Photo workshop vacations are becoming an increasingly popular way to experience interesting places and events while expanding your photography skills. You’ll travel with a small like-minded group of photo enthusiasts and learn from top professionals. Workshops are offered at all skill levels and cover almost every geographic destination and subject that you can imagine, from photographing wildlife in a remote wilderness to a behind-the-scenes look at a bustling city.
Here are five great workshops. You can find others with a Google search (Example: “Photo workshop Everglades”), or by looking at ads in magazines such as Outdoor Photographer and Shutterbug. Workshops with popular instructors fill fast, so reserve well in advance.
National Geographic Weekend Photo Workshop: New Orleans (November 9 to 12, 2017). You couldn’t ask for a better way to discover the haunting beauty of New Orleans or learn about travel photography than by shooting at the elbow of longtime National Geographic photojournalist and workshop leader Bob Sacha, who has illustrated numerous National Geographic stories. On Friday, after a morning classroom lesson, you will head to Jackson Square to photograph the architecture and street performers. That night, you’ll explore the French Quarter’s jazz clubs. On Saturday, you’ll head to the Garden District and Uptown neighborhoods, as well as peaceful Audubon Park. On Sunday morning, a Q&A session is followed by a visit to Mardi Gras World to capture the year-round creation of parade floats.
Skill level: Serious amateurs. Bring a digital SLR (DSLR) or mirrorless camera, a laptop computer and software for organizing and presenting images. Group size: 25 maximum. Fee: Without hotel $1,665 and with hotel (Dauphine Orleans Hotel) $2,240 (single-room supplement, add $575). Fee includes welcome and farewell dinners. Participants pay for their own transportation to New Orleans. Workshop info: NationalGeographicExpeditions.com, 888-966-8687.
Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, Fall Colors of Vermont (October 11 to 15, 2017). Plunge deep into the heart of Vermont’s supersaturated fall colors during peak leaf-peeping season with photographer, writer and naturalist David Middleton. Middleton is a 30-year photo veteran who has published 12 books, including The Nature of Vermont. Highlight: A visit to a 250-year-old hill farm where your small group will shoot classic old barns, wild meadows and woods, an old sugarhouse and miles of stone walls with brilliant sugar maples as your backdrop. You also will be invited to the photographer’s Manchester, Vermont, home to photograph running horses against the backdrop of autumn foliage.
Skill level: Amateurs, advanced amateurs and pros. All cameras are welcome. Bring a laptop and editing software and have a knowledge of digital workflow. Group size: 12 to 14 maximum. Fee: $1,295 includes tuition, snacks and beverages. Transportation, lodging and meals are extra. Reservations can be made at The INN at Willow Pond or other nearby inns. The Equinox Golf Resort and Spa is nearby, too. Workshop info: SantaFeWorkshops.com, 505-983-1400.
New York City Smartphone Photo Workshop (a National Geographic photo workshop, October 7 to 8, 2017). Learn to press the boundaries of your smartphone’s technical and creative capabilities while exploring New York City by day and night. On day one, walk along the elevated 1.45-mile-long High Line, and after dinner, spend an evening shooting Times Square’s flamboyant lighting displays. On day two, participants will receive lessons on exposure, composition, seeing like a photographer, creative apps and storytelling before heading to Central Park. Workshop leader Ed Kashi, one of the world’s great photojournalists, has produced numerous stories for National Geographic. The workshop ends with a farewell dinner (included) followed by a presentation of the participants’ images.
Skill level: Smartphone experience. Fee: Without hotel, $995…with hotel (New York Marriott Downtown, two nights) $1,585 (single-room supplement, $590). Group size: 25 maximum. Workshop info: NationalGeographic
Katmai Alaska Workshop with Art Wolfe (July 21 to 27, 2018…July 27 to August 2, 2018…or August 2 to 8, 2018). If you’ve ever had Walter Mitty visions of photographing bears up close in the Alaska wilderness, this workshop will make your dreams come true. Based at a private lodge in the Katmai region of Alaska, this workshop is led by Art Wolfe, one of the world’s most accomplished wildlife photographers and host of the long-running PBS series Travels to the Edge. You will spend the first two days getting outfitted and learning about bear and floatplane safety, and then during the next four days, you will spend all day photographing bears from as close as 15 feet. Lessons, critiques and image reviews daily.
Skill level: Advanced amateur. Bring a DSLR or advanced mirrorless camera with a long telephoto lens. Fee: $9,500 per person, includes all meals during the workshop, lodging and transportation to and from the lodge. (There is no single supplement. Single travelers share rooms with other single travelers.) Not included: Flights to and from Anchorage, Alaska, and your hotel in Anchorage. Some moderate activity required for field outings that may involve approximately four miles of hiking over uneven ground. Group size: Eight maximum. Workshop info: Events.ArtWolfe.com, 888-973-0011.
Eastern Grand Canyon & Western Navajo Fair (October 11 to 15, 2017). I can’t imagine a better way to see the American West than through the eyes of a Navajo photographer. This five-day Arizona Highways workshop brings participants to the much less visited East Rim of the Grand Canyon (including one night camping on the edge of the East Rim) to photograph rarely seen canyon vistas. Next, you will travel to the Western Navajo Fair, the premier annual celebration of the Diné (Navajo) people in Tuba City, Arizona.
Skill level: All levels. Bring a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Fee: $2,495 per person. Fee includes photo instruction, round-trip transportation from Phoenix (you must get yourself to Phoenix), lodging (single-room supplement, $170), lunches, snacks and a farewell dinner. Lodging: First night at Marble Canyon at Cliff Dwellers Lodge…second night, camping on the canyon rim…and the last two nights at the historic Cameron Trading Post hotel. Group size: 12 to 14 maximum. Workshop info: AHPW.org/workshops, 888-790-7042.