Viva Colombia! Photo Tour Workshop
"As a good travel photographer you have to be at home in all markets. Among other things, you should know how to capture a landscape in an impressive way, make beautiful portraits of the locals and photograph street life well. Tristan Quevilly can do this like no other."
Welcome to our Viva Colombia photo tour workshop! Colombia is a true hidden gem, just waiting to be discovered by the world of travel photographers. It's also quite safe in the region in which you will be traveling. This very special trip is designed & led by French photographer & Colombia resident, Tristan Quevilly. He speaks fluent Spanish, English & French, and is deeply connected to the people, including several indigenous tribes. His inside access is unmatched, and you will often find yourself alone in breathtaking places that are utterly unknown to tourism. The impressive array of rare and unique photo opportunities beautifully blends people, culture, street, architecture, wildlife, landscapes, and night sky-scapes.
Your Colombia photo adventure begins and ends on the Caribbean coast, in gorgeous Santa Marta and legendary Cartagena, respectively. In between are ethereal high mountain landscapes; a tropical bird sanctuary with more species than anywhere else on earth; a private jungle river wildlife cruise; floating villages & fisherfolk; beautiful Spanish colonial architecture; traditional street dancers and colorful Palenquera ladies; and a whole lot more.
For many the main highlight of the trip will be rare photography sessions with three different indigenous tribes – the Kogi, Wiwa, and Wayuu. All tribal visits are by special permission granted directly by the tribes to Tristan. When we spend time in the villages we engage with respect and in the spirit of genuine cultural interchange.
"The special relationship Tristan has built up over the years with the Kogi people and local guides enabled a very special opportunity to visit and photograph them, both culturally and photographically interesting, and a rare, much appreciated opportunity. Working creatively with Tristan was really fun and fruitful, being able to discuss our photography ideas together in the field was both enjoyable and helpful. He’s a very talented photographer and happy to share his knowledge and ideas." - Clare Rowntree
Excellent leadership is crucial to having a great photo. Tristan engages in a warm and friendly manner with participants and locals alike, opening doors that lead to rewarding cultural experiences and fantastic photo ops. He and the LJ team will always have you in the right places at the right time in the best possible light. This Viva Colombia! photo tour takes place in the gorgeous warm weather of February, and offers a welcome respite from the freezing cold of the northern hemisphere!
The trip is open to ALL photographers, novice to advanced, who are looking to capture fantastic new images and improve their knowledge and skills. There are a number of mini-workshops offered along the way, and the instructional side of the tour is always optional. Novice photographers with will never feel left behind, while advanced shooters will never be held back. We have a lot of experience in conducting seamless photo tours and facilitating positive working environments for all. Plus we have more fun than anyone should be allowed to have with a camera in their hands!
To get some personal insight into Tristan and how he works, please check out this interview.
Colombia Photo Tour Highlights
Exclusive Photography & Cultural Exchange w/ Indigenous Kogi, Wiwa & Wayuu Tribes
World's Most Diverse Tropical Bird Sanctuary
The Rarely Visited Floating Villages of Nueva Venecia
The Unique & Vibrant Umbrella Streets of Cartagena, 'The Pearl of the Caribbean'
Jungle River Cruise - Atmospheric Wildlife
Stunning Barlovento on the Caribbean, where the River Meets the Sea
Photo Shoot w/ the Colorful Elegance of the Iconic Palenquera Ladies
Incredible Sierra Nevada Mountain Landscapes
Gorgeous Spanish Colonial Architecture of Mompox, Cartagena & Santa Marta
Viva Colombia Photo Tour Adventure
Day 1 – Arrival in Santa Marta – Welcome to Colombia!
We will greet you at the Barranquilla Airport & drive you the 90 minutes to Santa Marta. Group orientation and slideshow presentation will be given by Tristan. Meet in the hotel lobby at 5 pm. He will cover some key points on the itinerary that showcase the uniqueness of Colombia and tips on how to best take advantage of its remarkable and varied photo opportunities. Then it will be time for your special Welcome Dinner & Colombian style adult beverages.
Day 2 – Santa Marta - Minca – Indigenous Wiwa & Mountain Landscapes This morning drive 45 minutes to Minca in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ready to get indigenous in a stunning mountain location? We’ll meet the chief of the Wiwa and have VIP access to photograph the village, including a private environmental portrait session with a Wiwa family. Back near Minca at the Mundo Nuevo hotel, meet at the most beautiful viewpoint in the region for sunset landscapes. After dinner will be an optional night photography workshop conducted by Tristan.
