Workshops by Focus: Culture

Creative Core November 3 - 10, 2021
6 spaces | $* Register

Paris and photography; photography and Paris – the two have been bound together in a lyrical poetic dance since the invention of the medium nearly two centuries ago. Her romantic beauty, layers of history, and progressive culture  have long attracted many of the world’s greatest artists, among them some of the most important photographers of the last century – Atget, Kertész, Brassaï, Doisneau, Cartier-Bresson, and many more – yielding a collective body of work that informs our notions of the City of Light to this day.

Beyond the nostalgia and iconic views, however, Paris is always evolving. We find inspiration in the photographic raw material that Paris offers the creative photographer to capture new visions woven from aspects of past, present, and future. We invite you to join Justin Black and Paris-based photographic artist Julia Keil for this small-group workshop for just six passionate photographers, based at a 5-star boutique hotel on the Left Bank in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the heart of the 6th Arrondissement. We will explore our favorite vantage points along the river Seine, the city’s markets, parks, avenues, and side streets, so full of life, culture, and characters from another time. The streets of Paris have a unique ability to breathe beauty, and the city wears many faces depending on the time of day or night, the weather and the path you take through it. Through the changing light in early morning and evening, Julia and Justin will encourage you to open your mind’s eye to make the most of available opportunities, sharing creative insights and helpful instruction throughout. There is nothing like losing yourself in the Parisian arrondissements with childlike eyes, with the city’s symphony in your ears, wondering what notes may be played next.

While we are there, we’ll take advantage of Paris’s status as one of the world’s great centers of photography, to make visits to at least two of the city’s most important photography galleries, drawing inspiration from exhibitions of work by great masters and contemporary artists alike. Back at our hotel’s meeting room, we will hold at least two group image reviews during mid-day hours, to provide you with constructive feedback that you can then apply during our next photographic outing. When we have a little down time during the day, you’ll be free to explore on your own, edit your photographs, or just relax. And, of course, we invite you to join us for a celebration of Parisian gastronomic delights at group meals in some of our favorite cafés and restaurants.

If you have a spouse, partner or friend who would enjoy this exploration of Paris, we have two additional spaces available for accompanying non-photographers (limit of one accompanying non-photographer per participant). Accompanying non-photographers are welcome to join the group on all excursions and at meals, but photographic instruction in the field and classroom/critique sessions are not included in this registration option.

At the request of a few regular clients, we have designed this creative photography workshop in Paris, France. I find photographing in Paris exhilarating and immensely productive, and though I know my way around, there is no substitute for local knowledge and experience. So, I’ve invited my friend Julia Keil, an immensely talented Paris-based photographic artist, to join us as co-leader. Julia knows the city intimately, has a great deal of experience teaching photographers to make the most of Paris as a creative palette. She is warm, engaging, and an absolute joy to spend time with. Together, we will teach you how to use the characteristic and unique opportunities offered by the city to create unique creative compositions, rather than simply doing a “tick list” of iconic views (though I suppose some of that is inevitable). We look forward to welcoming you for this creative exploration of the City of Light! –Justin Black

Paris: City of Light
Map via Google
Expedition July 5 - 22, 2021
6 spaces | $* Register

For lovers of wild mountain landscapes, few destinations on Earth are more spectacular than the Kyrgyz Republic (also known as Kyrgyzstan) with its soaring peaks ranging from Alpine to Himalayan in beauty and scale, glaciers, pristine lakes, wild rivers, spruce and fir forests, alpine wildflowers, and expansive high pastures. The Tien Shan mountains rise higher and wilder than the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Alps, or Andes – peaks below 16,000-feet in elevation are barely considered worthy of a name. Along the Chinese border, the Kokshaal-Too range soars to truly Himalayan heights, including the world’s most northern summits over 7,000 meters (22,965 feet): Khan Tengri (translation: Lord of the Skies) and Jengish Chokusu (also known in Russian as Pik Pobeda, or Victory Peak). The landscape beneath the peaks is sublime: glacier-carved gorges, slopes covered in alpine wildflowers (there is more edelweiss here than in the Alps), raging rivers, spruce and fir forests, and high pastures (“jai-loh”) where semi-nomadic Kyrgyz graze small herds of horses, yaks, sheep, and cattle during the short summer.

