Oaxaca Photography Workshop: Market Towns + Artisan Villages Summer 2012

TWO SPACES LEFT!   9 Days- 8 Nights,  June 29 –  July 7, 2012


Discover how to better know and use your digital camera in daily learning sessions.  Then, apply what you learn “on location” to capture your Oaxaca, Mexico travel adventure.  The program focuses on the use of  digital SLR photography to capture, record and document indigenous life, festivals, markets, folk art and artisans, landscapes, and people.  This is cultural immersion at its best! Featuring Dance of the Feather–Danza de la Pluma.


You will join art photographers Tom and Sam Robbins, our husband-wife team from Columbus, Ohio, who will return in 2012 to guide our expedition. 2011 Expedition participants raved about how much they learned — even the most experienced among them!.  The Robbins’ are versatile, experienced teachers and coaches whose work has been published in national photography magazines.  Their website features photos from our 2011 expedition!


The colonial city of Oaxaca de Juarez is located 375 miles south of Mexico City, closer to Central America.  It can be reached directly from the U.S. by Continental Airlines/United Airlines from Houston, TX.  (We encourage you to use this shorter, more direct route.)

I felt extremely safe, the people are so warm and welcoming. I loved the culture.  The cooking class was an incredible experience.  Everything is beautiful here. -Emily Fox


We will be based 30-minutes outside of Oaxaca City in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle.  We are there during the annual saint’s day festival, featuring the colorful Parade of the Baskets (Calenda de las Canastas) and the extraordinary Dance of the Feather (Danza de la Pluma).  Throughout the week, we provide you with access to private homes and artist studios to enrich and personalize your photographic experience.


You will participate in a cooking class to learn more about regional indigenous foods and their preparation — 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 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 San Pablo Villa de Mitla archeological site, and stop to photograph the 3,000 year old cypress tree that is 160 feet in diameter at Santa Maria del Tule on our way to spend a day in Oaxaca City.

Both Tom and Sam were very interested in helping us improve as photographers. They answered all questions and provided excellent feedback.  I discovered that I enjoy photography that has an artist focus and how nice it is to be in a village with friendly people, in a culture that is so rich in ancient traditions.  –Chris Willmore


You do not have to be experienced to participate!

Most importantly you will learn to use your digital camera to the full extent of its capabilities and yours!  Whether you are a beginner, amateur or intermediate level photographer, this is the travel photography workshop you have been looking for!

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 aperature and shutter speed
  • Determining when to use flash
  • Experimenting with black and white, and sepia
  • Exploring the essentials of landscape and portraiture
  • Applying editing software for special effects
  • Identifying what equipment is most useful
  • Getting feedback for steady improvement

This is a different experience from walking around and being a tourist! It means immersion, looking for opportunities to see things from an alternate perspective.  During the workshop, you will review each other’s work, give each other feedback, and provide gentle critique, all with the 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.


Come with us!  Summer is the perfect time to explore the vibrancy, color and beauty of southern Mexico.   Farmers are tilling their fields with wood plows yoked to oxen, planting indigenous, organic corn.  Maize is ground by hand on metates in family courtyards to prepare tamales for red mole (MOH-lay) sauce local festivals.  The aroma and taste of just-made chocolate, mescal and mole stimulate the senses.   Days are warm and evenings are mild at this 6,000 ft. high desert plateau where sheep and burros graze, guacalotes cackle and eagles soar.

Sam (behind the camera) and Tom Robbins lead summer 2012 Oaxaca Photography Expedition

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

Tom Robbins, a photographer for more than 40 years, is a 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 has been published in “Black and White Magazine.”  Tom has photographed extensively in rural Ohio, New Orleans, and Southern Mexico where he finds the landscapes, the architecture and the people wonderfully photogenic. 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 numerous times.  Most of Tom’s work has been with 35 mm SLR and medium format cameras.

A serious photographer for over 20 years, Sam Robbins considers herself to be 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.  Sam teaches art, English and photography.  She sees sharing her passion for photography with students as one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.  Sam is also a quilter, and believes that her work with color and design have contributed to her photographic eye.  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.