Day 3- Minca – San Lorenzo - Incredible Landscapes, Wildlife, Farm Heaven Early morning finds us at one of the most awe inspiring sunrise panorama locations in South America. This area is home to some 365 tropical birds, and we will be joined by a local expert to seek out the most rare & colorful to photograph them. We will have this magical place all to ourselves - no tourists! Later we’ll hike on foot down through the forest to the remote Santa Elena Farm & homestay, where we meet our delightful & talented host, Guitar Anna and her husband. This is an exclusive place boasting incredible views with an ever changing natural lightshow offering epic landscape ops in afternoon, early morning, and even after dark. Being here even w/o a camera, is a rare & unforgettable experience.
Day 4 – Santa Elena Farm - Barlovento – From the Mountains to the Sea Today’s photography is quite varied and interesting. Awaken for sunrise, or sleep in a bit if you wish. After a fantastic farm fresh breakfast served by Guitar Anna, we hike down to meet our vehicles, with photography along the way. At Marinka Waterfall we’ll try some long exposures, and time permitting, we will stop at Colibri to photograph colorful hummingbirds. Awesome lunch on the Rio Piedras, then onto truly stunning Barlovento. The hotel is located where river meets sea, with a high mountain background. It’s a remarkable location for a landscape photography workshop. After dark Tristan will also conduct an optional star photography session.
Day 5 – Barlovento - Kogi Village - Palomino – Meet the Tayrona! Unique experience today with one of the most important indigenous communities in the world, the Kogi. This morning head along the coast and through banana plantations before ascending on an epic drive into the mountains with majestic photo stops. One hour hike to reach the Kogi village. The chief and villagers will meet us according to Kogi tradition, and we will spend the day discovering, learning, gaining trust with our earnest actions, and then photographing them. Daily activities include Coca leaf collection, preparation of the Fiqué fibre, drying the Coca leaf, cooking, picking fruit in the forest, and weaving Mochilas.
Day 6 – Palomino - Wayuu Village - Jungle Rumble & Yonna Ceremony This morning, we follow the “Troncal del Caribe” until the Don Diego riverbanks. From there the journey continues by riverboat into the Taironaka nature reserve. Our specialist guide will help us spot various bird species, Howler monkeys, tiny crocodiles called, Babillas, and more. This is a very atmospheric jungle river cruise which ends at the sea. From there we drive into Wayuu territory at Camarones, also home of a Flamingo Sanctuary where lagoons, rivers and the Caribbean all converge to create unique landscapes & habitat. This afternoon we meet a Wayuu family who will teach us about their culture. We will also have the great privilege to photograph one of their great ceremonial dances, called Yonna.
Day 7 – Camarones – Taganga - Santa Marta - Pink Skies & Silhouettes Wake to catch elegant pink flamingos at sunrise, with the snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in background. With the beautiful morning light, we may also have a chance to photograph other endemic species such as the white-whiskered spinetail, Tocuyo sparrows, etc. When the light gets too harsh we’’ll have breakfast and return again to Santa Marta by the sea. Check-in with our familair friends at the hotel, have a rest and then take the short drive to Taganga. From the beach we will photograph the return of the fishing boats before sunset.
Day 8 – Nueva Venecia – Mompox - Floating Villages, Seabirds & Portraits This morning highlights another Luminous exclusive unknown to tourism, and only to the rare photographer. It’s so pristine in its authenticity we are hesitant to name it directly. Suffice to say it’s a fishing village on the water of a massive lagoon full of beautiful seabirds. We take a private boat first to the mangroves, then to the floating village to see the fisherman at work. Since this is a weekday and school will be in session we will also visit the kids in class which is adorable good fun. Afro inspired Palafitos follow, then it’s off to unspoiled, Colonial Mompox.
Day 9 – Mompox - Dancing Streets, Spanish Architecture & Portraiture Founded by the Spanish in 1530, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mompox is one of the most beautiful jewels of the colonial era. Despite this and it's fantastic location on the Magdalena River, it receives very few visitors. It’s like having a giant living museum just for us! This morning photograph people on the streets, visit a park or two, churches, a few houses of prestigious families, and craft workshops of local artisans. Afternoon finds us on the glorious grounds of the oldest part of the city with professional Cumbia musicians in full costume to embellish our shooting. They will help us create some striking visual art. Live music and dancing at dinner tonight!
Day 10 – Mompox - Cartagena - Road Tripping into a Caribbean Dream It will be tough to leave, but we must! Morning drive to Cartagena, arriving mid-afternoon. The “Pearl of the Caribbean” is justly famous, rich in culture, colorful houses & lively squares. Hotel check-in and freshen-up before exploring lively places like Plaza de los Coches, Bolívar Park, etc. This will be largely free shooting, but Tristan will use his charm to cajole locals into impromptu models when he sees a particularly good possibility. You are encouraged to use your own charm as well! Travel photography isn’t photojournalism, and creative license is fair game indeed. Developing good people skills can go a long way to improve your game. Most people you approach are not bothered at all, but flattered! Smile & engage...