Kyrgyzstan’s majestic mountain landscapes and unspoiled natural beauty make it a gem for avid photographers, but it has been relatively unknown and little-visited. Kyrgyzstan is now gaining recognition as a highly desirable travel destination for its magnificent mountains, glacier-fed lakes, wild rivers, comfortable climate, and unique and welcoming culture. It was recently ranked #5 on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019 Top Countries list. While others are just discovering Kyrgyzstan, Visionary Wild recognized its vast opportunity for photography years ago. Based on extensive scouting we have carefully developed an exceptional photography-focused itinerary for those seeking to travel in style and comfort, with a spirit of exploration and adventure.

Our adventure begins in the Kyrgyzstani capital of Bishkek, where our guests will be met at the airport and transferred to the thoroughly modern Solutel Hotel, offering excellent accommodations and English-speaking staff, conveniently located in the city center. There, we will welcome you to our introductory orientation and first dinner as a group. Early the next morning, we load up into our four-wheel-drive caravan, comprising three highly capable and comfortable Toyota Sequoias to carry our six guests, plus Visionary Wild photo leaders Justin Black and Jerry Dodrill, both veteran Kyrgyzstan travelers. Two additional 4WD support vehicles will carry gear, provisions, our cook and camp staff. From there, we set off on our spectacular route through the Tien Shan mountains.

Our itinerary is designed to take advantage of prime light on the landscape morning and evening each day. After dark, clean air and absence of light pollution provide a superb opportunity for nighttime landscapes including the Milky Way. Wildlife we typically see at some point along the way includes golden eagles, Marco Polo sheep (the largest wild sheep in the world), Lammergeier (a bird of prey with a ten-foot wingspan, related to the Egyptian vulture), ibex, and marmots. If we are very lucky, we might even see a wolf or snow leopard. We will also enjoy excellent opportunities to interact with and photograph the Kyrgyz people themselves, particularly herders in the high pastures, families at our yurt camps, and at the sprawling and colorful Osh Market in Bishkek. This will be a highly productive and immensely fun photographic adventure that you’ll never forget.

Kyrgyz Republic
Map via Google
Creative Core April 15 - 19, 2019
10 spaces | $3,750* Register

In April, Great Smoky Mountains National Park comes alive with the elegant rebirth of spring in the Appalachian mountains on the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. Redbud and dogwood trees bloom, fragile new pale-green leaves emerge, and fog brings simplicity to the chaotic the forest backdrop. This is without question one of the gems of the National Park system, and along with neighboring Blue Ridge Parkway it represents the highlight of Appalachia. Offering easy to a wide range of opportunities from expansive landscapes to intimate designs, it’s one of our favorite outdoor photographic “classrooms,” visiting midweek in spring means no crowds in this, the most visited park in the entire National Park System.

Your instructors are two of the most highly regarded – and down to earth – fine art photographers working today: Charles Cramer and Tillman Crane. Working in digital color and black & white platinum-palladium processes respectively, both are renowned as master print makers and natural teachers.

Charles is a masterful artist renowned for landscape photographs that derive their power from their elegant composition and gentle calm. He has returned again and again to Appalachia over the years to draw inspiration from its atmospheric interplay of light, mist, and elegant graphics. Garnering rave reviews whenever he teaches, Charlie enjoys nothing more than sharing his insights, creativity, and craftsmanship with other passionate photographers in an effort to help them refine their own vision.

