image by Abraham Pacheco

image by Abraham Pacheco

The Oaxaca Experience With John Hallum

JULY 20 - 27, 2019
Travel days: Saturday 20 July (to Mexico) & Sunday 28 July (from Mexico)

THE OAXACA EXPERIENCE A seven day photography discovery tour in the historic city of Oaxaca, Mexico, led by John Hewett Hallum, an experienced visual arts teacher and photographer who has been associated with SPAO since 2008.

The city of Oaxaca is nestled in a fertile valley which in ancient times was a migration route to the land bridge leading to South America. For more than 800 years before the arrival of the invading Spanish Conquistadors it was the home of the Zapotec peoples. Their descendants still live in the region and speak the ancient language. The ruins of their ceremonial city, Monte Alban is located on a mountain high above the modern city. These ancient ruins and many other local historic sites convey a sense of the city and its cultural influences both ancient and modern.

The pivotal event of the tour is the historic dance festival The Guelaguetza which is an annual event featuring Folkloric dancers from the seven distinct regions of the state of Oaxaca. They meet every year in the outdoor auditorium high above the city to showcase their interpretations of traditional dances. The city is alive day and night with dance, music, and performances related to this celebration of culture and life. Mexicans love to sing and dance.

PHOTOGRAPHY AS ART / VISION AND CONTENT The maxim of SPAO is Vision, Content and Craft. The Oaxaca Experience tour will offer opportunities to practice your craft and create images reflecting a personal vision by way of the content you choose to photograph. The development of an aesthetic and artistic approach in the images you capture will be the concentration of this photographic experience. Personal and group sessions with the instructor will assist you in developing content to reflect your vision and creative expression.

THE ITINERARY The ultimate aim of this week of discovery will be to create a ‘Oaxaca Portfolio’

  • Arrival: Settle in to your accommodations. Meet late afternoon at hotel then walk to the centre and enjoy a welcome drink or cocktail. Group dinner.

  • Day 1: A walking tour of various locations in the city environs and discussion of possible themes to develop during the week. Afternoon visit to the ruins at Monte Alban, historic site of the Zapotec peoples. Evening - capturing the celebrations in the streets.

  • Day 2: A morning group session will offer ideas about photographing the festival. Afternoon at leisure. Meet at 3:30pm - walk to the Auditorium for the 5:00pm dance performance. Evening - capturing the celebrations in the streets.

  • Day 3: A morning discussion of the dance festival and sharing some images. Discussion about themes, content and style capturing an aspect of the city during this festival time. The afternoon and evening will be dedicated to capturing images as you explore the city alone or with a partner.

  • Day 4-6 All day and evening continue image capture related to your chosen theme. Ongoing image selection and post production. Meet with the instructor to discuss progress. (Specific timed meetings at hotel)

  • Day 7 Morning at leisure to enjoy the city or further develop your images. Meet at 4:00pm for group Comida (The afternoon Mexican meal) Evening- presentation of your Oaxaca Portfolio.

REQUIREMENTS This is not a workshop-type event. Technical instruction is not included. Proficiency with camera and computer operation and some post production skills are essential. DSLR (Digital) or Mirrorless camera, or high quality phone camera may be used. A telephoto lens and tripod/monopod would be useful for the dance festival. Specific PRIME lenses and/or ZOOM lens to suit your preferred style of photography. Experience shooting in various modes: Manual, Aperture, Shutter priority etc. A device to store and display photographs and a post production application is required (Computer etc) Analog SLR cameras are not suitable as film cannot be processed locally. New post production app: LUMINAR is available for purchase on-line. It’s easy to learn.

NOTE: Participants should be capable of walking long distances in the city and country during fairly warm/hot days. Very comfortable light clothing and shoes are recommended.

ACCOMMODATIONS Whilst in Oaxaca SPAO photo tours have always stayed at CASA ARNEL. This is a small family-run hotel a few blocks from the central area of the city. The hotel grounds have a wonderful central garden and many quiet places where guests may relax undisturbed. Accommodations are simple, comfortable and inexpensive. A buffet breakfast is provided in the cost of a room.

Sufficient rooms have been reserved for those who register with a fully paid registration fee. Participants must pay the hotel directly for their accommodations. Details will follow. SPAO is not permitted to pay for your reservations. For paid registered participants the hotel reservations person will arrange for you to submit a safe and secure payment by credit card.

Because this is an extremely popular time in Oaxaca hotel rooms are already in short supply. CASA ARNEL is holding our reservations for a limited time. For the first 3 days we are booked into rooms with single or double beds with shared bathroom. For the remainder of the week all guests will be transferred to standard rooms with private bathroom.

WHAT IS INCLUDED Airport meeting on arrival and transportation to the hotel on 20 July. Please advise arrival time. Hotel to Airport transportation on the 28 July. Please advise departure time. 7 days of activities with a qualified instructor who will guide participants as they pursue their photography. The instructor (fluent English and Spanish) and will lead discussions, excursions and one-on-one critique sessions. An assistant (fluent Spanish & English) is available to accompany guests to various locations. Welcome/orientation event helped along with a margarita or your preferred beverage. Group meeting on Day 7 to round up the highlights of the tour. Final day (Day 7) event a Mexican Comida (afternoon meal) is included. Excursion to Monte Alban including transportation and entrance fee. Local in-city travel as required for designated excursions.

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED Return air fare to Oaxaca, Mexico from your departure or home city. (Air Canada, WestJet, InterJet). Transfers from your home to/from the departure or home city airport. Travel, medical & cancellation insurance. Hotel accommodations, drinks, gratuities, unless noted in the itinerary. Transportation costs beyond Oaxaca if required unless noted in the itinerary. Food unless noted in the itinerary.


  • Participants must be physically capable, comfortable with some physical exertion

  • Participants must be familiar with the camera that they are bringing

  • Participants are responsible for their own flight and accommodations at the SPAO designated hotel (contact for more details)

  • Participants must provide proof of travelers’ medical insurance to SPAO admin prior to departure

JULY 20 - 27, 2019
TRAVEL DAYS: Saturday 20 July (to Mexico) & Sunday 28 July (from Mexico)

Secure your spot by clicking the below button to pay a deposit of $200; when we receive this payment, our part-time coordinator will be in touch with more details and will send you a link to pay the remaining fee.