, spontaneous form of understanding the culture and people you are photographing.

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About Frank Hunter

Frank grew up in the American southwest and spent his early years photographing people and landscapes of Mexico.  He has taught at the university level for more than 20 years.  Frank is a virtuoso photographer, as adept at digital photography as he is with creating 19th century style platinum/palladium prints.  

Don’t be intimated! Frank also taught fundamentals of photography at Duke University. You can read more about him here:

And, if you want more, just Google Frank Hunter.  You will get pages of citations!

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Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change) and Optional Add-Ons

Day of the Dead Workshop Expedition 2014

Day 1, Monday, October 27:  Arrive and check-in to our colonial-style hotel near the Zocalo and main walking street of Macedonio Alcala.  Dinner on your own.  Overnight Oaxaca.

Day 2: Tuesday, October 28:  After breakfast, welcome and learning session on camera settings and exposure, we will go on a city orientation walk, visit markets, gilded in gold Santo Domingo Church, and enjoy a welcome lunch at one of Oaxaca’s slow-food restaurants.   After  a gala welcome lunch we will meet for a Lightroom tutorial to review the workflow that will get your images edited and moved to Dropbox.  Overnight Oaxaca.  (B, L) Dinner on your own.

Day 3, Wednesday, October 29: After breakfast and workshop session, we will tour Monte Alban archeological site and the pottery village of Santa Maria Atzompa. After lunch, you will have the afternoon to roam and capture Oaxaca street parades, and market vendors selling wild marigold, special breads, candies, and other Day of the Dead ritual necessities. We’ll meet in early evening to review our best of day work. Overnight Oaxaca.  (B, L).   Dinner on your own.

Day 4, Thursday, October 30:  After breakfast and learning, session you will have the day on your own.   Today the streets are abuzz with Day of the Dead revelers.  Shops and galleries have extraordinary altars on display.  The sand paintings in the Zocalo and Plaza de la Danza are not to be missed.  Optional afternoon technical coaching session with Frank. We meet again in early evening before dinner to review best of day work. (B) Lunch and dinner on your own.

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Day 5, Friday, October 31:  After breakfast and a learning session on night photography, you will have the rest of the morning and early afternoon on your own.  At 2:30 p.m. we depart for the famed Xoxocotlan cemetery for an extraordinary Day of the Dead extravaganza, with a stop first to visit an extraordinary, off-the-beaten-path Arrazola wood carver. Frank is with us every step of the way for coaching and technical support. This could be a late night, so be prepared!  We will stay until at least 10 p.m., maybe later! Overnight Oaxaca. (B) Lunch and dinner on your own.)

Day 6, Saturday, November 1:  After a late breakfast and a debriefing session to review your experiences at Xoxo, you will have the afternoon on your own.  We depart later for the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle.  Overnight Teotitlan del Valle.  Includes breakfast, dinner.  (B, D)

Day 6, Sunday, November 2:  After breakfast and learning session you will share your best photos from the Xoxo cemeteries.  Then, we will pair you with another workshop participant to share a traditional meal with a local host family and go with them to the village cemetery.   This is an amazing cultural immersion experience to learn more about indigenous customs and traditions.  We’ll see you back at our B&B after nightfall.  Overnight Teotitlan del Valle.  Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. (B, L, D)

Day 7, Monday,  November 3:  After breakfast we will share experiences and photos of the day before in our last learning session. You’ll have the rest of the day on your own to meander and prepare your Best of Week photo presentation.  We get together with a celebratory fiesta with invitations to our host families to join us.  Overnight Teotitlan del Valle.   Includes breakfast and dinner. (B,D)

Day 8, Tuesday, November 4:  After breakfast, depart for your home countries. (B)

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What You Should Bring

  1.  Digital SLR camera with lens(es) — wide angle, zoom, and/or fixed focal point 50mm
  2. Tripod for night photography
  3.  Laptop computer
  4.  Lightroom software installed for organizing and presenting images (Note: If you are an experienced Photoshop user, you are welcome to use this software for photo editing)
  5. External hard drive
  6. External card reader
  7. Batteries (2) and battery charger
  8. Memory cards (at least 2) and data sticks
  9. Pen and notepad
  10. Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat

(Before the workshop starts, we will send you a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list, and other useful information.)

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Cost:  The base cost for the Expedition is $2,295. USD. This includes:

  • All instruction and coaching
  • 8 nights lodging, shared room with shared bath
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 3 lunches as specified in the itinerary
  • 3 dinners as specified in the itinerary
  • Transportation to villages and archeological sites included in the itinerary
  • Entry fees to museums and sites specified in itinerary
  • Gift to local Teotitlan del Valle host family
  • Comprehensive pre-trip planning packet (via email)

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Not Included:

The expedition does NOT include airfare, taxes, tips/gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, breakfasts and other meals not specified in the itinerary, and optional transportation.