Tillman’s motto is, “Great photographs can be made in ordinary places.” His distinctive platinum photographs combine 19th-century materials with a 21st century aesthetic. A former photojournalist turned artist, he loves Great Smoky National Park and Appalachia in general for its combination of nature and fascinating human history. Tillman has been teaching the art and craft of photography for three decades, and his passion for the artform continues to evolve as he embraces modern digital technology while simultaneously furthering his mastery of the platinum/palladium print. The focus of his imagery remains on the unique qualities of light and sense of place in the ordinary, everyday locations where he lives and teaches.

This all-inclusive workshop will be based at Highland Manor Inn, in the village of Townsend, Tennessee, the quietest of the three “gateway” communities accessing the park. This base of operations provides excellent access to field locations. Along with eight field sessions, Charlie and Tillman will present projected lectures on composition, light, exposure control, anticipating and working through changing conditions, and essentials of digital image development. A minimum of two constructive critique sessions will provide essential feedback on images created by participants in the workshop.

This Creative Core workshop deals heavily with developing creativity and visualizing compositions, with a great deal of photography in the field. Creative Core workshops are general outdoor photography workshops designed to expose participants to the full creative toolbox, but the emphasis of individual participants’ work is up to them. Whether they wish to focus on classic landscape, abstraction, color, black and white, HDR, panoramics, multiple exposures, or all of the above, any enthusiastic photographer will feel right at home in this workshop. Together, Charlie and Tillman have over 75 years of combined experience successfully accommodating a range of experience levels within the context of photographic workshops.

In advance of the session, we supply materials to get everyone up to speed with fundamentals of digital camera set-up and technique, as well as essential equipment recommendations, recommended packing list, and other guidelines to ensure that everyone is ready to make the most of the experience. Users of film are of course welcome to join the workshop, though in order to participate in critiques they will need to either bring digital files or prints of existing work.

Note: This workshop is operated under National Park Service Commercial Use Authorization.

Great Smoky Mountains
Map via Google
Expedition July 5 - 22, 2019
6 spaces | $14,500* Register

Client Testimonials

“Kyrgyzstan was an amazing trip! Truly a unique country. I’m in to return with you next year.” –Dan W., three-time Kyrgyz Republic expedition participant

“The Kyrgyz trip has been one of our best. Full marks to Visionary Wild and the Kyrgyz team on the ground here for a seamless trip.” –Alastair F. and Helen M, 2018 participants

Lonely Planet recently ranked Kyrgyzstan #5 on its Best in Travel list of ten top countries ripe for travel in 2019, and we are not surprised. Two of the six participants from our 2017 expedition to the Kyrgyz Republic  came back with us in 2018, one of them is joining us yet again this year, and the other hopes to go again next year! Yes, it’s that good. 

For lovers of wild mountain landscapes, the Kyrgyz Republic is among the most underrated travel destinations on Earth. The Tien Shan mountains rise higher and wilder than the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Alps, or Andes, and peaks below 16,000-feet in elevation are barely considered worthy of a name. Along the Chinese border, the Kok Shaal-Too range soars to truly Himalayan heights, including the world’s most northern summits over 7,000 meters: Khan Tengri and Jengish Chokusu (also known as Pik Pobeda, or Victory Peak). The landscape beneath the peaks is sublime: glacier-carved gorges, grassy slopes covered in alpine wildflowers, raging wild rivers, spruce and fir forests, and high pastures (“jai-loh”) where semi-nomadic Kyrgyz graze small herds of horses, yaks, sheep, and cattle during the short summer.

The sheer scale and beauty of this landscape is phenomenal, but what is almost unimaginable is the fact that it is barely on the tourist radar. The Kyrgyz Republic is solidifying democracy, and the Kyrgyz people take their freedom seriously. Though it is commonly referred to as the “Switzerland of Central Asia,” this complimentary moniker neglects to recognize the nation’s unique qualities. A former Soviet republic with slow economic growth, Kyrgyzstan has been spared excessive development, so what it lacks in infrastructure is made up for with glorious wild nature. The Kyrgyz people are a nomad culture that boasts the longest history of all currently extant groups in Central Asia. Over the last fifteen centuries, their language and culture have survived the Chinese, the Mongols, various Khaganates, the Russians, the Soviet era, and the challenges of building a viable democracy.

Our adventure begins in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, where our guests will be met at the airport and transferred to the thoroughly modern Solutel Hotel, offering excellent accommodations in the city center. There, we will welcome you to our introductory orientation and first dinner as a group. Early the next morning, we load up into our four-wheel-drive caravan, comprising three highly capable and comfortable Toyota Sequoias to carry our six guests, plus Visionary Wild photo leaders Justin Black and Jerry Dodrill, both veterans of three prior trips to Kyrgyzstan. Two additional 4WD support vehicles will carry gear, provisions, our cook and camp staff. From there, we set off on our spectacular route through the Tien Shan mountains.

Our itinerary is designed to take advantage of prime light on the landscape morning and evening each day. After dark, clean air and absence of light pollution provide a superb opportunity for nighttime landscapes including the Milky Way. Wildlife we typically see at some point along the way includes golden eagles, Marco Polo sheep (the largest wild sheep in the world), Lammergeier (a bird of prey  with a ten-foot wingspan, related to the Egyptian vulture), ibex, and marmots. If we are very lucky, we might even see a wolf or snow leopard. We will also enjoy excellent opportunities to interact with and photograph the Kyrgyz people themselves, particularly herders in the high pastures, families at our yurt camps, and at the sprawling and colorful Osh Market in Bishkek. This will be a highly productive and immensely fun photographic adventure that you’ll never forget.

Note: We advise anyone considering this adventure to read “Travel in the Kyrgyz Republic,” farther down on this page.

Kyrgyz Republic
Map via Google
Expedition July 5 - 22, 2018
6 spaces | $14,500* Register

When I tell folks that my wife Lena is from Kyrgyzstan, the response is usually, “She’s from Kurdistan?!?” or alternatively, “What? Where is that?” This little-known Silk Road country is, however, home to some of the most awe-inspiring mountain landscapes on the planet, as well as an immensely hospitable culture. Visionary Wild’s first overland expedition there in July 2017 grew out of a lengthy scouting trip that Lena and I made in 2015. This photographic adventure, from the idyllic alpine lake of Song Kul to the glacier-borne basecamp beneath mighty Khan Tengri – one of the world’s most beautiful peaks rising to 23,000ft. – represents what Lena and I consider the finest of the Kyrgyz mountain landscape. We have fallen in love with the Kyrgyz people and their spectacular homeland, and look forward to sharing this wonderful corner of the planet with you! –Justin Black

For lovers of wild mountain landscapes, the Kyrgyz Republic is among the most underrated travel destinations on Earth. The Tien Shan mountains rise higher and wilder than the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Alps, or Andes, and peaks below 16,000-feet in elevation are barely considered worthy of a name. Along the Chinese border, the Kakshaal-Too range soars to truly Himalayan heights, on the world’s most northern summits over 7,000 meters: Khan Tengri and Jengish Chokusu (known in the Soviet era as Pik Pobeda). The landscape beneath the peaks is sublime: glacier-carved gorges, slopes covered in alpine wildflowers, raging rivers, spruce and fir forests, and high pastures (“jai-loh”) where semi-nomadic Kyrgyz graze small herds of horses, yaks, sheep, and cattle during the short summer.

The sheer scale and beauty of this landscape is phenomenal, but what is almost unimaginable is the fact that it is barely on the tourist radar. The Kyrgyz Republic is an emerging democracy, and the Kyrgyz people take their freedom seriously. Though it is commonly referred to as the “Switzerland of Central Asia,” this complimentary moniker neglects to recognize the nation’s unique qualities. A former Soviet republic with relatively slow economic growth, Kyrgyzstan has been spared excessive development, so what it lacks in infrastructure is made up for with glorious wild nature. The Kyrgyz people are a Turkic nomad culture that boast the longest history of all currently extant groups in Central Asia. Over the last fifteen centuries, their language and culture have survived the Uyghurs, the Chinese, the Mongols, various Khaganates, the Russians, the Soviet era, and the challenges of building a viable democracy while surrounded by less democratic neighbors.

