Tag Archives: Duke Center for Documentary Studies

Oaxaca Day of the Dead Photography Expedition: Program Outline, Approach, Equipment

Program Outline and Approach

Bill Bamberger, our expedition leader, has just sent in a course update about the Oaxaca photography expedition set for this October 29-November 4. He notes that the experience will give you time to produce an extensive portfolio of images that chronicles life in Oaxaca.  During the expedition, we will concentrate on photographing city colonial-era architecture, markets, crafts, food, churches and, of course, its mystical multi-day celebration of Day of the Dead. In Teotitlan del Valle, our photographic approach will be more intimate as each participant will be paired with a local host family, traveling with them to the local cemetery to witness and photograph a personal celebration of All Souls Day.  See this LINK for program description. (Registration Open)

Bill has organized the experience so that participants can identify a theme on which to concentrate.  You can choose to focus on food, religious icons, housing, cemeteries, local artisans, family life, music, farming and agriculture, or whatever suits you.  By the end of the workshop, we will have collectively created a range of personal portfolios that reflect the diversity of life in the region.

Our daily workshop sessions will be a mix of presentations and technical demonstrations.  We will look at the examples of select regional photographers or those whose documentary style will help us expand our vision.  You have the option to bring a sample portfolio to share at the start of the workshop and show what you’ve captured throughout the week. The program will culminate with a final celebration and group show.

We expect that photographic experience will vary widely from participant to participant and we welcome all levels — from beginners to more experienced — who want to come with us on this remarkable learning adventure.

You can choose however deeply you would like to participate in the workshop.  If your principal goal is to have fun and enjoy the journey, we will work with each of you according to your interests and needs.

Feel free to email bill@billbamberger.com with any questions or requests.

Expedition Learning Schedule

Saturday, October 29 — Gather and check in at our Oaxaca city hotel.

Sunday, October 30 — After breakfast and a brief orientation, we’ll explore the city.  Later that afternoon, we will gather to talk about your photography experience and present the portfolio you brought with you to share. Presentation: Bill Bamberger will share photographs from Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory and Boys Will Be Men.  He will talk about photographing in communities away from home.

Q and A: A brief question and answer period about technical concerns and or logistical questions about photographing in Oaxaca.

Monday, October 31 — morning discussion and photography review. Presentation: Revealing Mexico, Photographs by John Mack (Powerhouse Books, 2010) Gertrud Blom: Bearing Witness (UNC Press, 1985)  Discussion: Photographing at the Day of the Dead: approach and technical considerations.  At 2:30 p.m. we will meet at our hotel to travel together to the famed Xoxocotlan cemetery for an afternoon and night-time shoot.

Tuesday, November 1 — After a leisurely morning, travel by van to Teotitlan del Valle and check-in to bed and breakfast.  After lunch, visit Federico Chavez Santiago Family Weavers.  Rest of the day on your own to wander and shoot before dinner.

Wednesday, November 2 — After breakfast Discussion: Talk through project ideas for photographing in Teotitlan.  Discuss issues related to working with hosts and photographing in the homes of local families. Brief discussion about using natural light and/or flash. Q and A: Question and answer session about photographing in the community and at the Teotitlan cemetery with host families.

Thursday, November 3 — After breakfast, Discussion: Experiences photographing in Teotitlan.  Presentation: As a group, edit and sequence the work of one or two participants.  Brief demonstration using Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop to edit images.  Assignment: Prepare a final portfolio of about 10-20 images to share with the class at the evening session. Bill will be available during the day for optional individual meetings to help edit your work. 7 pm. Evening Presentations: Final projects or portfolios shared with class.  Discussion about ways we might share our projects with the host families and the larger community of Teotitlan.  We may want to invite our host families to a viewing of the final projects (we can discuss and decide this earlier in the week).

*We will organize photographs as jpegs, numbered sequentially, and loaded on a memory stick or external drive.  We will project digital images via Bill’s MacBook Pro.  Please contact Bill in advance if you would prefer to show images on your laptop.