Please indicate your preference.

[  ]  Option 1–Base Cost: Double room with shared bath; $2,295. Deposit to reserve: $1,150.

[  ] Option 2: Shared room with private bath; $2,495. Deposit to reserve: $1,250.

[  ] Option 3:  Single Supplement, private room with private bath;  $2,695.  Deposit to reserve: $1,350.

[  ] Option 4:  Trailing partner/spouse.  Bring them along. Even when they don’t participate in the workshop, they can enjoy all the group activities we have planned.  $1,795

[  ] Option 4:  Add-on Tuesday, November 4 Traditional Zapotec Cooking Class.  Learn how to prepare Oaxaca’s famed mole sauce.  $125, includes one night lodging on November 4, breakfast, lunch, dinner, all recipes.

[  ] Option 5:  Add-on nights in Oaxaca, City at $145 per night per person.

[  ]  Option 6:  Add-on nights in Teotitlan del Valle at $55 per night per person.

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About Our Accommodations

In Oaxaca City, we will stay in a lovely, highly rated intimate colonial-style hotel close to the Zocalo and all the major activities of the season.  In Teotitlan del Valle, we stay in a family owned and operated guest house/posada where the meals are home-cooked and delicious.

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Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit will reserve your space.   The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be made on or before August 1, 2014.  We accept PayPal for payment only.  We will send you an invoice for your deposit to reserve when you tell us you are ready to register with your lodging and option preferences.

Please understand that we make lodging and transportation arrangements months in advance of the program.  Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts.  If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After August 1, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before August 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register, email us at oaxacaculture@me.com or  normahawthorne@mac.com.  We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

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This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to alter the itinerary and substitute instructors without notice.

Don’t let this workshop pass you by!

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Special thanks to 2013 workshop participants Barbara Szombatfalvy, Donna Howard, Steve Dank, Luvia Lazo, Starr Sariego, Ron Thompson, Kate Kingston, and instructor Frank Hunter for contributing photographs posted here.

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Oaxaca Indigo Dye Workshop Delights Penland School of Crafts Visitors

Penland2013_1-45Dyeing with the natural color of indigo was a highlight of the Penland School of Crafts textile workshop tour of Oaxaca in early November.  I brought this wonderful group  of women — all first-time visitors to Oaxaca — for a workshop with Eric Chavez Santiago and his parents at their family home in Teotitlan del Valle.

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Indigo is a plant that grows wild on the southern Pacific coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec.  Before we rolled up our sleeves to immerse our hands and white cloth into the dye pot, Eric explained the process of how indigo is processed here by hand to get the intense color that you see in the photos.

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After Eric demonstrates how to twist, tie, bundle, fold, clip, band, and otherwise manipulate a white piece of cotton to get a pattern, each person takes their cloth and starts their own project.  Some choose marbles that are held by rubber bands.  Others fold the cloth like a sandwich of triangles. Some combine the two.

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It’s a surprise when we unroll them from the styrofoam tube.  Every resulting piece is unique and beautiful.  Perfect for a scarf or wall-hanging.

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I cannot say enough about Eric and his family, what an education and experience. I feel like I have new friends in Mexico. The personal contact and sharing make this such a rich and deep experience, not just learning a skill but really feeling the history of the culture and being charged by the experience. – Barbara Benisch

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During the workshop, Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellanas give us a break and show us the process for tapestry weaving with a thorough demonstration.  The family only uses natural dyes to produce the rugs they weave.

We have two spaces left for a 3-day natural dye workshop in January, several spaces open for a 4-day tapestry weaving workshop that immediately follows.

We develop customized programs like the one for Penland for arts organizations.  Contact us to learn more. 

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Oaxaca Photography Workshop Tour: Dance of the Feather, Festival & Traditions

Come to Oaxaca, explore indigenous culture, cuisine and traditions, and use your digital SLR camera to capture, record and document it all, including the amazing Dance of the Feather — Danza de la Pluma,   This is cultural immersion at its best!

July 5-13, 2014 — 8 nights, 9 days

The annual Dance of the Feather takes place in Teotitlan del Valle in July.  It is an ancient pre-Hispanic ritual rooted in Zapotec tradition.   Adapted and changed by the Spanish conquerors  to pay homage to the church, dancers today interpret the story of Cortes and the Spanish conquest of Moctezuma and Mexico.  They dance in full regalia for up to ten hours a day for several days before an audience of villagers and visitors.  They do not consider this a performance!  It is a sacred honor to dance — a commitment to church and community.  Two young women are part of the group, representing the duality of Mexican women:  La Malinche and Doña Marina.  You will see it all, along with the Parade of the Canastas and other related festivities.

Beginners to intermediate level photographers welcome.

Each day, we will meet in a morning learning session,  then go out “on location” to practice what you’ve learned.  You need little or no experience with a digital camera to take part.   What you do need is a willingness and desire to immerse yourself in the experience, and be open to exploring new ways of seeing the world.

  

You will join art photographers Tom and Sam Robbins, our husband-wife team from Columbus, Ohio, who guide our expedition.  The Robbins’ are versatile, experienced teachers and coaches whose work appears in national photography magazines.

    

Throughout the week, we give you access to private homes and artist studios to enrich and personalize your photographic experience.

  

You will take a cooking class (included) to learn more about regional indigenous foods and their preparation, plus have a tasty dining experience including the famed mole sauce and mezcal if you wish.  Photography welcomed!

The cooking class was great and it provided wonderful photo opportunities. The instructors are exceptional, and there are endless picture subjects here. I also learned the different functions of my digital camera. -Kellie Fitzgerald

  

We’ll roam the huge regional Tlacolula market where vendors sell everything from live turkeys, handmade chocolate, woven hammocks, and the kitchen sink.   On market days, people come from remote mountain villages to buy and sell dressed in traditional indigenous clothing–a feast for the photographer’s eye.

  

We’ll also visit a local archeological site where corn was first cultivated over 8,000 years ago before it spread around the world.

Most valuable for me was learning how to use the manual controls of my camera, learning about depth of field and the macro settings.  Norma’s community connections provided unusual access to artisans. –Dan O’Brien

Topics Covered:

  • Using manual camera settings
  • Understanding composition
  • Capturing light, shadow and reflection
  • Knowing more about aperture and shutter speed
  • Experimenting with black and white, and sepia
  • Exploring the essentials of landscape and portraiture
  • Using Lightroom photo editing software
  • Getting feedback for steady improvement

During the workshop, you will review each other’s work and give each other supportive feedback, with expert guidance and coaching from Tom and Sam. A group presentation at the end of the week will give you an opportunity to showcase your best work and select a theme, if you choose.

  

This is a walking expedition!  Instruction will include both formal group discussion and a learn-as-you-go organic, flexible format.

  

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change)

Day One,  Saturday, July 5:  Teotitlan del Valle.   This is your travel day. Arrive and settle in to our village bed and breakfast. (Light supper)

Day Two, Sunday, July 6:  Breakfast and learning session. Explore the regional tianguis (outdoor) Tlacolula market. Group lunch at the market.   Afternoon on your own. Early evening “Best of the Day” show and tell.  Group dinner. (B,L,D)

Day Three, Monday, July 7: Breakfast, cooking class, lunch.  Afternoon on your own.  Group dinner.  (B, L, D)

Day Four, Tuesday, July 8:  Breakfast, learning session, best of day presentation.  Lunch on your own. Visit homes where young women prepare for the procession of the baskets. Meet in the church square and join the village procession. Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Five, Wednesday, July 9:  Breakfast, learning session, best of day presentation. Lunch on your own.  Dance of the Feather begins. Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Six, Thursday, July 10:  Breakfast, learning session. visit Yagul archeological site.  Dance of the Feather continues into the evening.  Group dinner.  (B, D)

Day Seven, Friday, July 11:  Breakfast.  Travel to Oaxaca city.  Afternoon on your own. Early evening learning session and best of day show. Overnight in Oaxaca. Lunch and dinner on your own. (B)

Day Eight, Saturday, July 12:  Breakfast, learning session, Oaxaca street photography. Lunch on your own.  Gala group dinner and best of week presentation.  Overnight in Oaxaca.  (B, D)

Day Nine, Sunday, July 13:  Depart. 

Optional Additional Days:  We are happy to pre-arrange lodging for you to come early and/or stay later in either Teotitlan del Valle or Oaxaca city.  See the registration form and prices for this option.

About Husband and Wife Photographers Tom and Sam Robbins, Your Expedition Guides and Workshop Leaders

Tom Robbins, a photographer for more than 40 years, retired as professor of architecture at Columbus (Ohio) State Community College.  His careers in architecture and education have deepened his love for, and understanding of design, composition and visual impact.  Tom and his wife, Sam, have exhibited widely and their work is published in “Black and White Magazine.”  In the last five years, Tom and Sam have made Mexico the primary subject of their photography and have visited Oaxaca and the surrounding villages many times.