Our adventure begins in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, where participants will be met at the airport and driven to the thoroughly modern Golden Tulip Hotel, offering excellent accommodations in the city center. There, we will welcome you to our introductory orientation and first dinner as a group. Early the next morning, we load up into our four-wheel drive caravan, comprising three highly capable and comfortable Toyota Sequoias to carry our six guests, Visionary Wild photo leaders Justin Black and Jerry Dodrill, as well as our team’s Kyrgyzstan native and Russian-language interpreter, Lena Black, Visionary Wild Director of Operations. Two additional 4WD support vehicles will carry gear, provisions, and camp staff. From there, we set off on our spectacular route through the Tien Shan mountains.

Our itinerary is designed to take advantage of prime light on the landscape morning and evening each day. After dark, clean air and virtual absence of light pollution provide a superb opportunity for nighttime landscapes including the Milky Way. We will also enjoy excellent opportunities for photography of the Kyrgyz people themselves, in the high pastures, at our yurt camps, and at the sprawling and colorful Osh Market in Bishkek. This will be a highly productive and immensely fun photographic adventure that you’ll never forget.

Click “read more” at below right for the full itinerary, inclusions, exclusions, and more photos…

read more…

Kyrgyz Republic
Map via Google
Expedition September 22 - October 4, 2016
18 spaces | $15,995* Register

Thank you for another fantastic VW expedition! What a privilege to experience and photograph this wild and remote area in comfort while accompanied by the best leaders offering a wealth of experience and a willingness to share their immense talents. Thanks to Justin’s meticulous advance planning, all the arrangements were perfect throughout. –David & Kathy R., 2015 Greenland participants


THIS UNIQUE ADVENTURE MAY NOT BE REPEATED, AS OUR SHIP’S CHARTER COMPANY WILL REPOSITION HER FOLLOWING OUR VOYAGE AND FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.

Greenland’s remote and little-visited ice fjords hold a wealth of arctic grandeur. Towers, arches, and walls of ancient blue ice thrust skyward from the water’s surface. Steep-walled fjords, dramatic coastal mountains, tundra in autumn color, the vast Greenland Ice Sheet, and the Aurora Borealis combine to form an incomparable landscape. Join this world-class team of leaders – Frans Lanting, Christine Eckstrom, and Justin Black – for this exclusive expedition to Greenland’s east and west coasts, photographing this arctic wilderness in all its glory. With generous photographic instruction and attentive support along the way, explore the largest fjord system in the world – Scoresbysund on the east coast – aboard the three-masted expedition vessel Rembrandt van Rijn, followed by a four-night stay on Greenland’s west coast at Ilulissat, where the massive Jakobshavn Glacier calves some 35 billion tons of icebergs into the sheltered waters of Ilulissat Icefjord, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the world’s largest island. Excursions by helicopter for doors-off aerials, and by boat to get in among the massive bergs, yield extraordinary photographic opportunities.


Greenland was a trip of a lifetime. Imagine fog-shrouded icebergs, vibrant red/orange/yellow tundra, unreal sunsets, glistening ice and snow, colorful villages clinging to rocky headlands, Northern Lights and so much more under the generous guidance of world class instructors. I learned so much while having lots of fun. Thank you! –Ann L., 2015 Greenland participant