Day 11 – Cartagena - Palenquera Ladies, Umbrella Streets, & Farewell Party This morning in legendary Cartagena will be one of those photographic experiences always remembered fondly. We hit the historical center streets while the tourists are still sleeping off the night before. Using beautiful colonial buildings as backgrounds, we’ll have an exclusive chance to photograph the grace and colorful elegance of the Palenquera ladies, icons of Colombia. Great opportunity to get as street creative as we possibly can! This morning will include old city street dancers, the famous Getsemani district with its great architecture & umbrella streets. Free time until 5pm when we meet for a special Farewell Cocktail Party & Dinner at one of Cartagena’s best restaurants.
Day 12 – Cartagena - Flying Home for Dinner – Vaya con Dios! Don’t worry, there is time this morning to sleep off any party juice you may have been a little over exuberant with last night! When ready we'll drive you to Cartagena's international airport, only 15 minutes away. Trust us when we say - you will miss this place! But you'll have many a good Colombia photo tour story and a lot of wonderful new photographs to share...
Arrival/Departure Flights for the US – American Airlines flight #1125 departs daily from Miami to Barranquilla at 10:40 am, arriving at 1:30 pm. On the return flight, American #1144 from Cartagena to Miami departs daily at 1:44. There are also daily flights to Atlanta.
Note : Approximately 100 days prior to photo tour start date, you will receive a 30+ page Viva Colombia photo tour pdf with full details, inc. visas, hotels, flights, equipment, etc. Also please note that small changes in the tour and/or sequencing of the photo shoots may occur. The above schedule is only a brief, and photo tours are best left with some flexibility to adapt to any changes on the ground.
Mini-workshops, as well as opportunities for image review, can all be integrated into a suitable time-frame as your Colombia photo tour unfolds.
What’s Included in the Price of Your Colombia Photo Tour?
Pro Photographer Tour Leader – Speaks fluent English, Spanish & French
Local English speaking guides
All tour accommodation
All meals (water included)
All tour ground transport
Local model & entrance fees
International flights to and from Colombia
Any kind of insurance (Trip cancellation, medical, etc.) which we urge you to have
Other personal expenses
Tips for local guides, staff, Tristan
Drinks at Meals other than water
Any OYO excursions
More Knowledge – Better Pictures
The Kogi (Kogi means “Jaguar) are descendants of the Tayrona Civilzation that flourished for centuries before the Spanish conquest which began in 1498. The Tayrona population (which includes a few related tribal groups) is estimated to be more than 10,000. They reside in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in circular huts of stone, mud, and palm leaves. Villages are a purposely small series of villages called Kuibolos. Kogi believe they are the “Elder Brothers" of the world, while outsides are the “Younger Brothers”. It is their eternal role as Kogi to conserve the natural treasures of the Sierra, which to them represents the source of all life.
These beliefs are maintained today. They say that the many exploitations of the earth by Younger Brothers are weakening mother earth and leading to our destruction. The Kogi Mamos (priests who undergo many years of training inside dark caves) have remained isolated from the rest of the world for 500 years. They rarely interact with outsiders. They believe that their work as Elder Brother is instrumental in helping to prolong life on earth. To anthropologists, the Kogi, who have maintained their beliefs and traditions for at least 1500 years, are regarded as one of the most valuable ancestral cultures on the planet. For Younger Brother photographers fortunate enough to visit, respect and permission is the order of the day.
Cartagena is a beautiful city no doubt, but it has a dark history as a major port of the Spanish slave trade. Out of this dark past shone the light of the Palenqueras, those smiling ladies in colorful dresses selling fruit from bowls balancing on their heads. No Colombia photo tour would be complete without them!
About four centuries ago there was an African slave rebellion in Cartagena. Hundreds of slaves escaped to the jungles outside of the city and set up strongholds, called palenques. Over time most of the palenques were found and destroyed. One that survived and revived their African roots by sheer guts, guile and luck, was San Basilio de Palenque. And from San Basilio came the Palenqueras of Cartagena. It sprang simply as a determined means to make a living. The big city demands were being met, there wasn’t much of a market, so the Palenqueras created one. They picked fresh fruits from the jungle, dressed in traditional bright colors, smiled even more brightly, and sold the best for less!
In 2005, UNESCO formally declared San Basilio de Palenque one of the “Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” The Palenqueras have been informally declared by millions as wonderful icons of Colombia, and you will have a chance to photograph them in the streets of Cartagena.