Photographing Southern Baja, Mexico

Mexico is one of my favorite places to travel and photograph. Although it has recently been getting negative media coverage for events occurring mostly in cities near the US border related to drug trafficking issues, my experience is that many areas in Mexico pose minimal risk for travelers; certainly less risk than places within the United States. Millions of Americans live in cities with higher crime and violence rates than the places I visit in Mexico. Americans think very little of visiting places such as Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC. However, I do meet people from other countries who avoid visiting those cities based on what they see on TV.

In the past couple of years I have traveled to and photographed several locations in Mexico in which I felt very safe and saw no signs of the problems being reported in the news. Some of the locations in Mexico that I have been to recently can be seen in my Mexico photo galleries including Guanajuato, Sayulita, Puerto Escondido, Mineral de Pozos and San Miguel de Allende.

Most recently I spent eight days traveling extensively through southern Baja California. I passed through several towns including La Paz, Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, San Jose Del Cabo, Santiago and La Ventana while scouting for a photography workshop that I'll be leading with professional photographers David M. Cobb and Christian Heeb in November of 2011. The remote end of the finger of land known as the Baja Peninsula is further from the troubles of northern Mexico than many places in the US. Largely uninhabited, Baja presents an otherworldly desert landscape filled with towering cardon cactus and bordered by the achingly clear turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez. The lifestyle we found there was very relaxed and peaceful. The small but well maintained two lane roads through the desert had very little traffic and the people were gracious and welcoming. Very few places I have visited have felt as safe or as accessible.

The best part of the trip was the variety of new and different subjects to photograph which are not part of my familiar NW landscapes. The other best part was the fact that in November, when my home town is engulfed in freezing fog and rain, the weather was about as perfect as it could be. It was comfortably cool at night, warming up to the high 80's during the day with relatively low humidity for the latitude. The crystal clear water of the Sea of Cortez was the temperature of a heated swimming pool.

The entire Gulf of California was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2005. One of the highlights was hiring small fishing boats to take us out to some of the nearby islands, most notably Isla Espiritu Santo, but also Isla Cerralvo. These islands have been protected as wilderness and are teaming with wildlife, both above and below the sea. If you have ever seen photos of cactus perched above pristine turquoise bays there is a good chance it was on Espiritu Santo. This may also be one of the few places where you can easily snorkel with sea lions and sea lion pups without need of a wet suit.

The most intimidating place in southern Baja I visited was Cabo San Lucas and that was almost entirely due to the Americans spilling out of cruise ships, visiting dance clubs, chartering fishing boats and building mansions on precipitous cliff above the sea. At one time the landscape at the southern most point of Baja must have been a true natural wonder, but now it is almost completely developed. Still, the beaches and rocky cliffs at Land's End are so beautiful that they are worth seeing and photographing even in their current state of development. The towering arch on the southern most tip known as El Arco is a wonder to behold.

We discovered a wonderful Oasis in Cabo, Los Milagros hotel. The quiet garden courtyard setting, attractive rooms and friendly owner made it hard to believe it was located in the center of Cabo. We are making a point to stay at Los Milagros with the photography workshop next year. We also found similar quiet, friendly and comfortable lodging at el Angel Azul in La Paz and at the Ventana Bay Resort in La Ventana.

Los Milagros El Angel Azul

One of the highlights of the trip was photographing the Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebrations in La Paz. This Mexican festival held in Early November honors and remembers those who have died. While the Day of the Dead is not nearly as popular in Baja as it is in other parts of the country, La Paz has a wonderful event at the city's outdoor theater that features a beauty pageant, dancing, poetry readings and theatrical performances. The colors, lights and costumes all made for some great photo opportunities and a true departure from my normal nature focus. We are timing the 2011 workshop to allow us to photograph this event again.

Even though I had wanted to travel to southern Baja for some time, the experience exceeded my expectations. It provided a near perfect combination of safety, adventure, culture, comfort, weather, great people and photographic interest. With at least three more months of hard winter weather coming up here in the NW I'm already anticipating my next visit. Perhaps the best part will be the opportunity to share it with the photographers who join us for the workshop. No matter where these workshops take me it's always with a great groups of folks who enjoy expanding their photography skills and having a rip roaring good time.

If you would like more information on the November 2011 Baja California photography workshop it is available on my Workshops Page.

  • Jon Cornforth

    Fantastic images, Sean! Lovely work.

  • Sean Herman

    Hey. As an aspiring photographer myself, I really like your work and was wondering if you could give me a few tips.

    How did you get your name out there? I have a site, from which I am trying to sell prints of my work. What do you think of it? I still need to make business cards... I use a Nikon P90 and would like to get a DSLR when i can afford one.

    Please reply when you get the chance.

    Thanks, Sean.

  • Sean Bagshaw

    Hi Sean - Thanks for your question. There is too much info in that answer to post here on the blog comments. Send me an email at and I'll reply there. Cheers, Sean

  • Moral;ea Milne

    I too love Mexico and Mexicans, and have never had a problem there. Your photos are absolutely fabulous! The Mexican tourist bureau should give you a commission...