Our adventure begins in Reykjavik, Iceland, the world’s northernmost capital. Guests will be greeted upon arrival at Keflavik International Airport and transferred to the elegant Hotel Holt, conveniently located in the city center. After an introductory group meeting and dinner at Grillmarket, one of Reykjavik’s finer restaurants, the next morning we board our private charter flight to Greenland’s east coast. Awaiting our arrival will be our private floating base camp for the first eight days in Greenland: the 168-foot, three-masted schooner Rembrandt van Rijn (click here for more about RVR). We are booking the entire ship for our exclusive use to ensure ample space for our group both on the ship and in zodiacs – our group will consist of sixteen to eighteen participants and three leaders (though Rembrandt normally sleeps up to 33 guests) in addition to her twelve-person crew and expedition staff. She is exceptionally well-suited to exploration and photography along the Greenland coast, with a reinforced hull, expansive unobstructed sight lines even under sail, and very comfortable accommodations. We will make frequent landings by zodiac to photograph in morning and evening light, and as serendipity presents us with compelling opportunities along the way. In addition to the arctic landscape, we will photograph whales if we encounter them, as well a variety of coastal and pelagic birds such as fulmars, kittiwakes, and gannets. The ethereal glow of the Aurora Borealis dancing in the night sky over the iceberg-dotted fjords and bays will be the sight of a lifetime. While underway, in the ship’s common area Frans, Justin, and the ship’s expedition staff will make inspiring and instructive presentations, and offer constructive feedback on participants’ photographs during group critique sessions, with the aid of the ship’s four large LCD screens.

To make this special itinerary possible, we have arranged three private charter flights aboard modern twin-engine turboprop airliners (Dash-8 and Bombardier Q200). After disembarking Rembrandt, a private charter flight whisks us across the world’s second largest icecap to the west coast and the small fishing port of Ilulissat, home to 5,000 Greenlanders and an equivalent number of sled dogs. There, our base will be Hotel Hvide Falk (White Falcon). One of the highlights there will be a series of helicopter excursions (one hour of flight time per participant, each with a window seat) to do aerial photography of icebergs, Jakobshavn Glacier and Ilulissat Icefjord, and to access the Greenland Ice Sheet itself. We will also make excursions on a local charter boats to approach towering icebergs, and hikes on the autumn tundra with stunning views of Disko Bay and the coastal mountains.

Click “read more” at below right for the detailed itinerary…

read more…

Greenland
Map via Google
Expedition September 9 - 21, 2015
16 spaces | $14,995* Register

 

 

 

Featuring private charter of the three-masted expedition vessel Rembrandt van Rijn, helicopter flights onto the second largest ice cap on Earth, close encounters with the Arctic’s largest icebergs, and excursions onto the colorful autumn tundra.

Greenland’s remote and little-visited west coast is a world of arctic grandeur. Each year, the massive Jakobshavn Glacier calves some 35 billion tons of icebergs into the sheltered waters of Disko Bay and Ilulissat Icefjord, the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the world’s largest island. Towers, arches, and walls of ancient blue ice thrust skyward from the water’s surface. Whales and seabirds abound. Steep-walled fjords, dramatic coastal mountains, tundra in autumn color, the Greenland Ice Sheet, and the Aurora Borealis combine to form an incomparable landscape. Visionary Wild presents a unique opportunity to experience and photograph this arctic wilderness in all its glory.

Join this world-class team of leaders – Frans Lanting, Christine Eckstrom, Justin Black, and Chris Linder – for our all-inclusive photographic exploration of Greenland’s west coast. The 168-foot, three-masted schooner Rembrandt van Rijn (click here for more about the vessel) will be our private floating base camp for the first eight days in Greenland. We are radically under-booking this comfortable vessel to ensure ample space for our group both on the ship and in zodiacs – our group will consist of only sixteen participants and four leaders, though Rembrandt normally sleeps 33 guests in addition to her crew of twelve. She is exceptionally well-suited to exploration and photography along the Greenland coast, with a reinforced hull, expansive unobstructed sight lines even under sail, and very comfortable accommodations. We will make frequent landings by zodiac to photograph in morning and evening light, and as serendipity presents us with compelling opportunities along the way. In addition to the arctic landscape, we will photograph Disko Bay’s whales, including beluga, bowhead, and humpbacks, and a variety of coastal and pelagic birds such as eider ducks and albatross. The etherial glow of the aurora borealis dancing in the night sky over the iceberg-dotted bay will be the sight of a lifetime.