Equipment List

What you bring to photograph with is a personal choice and, in great part, dependent on your way of working.  Some of the most accomplished photographers work with a single lens using the uniformity of the fixed focal length to unify their approach, while others select a variety of lenses allowing them the option of shooting tight to focus on details or loose to capture a wide-angle scene.  This equipment checklist is a suggested starting place.  What you bring is ultimately up to you.  Your budget and your choice about how much gear you will want to carry will also influence your choice of gear.  Sometimes less is more.

Suggested photo equipment:

Digital SLR**

Lenses, bring the lens(es) you with which you are most comfortable working.  Some of you will bring a single lens  (fixed focal length or zoom) while others will bring a variety of lenses (wide angle and telephoto).

Memory cards, at least two, 2 GB or larger

DSLR batteries (two)

Battery charger

Tripod, for shooting at night

Cable release (allows you to use slow shutter speeds on the tripod)

Laptop or system for downloading and previewing images

Flash drive or portable external hard drive for backing up images

Software loaded on laptop (optional): Adobe Photoshop CS4, Adobe Bridge CS4 (or similar for editing images), Adobe Lightroom for processing RAW files

Extra DSLR camera body (optional, but it is nice to have an extra camera body when traveling).


If you have questions about the optional equipment, please contact Bill or Norma. We will have some personal items, like tripods, available to share and experiment with.

**Let Bill know if you plan to bring a film camera or something other than a DSLR.  He tends to travel with my DSLR and a medium format film camera.







Photography Travel Workshop–Day of the Dead 2010 in Oaxaca, Mexico

Click on the two links below for 2011 photography expeditions. Taking registrations now for

2011 Day of the Dead Photography Expedition and

Summer 2011 Oaxaca Photography Expedition: Market Towns and Artisan Villages.

COURSE DESCRIPTION–DAY OF THE DEAD PHOTO TRAVEL WORKSHOP: October 29-November 4, 2010. Explore the magic and mystery of Day of the Dead – a feast for the visual senses – a six-night, seven-day expedition that immerses you into the heart of Oaxaca, Mexico.  During this annual religious and cultural festival the city vibrates with color, music, and Mardi Gras-like energy.  You will travel with photographer and documentary filmmaker Linda Booker, and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator Norma Hawthorne to visit and document the food, religious symbols, people, cemeteries and family celebrations both in the city and in the rural Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle.   By the end of the workshop, you will use your digital SLR camera for visual storytelling and cultural discovery.

This workshop is limited to six participants.

The workshop focuses on the use of color digital photography to capture, record and document the traditions and practices of this ancient pre-Hispanic celebration that has its roots in Aztec culture, mixed with Catholic ritual.    During our week together, we will roam the markets where preparations for home altars and gravesites are made: an abundance of candles, chocolate, bread, candies, fruit, flowers, the favorite food and beverage of departed loved ones.  We will visit the famed Xoxocotlan cemetery to capture elaborately decorated resting places and family revelers, meander city streets to come upon masked parades, visit homes, archeological sites, and enjoy a cooking demonstration.

This workshop is for beginning and intermediate-level amateur photographers who want to learn more about their digital SLR cameras and move more comfortably beyond the automatic setting.  Topics covered include using natural light, composition, night-time photography, capturing emotion, focusing on details, and taking the time to set up your shot.  Learning documentary-style photography is different from walking around and being a tourist!  It means immersion, looking for opportunities to see things from the participant perspective.  You’ll capture people in their natural state, experiment with rituals, family environments, and sense of place.  During the workshop, you will review each other’s work, give feedback, encouragement and gentle critique, as we mix class instruction with being out on the streets.

About Your Workshop Instructor, Linda Booker

Linda Booker is a documentary filmmaker with a keen and creative eye.  Linda’s recent documentary film, “Love Lived on Death Row,” has received high praise from lay and academic audiences when it screened at film festivals and universities across the country.  She is the recipient of a grassroots community screening tour grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and has produced documentary-style videos for North Carolina non-profits and musicians.

