Travel Photography Workshop: Christmas in Oaxaca

Oaxaca, Mexico, is a photographer’s dream-come-true, a visual explosion of color, colonial architecture, indigenous cultural icons, hand-woven intricately designed clothing, and food so delicious and artfully presented that you might imagine you are close to culinary heaven.


Christmas in Oaxaca is all this and more.  It is merrymaking and solemnity. It is the sweet aroma of copal incense that permeates the air.  It is candlelit pathways of ancient cobblestones.  It is liturgical music that calls people to gather and the rhythmic beat that pulses in daily life.  Oaxaca is a visual banquet from which you can build your own menu of photographic images.

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Join us to savor and discuss the region’s rich history and culture, the art and craft traditions, belief systems and relationships to nature and daily life.  Holiday traditions blend pre-Hispanic indigenous practices with Catholic Spain’s religious traditions imported to Mexico with the conquest in 1521.

We will visit archeological sites and crafts villages, participate in the Christmas Posadas in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, attend the famed Radish Festival in Oaxaca city, and explore the Ocotlan market with stops to visit outstanding potters and textile artisans.   There will also be plenty of time for you to go out and explore on your own.

This workshop is for beginners as well as more advanced photographers.  Many people who travel with us are novices and have never used a digital camera, while others are semi-professional who want to hone skills by following well-established photographer-teachers who have an extensive portfolio of published work.

Two Sessions Offered:  Take both. Get a 15% discount.

Session I:  December 22-29, 2013 – Posadas and the Radish Festival, $1,495 per person base cost (arrive 12/22 and depart 12/29, 8 nights and 9 days).  Group rates available for 3 people or more.  Families welcome.

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Session II: December 29-January 4—New Years Resolutions at Las Cuevitas, $1,195 per person base cost (arrive 12/29 and depart 1/4/2014, 6 nights and 7 days).  Group rates are available for 3 people or more.  Families welcome.

What You Will Learn:

  • Using manual camera settings
  • Understanding composition
  • Capturing light, shadow and reflection
  • Knowing more about aperture and shutter speed
  • Determining when to use flash
  • Practicing night photography techniques
  • Experimenting with black and white, and sepia
  • Exploring the essentials of landscape, architecture and portraiture
  • Receiving feedback for steady improvement

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During the workshop, we will review each other’s work, give and receive supportive feedback, and get expert guidance and coaching from Tom and Sam.  Learning sessions are designed to give you  opportunities to discuss and learn from your own work as well as other workshop participants.

Your Travel Itinerary

Session I: Christmas Posadas and Radish Festival, 12/22-29, 8 nights, 9 days, $1,495

December 21 — Arrive in Oaxaca and travel from airport to Teotitlan del Valle, check into bed and breakfast inn

December 22–Our workshop starts with a morning learning session, a walking tour of the village, and a discussion with a local expert about holiday rituals and traditions.  Later that evening we will join the community in a posada procession re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage to Bethlehem. (B, D)

December 23 – After the morning learning session, we will spend the day in Oaxaca City  to explore the Zocalo and Dia de los Rabanos—Radish Festival.  We will return to Teotitlan later at night. (B)

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December 24 – After the morning learning session, you will have the afternoon on your own to explore the village.  After lunch, we will visit a local weaving family to see the process of making naturally dyed rugs.  Then, we will join the village for the Ultimate Posada, the last procession before the Nativity and the birth of Jesus. (B, L, D)

December 25 – After the morning learning session, you will meet and spend the afternoon with a host family who will share their Christmas meal and family life with you.  (B, L, D)

December 26 — After the morning learning session, we will pack our bags to go to Oaxaca City where we will spend the night.  (B)

December 27 – Leave early in the morning for a day-long adventure on the Ocotlan route.  Our learning session will be organic as we trail Sam and Tom through the market, learning as we go with coaching, feedback, and reflection on choosing the subject, as well as techniques to meet your individualized needs.  We will stop along the way to meet famed potters and textile artists who are featured in the Maestros de Oaxaca art book and have lunch at a great outdoor restaurant/gallery. Overnight Oaxaca.  (B, L)

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December 28:   After our morning learning session, you will have the day on your own to prepare your final presentation of Best of Week.  You may also find time to visit local museums and galleries, shop for souvenirs, or just wander the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site for that last minute photograph to add to your portfolio of work.  Group dinner and Best of Week show. Overnight Oaxaca. (B, D)

December 29:  Depart

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Session II. New Years Resolutions at Las Cuevitas, 12/29-1/4, 6 nights, 7 days, $1,095

December 29:  Arrive and check into our Oaxaca City hotel.

December 30:  Archeology, Architecture and Mezcal.  After an early morning learning session, we travel to the archeological site Monte Alban and the museum in the pottery village of Sant Maria Atzompa. We have arranged for an early evening mezcal tasting as an optional activity.  With bags packed, we travel by van to Teotitlan del Valle where we spend the night. (B, D)

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December 31:  Traditional Zapotec Cooking Class, afternoon learning session, and New Years Eve Dinner. (B, L, D)

January 1:  New Years Resolutions at Las Cuevitas.  We pair you to meet and spend the day with a local family to share a ritual celebratory meal and the ritual of Las Cuevitas .  These are the magical caves of Teotitlan del Valle .  Here you build stone houses and make wishes for the New Year. Overnight in Teotitlan del Valle. (B, L, D)

January 2:  After our morning learning session, you might want to wander the village on your own, or return to Las Cuevitas or the home of your host family to get the shots you think you may havemissed. (B, D)

January 3:  Learning session and prepare for the Best of Session group presentation, followed by a group dinner. (B, D)

January 4:  Goodbyes and depart. (B)

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Your Workshop Leaders: Sam and Tom Robbins

Tom Robbins, a photographer for more than 40 years, recently 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 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 many 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 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 is an award-winning instructor of art, English and photography.  She sees sharing her passion for photography 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.

See their work at


We will stay at a highly rated hotel or bed and breakfast inn in Oaxaca City and at locally owned and operated B&Bs in the Zapotec weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle.  To keep this program affordable, we have selected clean and basic accommodations in family inns and guest houses. Meals are delicious, all homemade from locally sourced, mostly organic food, and can be adapted to special dietary needs.


Session I:  $1,495 per person double occupancy, shared bath.  Single supplement with private bath is an additional $300.

Session II:  $1,095 per person double occupancy, shared bath.  Single supplement with private bath is an additional $300.

Discounts:  Take both sessions and take 15% off your registration fee. 

Arrive Early or Stay Later.

  •  Additional nights in Teotitlan del Valle either before or after each session is $55 per night.
  • Additional nights in Oaxaca City either before or after each session is $125 per night.  Both options include breakfast.
  • Let us know if you would like us to arrange this for you and we will include it in your invoice.

Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!  The trip does NOT include airfare, taxes, gratuities, travel insurance, liquor or alcoholic beverages, some meals, and local transportation to and from Oaxaca city, except when it is part of the itinerary.

We reserve the right to make substitutions and alter the program as needed. 

Registration Process and Making a Deposit to Register.  

50% deposit is due to register you for the program.  Tell us you are ready by email and we will send you a PayPal invoice. Please complete the registration form (click on Register Today at the top of our web site) and email it to us. We only accept Payment with PayPal. Please see our cancellation policy in the “Register Today” section of the home page.  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 get your questions answered and to register, contact: Thank you.

This program is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.

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