After disembarking from Rembrandt, we will move on to the nearby town of Ilulissat, home to 5,000 Greenlanders and an equivalent number of sled dogs. There, our base will be Hotel Hvide Falk (White Falcon). One of the highlights of our four days there will be a series of helicopter excursions (one hour of flight time per participant, each with a window seat) to do aerial photography of icebergs, Jakobshavn Glacier and Ilulissat Icefjord, and to access the Greenland Ice Sheet itself, where we will land and photograph at a moulin, meltwater lake, or other interesting feature on the kilometers-deep icecap. We will also make excursions on a local charter boat to approach large icebergs, and hikes on the autumn tundra with stunning views of Disko Bay and the coastal mountains.

Click “read more” at below right for addition information, the itinerary, and the complete photo gallery…

read more…

Greenland
Map via Google
Expedition June 22 - July 3, 2013
10 spaces | $10,250* Register

Magical places with towering red sand dunes, ancient withered, desiccated forests, and storm-ravaged coastline make Namibia unique.  Rare desert lions, gemsbok, elephants, and giraffes inhabit the area, with the colorful Himba people carving out a life in this arid region.

In all my travels, I have never seen such amazing and colorful dune formations.  The colors ran from black to garnet to peach and red colored…sometimes bathed in coastal fog.  The Namib Desert has a timeless quality that calls to me. –Jack Dykinga

Experience the haunting beauty of Namibia – Africa’s desert gem – with renowned landscape photographers Jack Dykinga and Justin Black. We will explore the striking quiver tree forests and geological formations, a ghost town abandoned to drifting sands, the rugged beauty of the coast, culminating with three days of intensive photography among the elegant forms of the thousand-foot red dunes of Sossusvlei. With warm tints of apricot, orange, red and maroon, these dunes offer abstract beauty unseen anywhere else in the world. This special place is also home to the ancient sun-blackened skeletons of camel thorn trees at the white clay “dead marsh” of Deadvlei.

A string of colonial port towns dot the coast, trapped between the South Atlantic and the dunes. Lüderitz, on the edge of the diamond-rich Sperrgebiet area, is a fascinating relic of Germany’s late 19th-century imperial aspirations. Nearby is the otherworldly and sand-bound abandoned mining town of Kolmanskop, where dunes have invaded the abandoned buildings. The photographic potential of this place is astonishing. Further north, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay bracket the southern end of the Skeleton Coast. Both possess a welcoming resort town atmosphere, with ample photographic opportunities along the coast.

Awe-inspiring and unrestrictive, this diverse geography leaves an impact you won’t soon forget.

Our itinerary has been designed to take maximum advantage of the best landscape photography opportunities that Namibia has to offer. In addition to attentive photographic instruction throughout by Dykinga and Black, our group of up to ten photographers will be led by two excellent local guides. This trip includes excellent lodging, in-Africa flights (Johannesburg–Windhoek–Johannesburg), transfers and group ground transportation from start to finish, and all meals, snacks, and beverages.

Namibia is a very safe and welcoming country, and a tourist visa is not necessary for citizens of the USA and most developed nations.

We hope you will join us! To sign up, click the “REGISTER” link above right.

 

Namibia
Map via Google
Expedition January 24 - 30, 2012
6 spaces | $8,249* Register

In the final year of the 5,126-year Mayan calendar cycle, we bring you a very special expedition for six photographers into this land of hidden cenotes, stunning pre-Columbian cities, elegant haciendas, and abundant tropical life.