Tom holds the Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Illinois.  Sam holds the B.A. in political science from Ohio University and the M.A. in English Education from The Ohio State University with an art minor from Otterbein University.

See their work at   www.robbinsx2.com


Sam and Tom are the ideal instructions.  Any experience with them is one that is worthwhile.  I would recommend this program to others.  It is life changing and breathtaking.  — Emily Moore

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change)

Day One,  Friday, June 29: Teotitlan.   This is your travel day. Arrive and settle in to our bed and breakfast. Dinner on your own.

Day Two, Saturday, June 30:  Teotitlan. Breakfast and learning session. Explore Teotitlan del Valle on foot: meet artisans, walk nature trails.  Group lunch.  Afternoon on your own. “Best of the Day” show and tell.  Group dinner. (B,L,D)

Day Three, Sunday, July 1:  Tlacolula Market.  After the morning learning session, climb on the local bus to travel 15 minutes to the Sunday tianguis or regional market. Return late afternoon.  “Best of the Day” show and tell. Group dinner.  (B,L,D)

Day Four, Monday, July 2: Oaxaca and “El Tule.  Lunch and dinner on your own.  (B)

Day Five, Tuesday, July 3: Cooking class. Early evening “Best of the Day” show and tell.  Group dinner.   (B, L, D)

Day Six, Wednesday, July 4,:  After breakfast and the morning learning session, we’ll travel to San Pablo Villa de Mitla to photograph this famed archeological site.  “Best of Day” show and tell.  Group dinner (B, L, D)

Day Seven, Thursday, July 5: After breakfast and the morning learning session, you’ll have the day to enjoy on your own to explore the village and surrounding countryside or return to Oaxaca City.  This is a free day.  Meet at 5:00 p.m. for the Parade of the Canastas – to begin the Teotitlan del Valle village saint day celebrations.   (B, D)

Day Eight, Friday, July 6:  After breakfast and the learning session, begin preparing your final presentation.  The Dance of the Feather starts in late afternoon in the church courtyard and continues non-stop through 10 p.m. followed by fireworks.  Participants will dance in full dress regalia.  The Dance dramatizes the story of the Spanish conquest and the roles of Cortes and Moctezuma.  Be sure to save a place for shots of those fantastic plumed headdresses and handwoven tapestry shields.  After dinner, we will have our Best of Week show.  (B, D)

Day Nine, Saturday, July 7:  Departure.

Optional Additional Days:  You may wish to stay in the village for several more days or arrive a few days earlier.  We are happy to arrange this for you at a cost of $48 per night per person for each additional day (includes breakfast only).

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)     Software for organizing and presenting images (such as Photoshop Express)

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.)



To keep this trip affordable, we stay in a local bed and breakfast operated by three generations of women — grandmother, mother, daughter — all great cooks! The food is all handcrafted and delicious.  Vegetarian options are available.

Accommodations are clean and basic.  Shared baths are across the courtyard. (Bring flip-flops and flashlight.)  You will have the option of having a double room with shared bath for the base price of the trip; single supplement with shared bath (add $200); shared room with private bath (add $200); single room with private bath (add $300).  Please indicate your preference.  If you desire upscale accommodations, please consider a different program!

Cost:  The base cost for the trip is $1295.00 USD. This includes 8 nights lodging double occupancy, 8 breakfasts,  4 lunches, 6 dinners, cooking class, transportation to villages and archeological sites, and all instruction.  Most travel programs of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

It does NOT include airfare, taxes, admissions to museums and archeological sites, gratuities, travel insurance, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals and some transportation.

Costs, Reservations,  and Cancellations

A 50% deposit ($650) is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by April 1, 2012.  We prefer Payment with PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an  invoice.

Note: Our last photography workshop filled up immediately.  Don’t hesitate if you want to attend!

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After April 1, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  If you cancel before April 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 or call (919) 274-6194

Please make your deposit payable to Norma Hawthorne, OCN-LLC and mail it to: Norma Hawthorne, 110 Blue Heron Farm Rd., Pittsboro, NC 27312.  Thank you.

Photos by Norma Hawthorne with the exception of the Robbins’ portrait. I use a Nikon D40X camera body and a 28-300mm Nikkor lens.

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

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