A serious photographer for over 20 years, Sam Robbins calls herself a “photographic hunter.”  Like her husband, Tom, she is most comfortable walking and wandering with her camera at the ready. While she has done studio portrait work, she is happiest allowing photographs to present themselves.  Before retirement, Sam taught art, English and photography.  Sharing her passion for photography with others is one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.  Though most of her work has been with a 35 mm SLR, she also has shot with medium format and really enjoys using a plastic, toy camera.  Recently, Sam taught and exhibited at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, where English and Spanish-speaking participants applauded her thoughtful, supportive style.  See their work at   www.robbinsx2.com

  

Dance of the Feather, Danza de la Pluma

What You Should Bring

1)     Your energy and enthusiasm

2)     Digital SLR camera

3)     Laptop computer

4)     Lightroom on your computer ready for photo editing

5)     Batteries and battery charger

6)     Memory card(s) and card reader

7)     Pen and notepad

8)    Memory stick/jump drive

Plus, sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sun protection, sun hat

(Upon registration, you will receive a complete packet and information guide with suggested packing list and other useful information.)

Lodging/Accommodations are basic, clean and simple in the village.  In Oaxaca city we will stay at a well-known, highly rated bed and breakfast.

Cost:  The base cost for the trip is $1,795.00 USD.  This is for a shared room and shared bath.  Add on $300 per person for single room and private bath.

What the Workshop Includes

  • 8 nights lodging double occupancy
  • 8 breakfasts
  • 2 lunches
  • 7 dinners
  • Cooking class with famed local chef
  • Transportation to market towns
  • Transportation and admission to archeological sites
  • All instruction

It does NOT include airfare, taxes,  gratuities, travel insurance, liquor and alcoholic beverages, some meals and some transportation.

Costs, Reservations,  and Cancellations

A 50% deposit is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by May 1, 2014.  We request Payment with PayPal.  When you email us and tell us you are ready to register, we will send you a PayPal  invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After May 1, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  If you cancel before May 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register or for questions, contact:  normahawthorne@mac.com

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  For more information, see:  http://oaxacaculture.com

Day of the Dead Best of Week Photos: Norma Hawthorne

How do you go through over 2,000 photos and select the best 20? Each day, Day of the Dead Photography Expedition participants culled through and selected their best 10 to 15, which we presented for review and discussion.  By the end of the week, we had about 100 photos from which to choose the best 20.  A difficult task.  If we wanted feedback about choice, instructor Frank Hunter was there to help.

This was a breakthrough week for me. I thought I was doing pretty well using the aperture priority setting on my camera. From the first day, Frank said, This is a week to experiment.  I want everyone to use manual mode at least part of the time.  I confess, I struggled with this.  But, the more I practiced, the more I understood how to control for light, shutter speed and “film” speed.  There is no actual film in a DSLR, but the camera operates like there is with the ISO setting. (I still have a lot to learn!)  Practice, practice became my mantra. Frank’s expertise and  gentle coaching style was something I appreciated and he was always accessible to answer questions.

I loved the night photography in the cemetery, taking portraits of village friends, and experimenting by taking photos of people through glass display cases in markets and at private homes.

Let me know if you are interested in next year’s expedition.

Here are Norma Hawthorne’s Best of Week photos.

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A few key concepts that Frank taught us:

  • Turn the auto focus off and focus manually as best as you can for night photography
  • Take five frames of the same subject using the same aperture and ISO with a different F-stop for each to see the light variables
  • Experiment and don’t be afraid to make a mistake — this is an art form not a science
  • Look up and look down, there are photos everywhere

Day of the Dead Best of Week Photos: Frank Hunter

Frank Hunter is photographer/instructor for our Day of the Dead Photography Expedition (DOTD).  In addition to daily learning sessions that Frank led, he was right along with us shooting photos.  By seeing his work on a daily basis, we were able to identify his photographic style and learn from his technique, as well as getting great advice all along the way.

Frank’s teaches in a low-key, easy-going way that is more personal coaching than “do it this way” direction.  He says there are many different ways to get a good photo and photography requires experimentation as well as the basic fundamentals.  It was a joy to work with and learn from him.

Just before the workshop started, five of Frank’s photographs were published in the New York Times.  That called for a TMM (tamarind mezcal margarita) and a toast to a great upcoming photography week experience. Yes!

Taking a list for 2014 DOTD photo expedition.  Contact me.

Here are Frank Hunter’s best of the week photographs to share with you.

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