The Mexican state of Yucatán, on the west side of the peninsula, is a world apart from the more familiar tourist Mecca of Cancún.  It is a wonderful, safe, and intriguing place, rich with human and geological history and overflowing with haunting beauty. Subtropical forest conceals beneath its roots a geological sponge of porous limestone. The Chicxulub impact crater, created by the asteroid that ended the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, filled with water that dissolved pockets and channels in the subterranean limestone around its periphery, creating myriad caves and underground rivers.

Whenever these caves and sinkholes open to the outside world, they are known as cenotes (seh-NÓH-tehs). The inspiration for countless Mayan legends, these crystal clear underground pools and grottoes will be a primary focus of this expedition, which will also feature pre-Columbian Mayan sites, elegant and updated 19th-century haciendas full of historic character, and the largest pink flamingo colony in the world at Celestún Biosphere Reserve.

Of the thousands of cenotes distributed across the Yucatán, some have wide-mouthed cave entrances, inviting the visitor to walk in to discover the fantastic subterranean grottoes they conceal. In the darkest cenotes, we’ll creatively illuminate the walls, stalagmites and stalactites, and other formations both above and below water, using lamps and strobes that we bring along. Others admit brilliant shafts of natural light that spotlight the blue water and reflect to illuminate the interior. Some cenotes are open-air sinkholes holding inviting pools of cool, clear water. Most are undeveloped and virtually impossible to find without the benefit of a knowledgeable local guide.

We have arranged for our friend Alfredo Medina to lead the way. Since 1992, Alfredo has lived in Quintana Roo on the peninsula’s east coast, where he owns a high-end printing business. He carried out extensive photographic coverage of Yucatecan cenotes for his beautiful book Cenotes: Imprints of Water and Light in the Jungle, published in 2008. Alfredo is also co-photographer for the book Birds of the Yucatán Peninsula (1997). Alfredo and his wife, Sara, serve as trustees for the non-profit conservation organization Amigos de Sian Ka’an, promoting conservation action on the Yucatan peninsula.

Jack Dykinga and Justin Black collaborated with Alfredo in October 2009, during a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition (RAVE) in the Yucatan operated by the International League of Conservation Photographers, while Justin was the ILCP’s Executive Director. Guidance by Alfredo and his wife Sara was critical to our RAVE assignment, accessing beautiful cenotes off the tourist routes, known only to the friendly and gracious Mayan locals. Alfredo is a true gentleman explorer, a gifted photographer, and an absolute pleasure to work with.

In addition to several cenote excursions, our group will visit the pre-Columbian Mayan City of Uxmal, spectacularly situated in the Puuc hills south of Merida. Considered by many to be the most architecturally beautiful Mayan city, Uxmal was built between 600 and 900 A.D. Due to excellent construction, it is one of the few Mayan cities to remain sufficiently well-preserved to provide the modern visitor with a good sense of what the central ceremonial district would have been like at its peak. The pyramids, temples, hieroglyphs, mosaics, and sculptures here are sublime and full of mystery.

Another Mayan pyramid rises immediately behind the main house at Hacienda Itzincab-Cámara, our lodging for the first four nights of the expedition. “Itzincab,” as it is known locally, is a photographer’s dream in itself, with recently restored 19th-century architecture, lush tropical gardens, and excellent bird habitat. We were welcomed as guests at Itzincab during the ILCP RAVE and were singularly impressed by the hospitality of the staff, the comfort and elegance of the accommodations, and its exceptional suitability to serve as a workshop base. Read more about this special place below under “Accommodations.”

For our final two nights, we will relocate to Eco Paraiso near the estuary of Celestún Biosphere Reserve, where 30,000 pink flamingos gather in January each year to form the largest colony of the species to be found anywhere on Earth. Celestún is also host to over 300 other species of birds and many species of reptiles, including Morelet’s and American crocodiles, four sea turtle species, iguanas, land turtles, and boa constrictors.

Yucatán
Map via Google