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Capture the spirit of Oaxaca during the Day of the Dead festival, known as Día de los Muertos. Document the macabre spirit of this festival, with its costume parades, seas of flickering candles, and iconic skeleton and skull decor—joyful tributes to the souls of the departed. We’ll intersperse our festival photo shoots with field assignments to nearby artisan villages and fascinating Zapotec archaeology sites.
This workshop is led by a National Geographic photographer and a professional instructor and are designed for amateurs who are interested in improving their digital photography. All participants must bring a digital SLR or mirrorless camera, a laptop computer, and software for organizing and presenting images. The workshops are limited to 25 participants.
Benefit from daily instruction and critiques of your photographs provided by a top National Geographic photographer.
Document graveyards carpeted in flowers during the Day of the Dead festival.
Set out on field assignments to photograph ancient Zapotec ruins, vibrant markets, and traditional artisan villages.
Itinerary - 7 Days
Day 1 — Oaxaca, Mexico
Arrive in Oaxaca and settle into our charming colonial-style hotel, located steps from the Zócalo—the city’s stunning central plaza. Gather this evening for a welcome reception, followed by dinner with your workshop instructors. Parador del Alcalá (D)
Day 2 — Mitla/Tlacolula/Oaxaca
Explore the remarkable ruins of Mitla this morning. Mitla, or "world of the dead" was an important ceremonial center built by the Zapotec. Photograph the site’s elaborate stone mosaics before heading to Tlacolula to take pictures of the bustling open-air market. Back in Oaxaca, meet in the classroom to learn how National Geographic photographers approach photo assignments. Later, set out on a walking tour of the city to capture images of its arcaded avenues and colorful colonial architecture. Parador del Alcalá (B)
Day 3 — Teotitlan del Valle
Meet in the classroom this morning for an edit-and-critique session of the previous day’s images. Following lunch, travel to Teotitlan del Valle, a Zapotec village where the local livelihood centers on hand-loomed wool weavings in striking traditional and contemporary designs. Area families have been involved in this craft since wooden pedal looms were introduced here in the 16th century. Make portraits of artisans at work, and zoom in on the colorful textiles they create. This evening, document Day of the Dead festivities. Parador del Alcalá (B,L)
Day 4 — Monte Albán
This morning, attend an edit-and-critique session, followed by a demonstration from our instructor. After lunch, depart for Monte Albán, the religious, political, and commercial center of the Zapotec culture for more than 1,200 years. On a photo shoot, explore the archeological site, including the grassy Great Plaza, ball court, building of the dancers, and maze of temples and tombs. Photograph Day of the Dead festivities again tonight. Parador del Alcalá (B,L)
Day 5 — Oaxaca
Meet in the classroom this morning for an edit-and-critique session of the previous day’s images. The remainder of the day will be spent photographing festival events for Day of the Dead. Document the holiday’s joyful tributes to the souls of the departed, from parades of costumed children to street dancers donning skeleton masks and expressive painted faces. After sunset, venture into nearby graveyards to photograph seas of flickering candles and graves adorned with marigold flower arches—a symbolic gateway to the underworld. Parador del Alcalá (B)
Day 6 — Zaachila
Spend the morning at the bustling Zaachila Market, where goats, pigs, sheep, and oxen are traded and sold. Capture images of the timeless ritual where merchants and buyers haggle over sale prices, using the vibrant Mexican marketplace as your backdrop. This afternoon, we’ll return to Oaxaca and gather in the classroom for an edit-and-critique session, followed by an instructor-led presentation. Celebrate our week together at a farewell dinner tonight. Parador del Alcalá (B,D)
Day 7 — Oaxaca
Meet this morning for a workshop wrap-up and an image presentation of the week’s best photographs. The workshop ends at noon. (B)
National Geographic photographers Matt Moyer and Amy Toensing have traveled the globe photographing many of the world's most amazing cultures and places. They have taught numerous photo workshops for the Geographic. Amy and Matt are passionate teachers, devoted to passing on their insights and their love of photography. Their shared interests drew them together during a chance meeting at National Geographic headquarters in 2004. They are now married and live in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains north of New York City. Collectively, they have worked on more than 20 stories for National Geographic magazine, and they have each won multiple international photography awards for their work.
Amy Toensing and Matt will join the following departure: