The Mountains and Islands of Baja California Sur

LANDSCAPE Photography Holiday
Baja California Sur – Mexico
February 1st – February 7th 2013
Tour Leaders: Chris O’Dell BSC & Nic Slocum PhD, FRGS

Whales Worldwide in association with The Wildlife Film School is running a small group Landscape Photography expedition to Baja California Sur, Mexico – February 1st to February 7th 2013. This is a fully guided landscape photography expedition (with a bit of wildlife thrown in!) to this unique and beautiful land of deserts, mountains, sea and islands with experienced photographer Chris O’Dell and Baja guide Nic Slocum.

The Baja peninsular in Mexico has to be one of the finest landscape photography destinations in the world, with an eclectic mix of some of the most unusual landscapes and architecture – deserts, mountains, canyons, islands, bizarre rock formations and the unique architecture of the old Spanish missions. From the cactus forests of this remote peninsular to the islands of the Loreto Marine Reserve – the photography challenges are many. Throw in the rapidly changing light conditions and you have a destination that will test the skills of the most experienced photographer. You will return a more intuitive photographer following this experience.

Our Mexican photography holiday destination will be the lovely old town of Loreto which was the first Spanish settlement on Baja California Sur.The Spanish influence is still clearly evident in the old town. The settlement was founded in 1697 and served as the state capital of Las Californias until 1777.  We will stay in the prestigious La Mision Hotel, widely considered to be the best hotel in Loreto, close to the historic district and overlooking the serene and calm Sea of Cortez – dubbed by Jacques Cousteau “The Aquarium of the World” due to it’s rich marine wildlife diversity.

Highlights of this photographic expedition…

  • The old missions of San Javier and Loreto and the unique architecture of this part of Mexico
  • The spectacular canyons and dry watercourses of the Sierra de la Giganta mountains
  • Isla del Coronado and its unusual rock formations and stunning desert plants
  • The amazingly photogenic people of Baja
  • Isla del Carmen and the deserted salt mining area
  • The cactus forests and mangroves of Baja

For those interested in wildlife there are the birthing lagoons of the Pacific Gray Whales at Lopez Mateos that we visit and the amazing birdlife of the coast, the cactus forests, the mangroves and the waterways of Nopolo. We have a dedicated wildlife photography holiday with well know Irish wildlife photographer Sheena Jolley running at the same time so there will be opportunities to cross over if one of the wildlife photography options appeals to you.

The Canyons of Santa Domingo

All landscape photography tours are accompanied by Chris O’Dell who is famous for his willingness to impart tips and advice on achieving that “special” shot – experience gathered over a career spanning several decades. One of Chris’s skills is his ability to look at things differently and see the different shot that may be obtained from one particular subject making an image interesting and unusual for the viewer and a rewarding challenge for the photographer. With tips and advice from Chris you are guaranteed to return a more competent and confident photographer.

Any boat based excursions are accompanied by experienced wildlife guide Nic Slocum but we use local boat handlers with local knowledge and expertise and adhere very strictly to current safety and wildlife engagement protocols. The gray whale mothers and curious calves will sometimes approach so closely to the boat that you can literally touch them let alone photograph them!

The sand dunes of Lopéz Mateos

More general information about Loreto…

The immediate area around Loreto is a land of contradictions. Desert, sea, mountains and islands which have nearly 250 km of coastline with 750 square km of sea around 14 islands. The Sierra de la Giganta mountain range is one of the tallest and most spectacular in Baja and overlooks the town ofLoretocreating a breathtaking backdrop. The surrounding desert landscapes are rich in unique plant and animal life. The weather around Loreto is generally warm with more than 300 days of sunshine annually. The summer months can be hot but temperatures during February and March are warm and comfortable.

For those interested in local history the mountains around San Javier have ancient missions to explore. In addition to whales and dolphins the marine life includes the California fur seal (sea lions) and many unique bird species.

To Contact Us…

To register your interest or request a booking form or if you have any questions at all please email or phone Nic on:

Tel: 00 353 86 120 0027


Gray whale calf alongside panga

Colourful shrubs


We choose to stay in Loreto as this is an excellent destination from where we can get up into the mountains of the Sierra de la Giganta and out to the islands of the Loreto Marine Reserve. It is also the best spot to get across to see the Gray Whales on the Pacific side of Baja. Flights to Loreto only operate four days a week and the plane is a relatively small Turbo Prop Bombardier with limited seating so we have to book well in advance for groups to ensure we can get reservations to Loreto. There are other flights to La Paz and Los Cabos on Baja but routing through these airports requires land transportation to get back to Loreto which uses up time. This is why we start marketing these holidays very early.


If you would like to book place/s on this landscape photography holiday please request a booking form. A deposit of 25% will secure your place. To make life as easy as possible we are able to take payments in € (euro) or £ (sterling) equivalent. We can take credit cards, bank transfers or cheques…whichever is most convenient.

After a fantastic morning at Lopéz Mateos and ready for lunch and a beer

Dates & Prices

February 1st - February 7th 2013

The cost of this week long photography opportunity is €1,995 (euro). This does not include the flight to and from Los Angeles.

What IS included:

  • Hotel accommodation in Los Angeles (hotel located close to the airport) on the outward leg only. Does not include food
  • Return flight from Los Angeles to Loreto
  • Transport to and from airport at Los Angeles and Loreto
  • Hotel accommodation in Loreto
  • Lunch is included from Saturday to Wednesday inclusive, the five tour days but not on the Friday or Thursday
  • All tours to the islands, into the mountains and whale watching
  • All transport where required including tours to see the cave paintings.

What IS NOT included:

  • Return flights to Los Angeles. Fares are reasonable at this time of year and we will help in researching the best airfares if required
  • Hotel accommodation on the return leg at Los Angeles airport as many customers take an extra day or two out to explore Los Angeles
  • Breakfasts and evening meals are not included
  • Personal items purchased while on holiday such as souvenirs and presents
  • Alcoholic beverages you might require at any time
  • Any tours or vehicle hire you require outside the published itinerary.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1. Thursday.

The adventure begins. Flight toLos Angeles arriving afternoon or early evening. Staying one night close to the airport in one of the excellent airport hotels. A chance to unwind, have a nice meal or simply catch up on some sleep. After breakfast the following day (Friday) we will fly down to Loreto, Baja California Sur leaving at around 1pm. There is only the one flight a day to Loreto and it takes around two hours. This will afford you your first glimpses of why this beautiful desert peninsular is such a special destination for photographers looking for more challenging subject matter. Whatever type of photographer you are, be it landscapes, seascapes, wildlife or architecture you will find this destination both challenging and rewarding. There are also the incredibly photogenic Mexican people of Baja!

Day 2. Friday.

We arrive in Loreto mid afternoon and settle into our hotel, La Mision on the Loreto waterfront, close to the old historic district. The transfer to our hotel from the airport at Loreto is around 15-20 minutes. We should be checked in by late afternoon if flights are on time.. Evening is free time to explore the area and get to know Loreto and take a few shots perhaps, meeting at “La Palapa” for Margaritas and to discuss the weeks itinerary and activity programme. There will also be a short talk this evening about setting up cameras and bringing everyone up to speed on what we are trying to achieve as a group during the week. There are buildings in Loreto that date back to the 18th Century!

Day 3. Saturday.

We head up into the high sierra for those grand sweeping mountain landscape vistas south of Loreto. This will involve some walking as you follow the old road through the mountains from Agua Verde to Loreto. In reality you only cover two or three miles of the track as there are so many photography opportunities along the way. Managing lighting conditions will be the greatest challenge today.

Day 4. Sunday.

Today we head up into the mountains of the interior of the Baja peninsular, the Sierra de la Giganta, to visit the cave murals, the cuevas pintas, in the rock shelters and canyons of these impressively beautiful desert mountains. We will explore the amazing oasis and palms at the rupestrian cave site. We will also stop at the beautiful old mission of San Francisco Javier De Vigge-Biundo (San Javier for short!), the second mission to be established on Baja in 1699 and one of the best preserved. It is still in use today. The mission nestles at the base of the mountains in an oasis of green palms and colourful flowering shrubs where life has changed little over the last 100 years and looks as if it will continue for much the same way into the future. We will also have time to photograph the dry watercourses in the mountains. Capturing the majesty of the mountains and their contrast with the oasis will be the challenge for may be changing lenses a bit today I suspect.

Day 5. Monday.

A tour to Isla Del Carmen, one of the largest islands in the Bay of Loreto. After a short boat ride we will spend time exploring this beautiful but stark island. The islands dotted around this part of the Sea of Cortez are stunningly attractive with unspoiled, sun drenched beaches and out of this world rock formations. A good opportunity to practice all those skills learned earlier in the week and also to shoot those all too difficult seascapes. Chris is very experienced at making images that include the sea - get him to show you some of the images he has taken of the estuary near his home. Creating interest in the image will be the task for today as there is a lot of sea out there!

Day 6. Tuesday.

A tour to Coronado Island from Loreto, one of the prettiest islands in the Bay of Loreto national marine reserve. After a boat based tour of the unusual volcanic rock formations of this island where we will be shooting from the boat we will spend time exploring this fabulously beautiful reserve. The islands dotted around this part of the Sea of Cortez are stunningly attractive with unspoiled, sun drenched white coral sand beaches and out of this world rock formations. The lovely desert scenery and plants with many unusual species of cactus and succulents adapted to the harsh, dry environment top it all off. One delight of this tour is to lie on your back on the white sand beach and watch the frigate birds and turkey buzzards cruise overhead. There are some lovely photography opportunities on this tour for the amateur and professional alike but beware those bright sky backgrounds for the shots of flying birds you may take!

Day 7. Wednesday.

You can't leave Baja without seeing the Gray Whales! We spend a day down at Puerto San Carlos and the Magdalena Bay area on the Pacific side of Baja watching the Pacific Gray Whales and their two tonne calves! Although you can see the whales from the land here we hire a Panga (local boat) with a local boat handler and head out on the calm waters of the bay looking for these huge mammals in addition to the sea lions and birdlife. Prior to their arrival at Magdalena Bay these whales have made one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom. Travelling non stop from their northern feeding grounds in the Bering Sea all the way down to the bays and lagoons on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsular – a 12,000 mile round trip! The more inquisitive animals will approach the boat affording us excellent close photographic opportunities  and sometimes the chance to physically touch the calves.

Day 8. Thursday.

Free day around Loreto followed by our flight back to Los Angeles in the afternoon complete with sun tan, many memories and some lovely images of this spectacular part of Mexico. Many customers choose to stay over for two or three days in downtown Los Angeles to see the sights and practice their new found photographic skills, returning home on Sunday.


To follow.

Tour Add Ons

To follow.

Trip Notes

Photography Guide...

The lead photography guide on this landscape photography expedition will be:   chris-odell-whales-worldwide-smallChris O'Dell   Chris is a photographer and cinematographer, a graduate of the London International Film School. Initially trained as a stills photographer, he travelled widely in the 70s and 80s filming documentaries of every kind, including the world famous "Cosmos" with Carl Sagan, and "The Heart of the Dragon", the story of China, for Channel 4. Chris was cameraman on two major wildlife series for Channel 4 with naturalists Gerald and Lee Durrell, "Ourselves and other Animals" and "The Amateur Naturalist". As a qualified diver, Chris spent a lot of time filming underwater for the BBC and other clients. He ran a successful production company making arts and music programmes for the BBC. Since 1990 Chris has been the director of photography on many very successful TV drama series including Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Sharpe, Hornblower, Inspector Morse, the Morse sequel Lewis, and many single dramas. Chris lives and works in West Cork and photographs the wonderful changing light on the landscape of West Cork for which he employs Nikon, Apple, Photoshop and Epson equipment. You can view some of Chris O'Dell's photographs on his website:

Wildlife & Tour Guide

The lead wildlife guide on this landscape photography expedition will be:   dr-nic-slocum-whales-worldwide-smallNic Slocum   Nic is an experienced naturalist and wildlife guide and is best known for his escorted tours taking enthusiasts out, both inIrelandand overseas, to view and photograph whales and dolphins. Nic has maintained a lifelong passion for the conservation of our wildlife and wild places and has appeared as an expert commentator on RTE, Channel 4 and ITV. A zoologist by training, Nic has published articles on conservation related issues in both regional and national newspapers. Nic Slocum lives and works in West Cork and is a director of Whales World Wide which runs tours to watch whales and dolphins in many exotic locations around the world. Nic has been watching whales and dolphins from boats for over 25 years in places as far apart as New England, Argentina and New Zealand. Nic is no stranger to adventure and leading groups to remote places on earth; in 1976 he led an expedition across the Sahara desert crossing by the central Ahaggar mountain route and re-crossing via the Tanezrouft Reg which earned him Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society.