After graduating from Florida State University in Tallahassee with a degree in visual communications, Linda Booker spent the next thirteen years as a graphic designer and art director for major publications, including Yacht Vacations, Palm Beach Illustrated, Toy & Hobby World, and Triangle Business Report.  As feature photographer for Yacht Vacations, she traveled to capture images that were published in the magazine.  Her work and interests have taken her to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Costa Rica, England, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Grenada, and many locations throughout the United States.

In 2005, after completing the Certificate in Documentary Studies Program at Duke University (Durham, NC), Linda became founding president of By the Brook Productions.   She created and coordinates the ChathamArts Sustainable Cinema Series, a highly regarded and innovative program, along with a local at-risk youth filmmaking program, Shooting4Change.  Her Web site is:  www.bythebrookfilms.com An example of the Shooting4Change project is at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlXbGGj1O6o

Preliminary Itinerary (subject to change)

Day One, Friday: Oaxaca.  Meet at our hotel and gather for an early evening orientation, followed by a welcome dinner. (D)

Day Two, Saturday: Oaxaca.  Meander Oaxaca on foot in the morning, visiting splendid churches and art galleries, photography, graphics arts museums, including Centro Fotographico Alvarez Bravo http://www.cfmab.blogspot.com/.  After a group lunch, you will have the option to travel to the craft village of Arrazola to visit a famous wood carver or continue to explore Oaxaca on your own.  Meet on the Zocalo for evening refreshments.  Dinner on your own.  (B,L)

Day Three, Sunday:  Oaxaca.  After an early breakfast, spend the morning at Abastos Market, then travel to Monte Alban, the extraordinary Zapotec archeological site, followed by an afternoon in the pottery village of Atzompa.  At 7 p.m. we will depart for the majestic Xoxocotlan Panteon (cemetery) for an incredible Day of the Dead experience.  This is a very late evening; we may be out until at least midnight.  Perfect for night photography.  Dinner on your own.  (B,L)

Day Four, Monday:  Teotitlan del Valle. Morning is on your own after breakfast. Depart at noon to Teotitlan del Valle and check-in at your bed and breakfast.  Lunch in the village.  Afternoon visit to the home of Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas, for a rug weaving and natural dyeing demonstration, followed by a visit to famed painter Pantaleon Ruiz Martinez for a discussion and demonstration of his art. Dinner on your own.  (B, L)

Day Five, Tuesday:  Before breakfast, walk to the local village market where Day of the Dead preparations unfold.  After breakfast, travel to Mitla, late Zapotec-Mixtec archeological site and visit village weavers.  After lunch, in the late afternoon, enjoy a special cooking demonstration. Walk to the village Panteon (cemetery) for Teotitlan observance.  Group dinner optional.  (B,L)

Day Six, Wednesday: After breakfast, enjoy the morning to explore the village and surrounding countryside or take a taxi to Oaxaca for a final day of shopping or sightseeing.  This is a free day.  We will meet for a farewell dinner either in Teotitlan or Oaxaca (group choice).  (B, D)

Day Seven, Thursday:  After breakfast, we say our goodbyes and depart.

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)

7)     Pen and notepad

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 have selected accommodations that are clean and basic.  For the first three nights in Oaxaca, all rooms will be shared, two people to a room; each room with private bath.  The Oaxaca hotel is conveniently located one block from Santo Domingo Church in the central historic district and steps away from great shopping, restaurants, museums and galleries.

For the three nights in Teotitlan del Valle, 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 $100); shared room with private bath (add $200); single room with private bath (add $300).  Please indicate your preference.

Cost:  The basic cost for the trip is $1195.00 USD. This includes six nights lodging double occupancy, six breakfasts, five lunches, two dinners, transportation to villages and archeological sites, entry fees to ruins, and all instruction.  Most travel workshops of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

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

Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit ($600) is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be postmarked by September 1, 2010.  Payment may be made by check or PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After September 15, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  If you cancel before September 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit or $300.  If you cancel between September 1 and September 15, we will refund 50% of your registration, or $600.  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, contact:  normahawthorne@mac.com or call (919) 274-6194

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

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