On Location

Morocco: A Photographic Journey

with Jennifer Spelman

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Course Description

COVID-19 Update:
For in-person workshops, Santa Fe Workshops requires that all participants attending workshops be fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination. This requirement applies to students, staff, and instructors.

They say that within the shadows of the Sahara Desert it’s possible to the hear the sound of the stars as they glimmer with the embroidered melody of the infinite sand. Indeed, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakech, and the Sahara are places that live in our imagination with their endless array of immortal stories.

Join world travelers Jennifer Spelman and Derek Baron on a winding journey into the heart of Morocco and through a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, enticing aromas, and evocative sounds. We venture deep into the markets and side streets of ancient cities, straight across the mesmerizing dunes of the Sahara Desert, over towering mountain ranges, and into isolated villages and valleys home to a traditional way of life that few visitors have the chance to experience.

We begin our 12-day adventure by meeting in Morocco’s economic capital, Casablanca, for a welcome dinner. To get our cameras in order and find our bearings, we spend our first day exploring this melting pot of a city on foot. We then travel in an 18-passenger Mercedes van to the imperial city of Fez, where medieval roots are still visible and a never-ending maze of lanes and streets waits to be discovered and photographed. Our home for two nights is a beautiful luxury hotel on the edge of the old city, a perfect location to allow us to move at a slower pace and make deeper personal connections with the people we meet, we explore Fez in small guided groups.

Our fourth day takes us on a scenic journey across the magnificent Middle and High Atlas Mountains. We stop for nourishment and to create new images along the beautiful Ziz Valley and in the alpine town of Ifrane. We arrive at the edge of the great Sahara Desert and the remote town of Merzouga. Before spending the night in a traditional riad on the edge of the Sahara Desert, we end our day photographing the sunset over the desert. Then, in the early light of morning, we visit local Berber and Gnawa communities—a rare experience enjoyed by few travelers. We’ll continue to explore the desert region throughout the day before spending another night at the edge of the Sahara.

The following day, with the vast Sahara ahead of us, we each make a choice to trek on camelback or ride by Jeep across the brilliant Erg Chebbi sand dunes to reach our desert campsite of luxury yurts. A delicious dinner, traditional music around a campfire, stargazing, and night-sky photography conclude a full and exhilarating day.

Day seven begins with a multicolored sunrise over the sweeping Sahara and ends with last light in the palm groves of the lush Dades Valley. In between we take a journey over the Jebl Sahro Mountains, discovering the souks and kasbahs of Tinerhir. This night will be spent at a beautiful luxury guesthouse nestled into the narrow Dades Gorge. The next morning, we head out to the High Atlas Mountains surrounding the Dades Valley in 4×4 vehicles and drive across the high desert plains to the remote town of Bou Tharar. Along the way, we stop to visit nomadic Bedouin cave dwellers, learn about their traditions, and photograph their daily lives. Once in Bou Tharar, we take a guided walk to explore and photograph this beautiful village with its 300-year-old kasbahs and endless fields of flowers.

Our ninth day is a portrait photographer’s delight, and we focus our attention and cameras on the families that live in the small villages in the Dades Valley. In addition to being invited into Berber and Bedouin homes, we make portraits of locals among the spectacular rock formations. A relaxing picnic lunch alongside a nearby stream and an afternoon of hiking Monkey Fingers Gorge or a cooking class hosted in a private residence rounds out this special day.

Next, magic and mystery loom large ahead of us. We depart the Dades Valley and again cross the Atlas Mountains, stopping in the UNESCO-recognized village of Ait-Benhaddou, known for its traditional mud-brick homes and as the location of many movies, including Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator. As the light fades, we enter the most beloved city in all of Morocco—Marrakech. Our final days are spent exploring this enchanting metropolis of incredible architecture, bustling markets, centuries-old crafts, constant celebrations, intense colors and aromas, and an infectious positive energy. Marrakech dazzles all the senses, and we record stories of the city through our images.

On each day during our adventure, Jennifer shares techniques for street photography, dynamic portraiture, and capturing layered landscapes. Our enduring focus is on creating mindful images, and group review sessions allow space for valuable feedback. Morocco is a safe, welcoming and politically stable place to visit. Apart from some people attempting to guide you through the markets in exchange for money, tourist scams are rare. Our well-planned daily itineraries—combined with the expertise of our local guides—assure a pleasant, inspiring, and wonder-filled experience.

Morocco is situated at the very intersection of Europe and Africa, a place of preserved traditions and warm hospitality and the perfect backdrop for capturing memorable photographs. From Bedouin to Berber to Gnawa communities, this promises to be an unforgettable journey.

Additional Information


This program is open to photographers at all levels who are passionate about travel and improving their image making.

What You Should Know:

Participants should be in very good health with good stamina and mobility. While the tour itself is not very strenuous, please note that it can involve the following: somewhat long days, a good amount of walking, being in the sun in potentially hot temperatures, long journeys, steep stairs, uneven terrain, early morning wake-ups and other similar scenarios.

Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. This a photographic tour, not a photography workshop and there isn’t structured classroom time. There are individual and group image review sessions with Jennifer, as well as help with photographic ideas and techniques on-location.

For the convenience of participants, recordings of each class session are posted privately for one month after the end of each session. Santa Fe Workshops takes the recordings down after one month to protect the intellectual property of our instructors.

Portraiture, Storytelling, Street Photography, Travel Photography
© Nerissa Escanlar
Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer and member of the Jibaro Photos Collective. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.

Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.

A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co- instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Romania, India, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.

A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Instagram: @jennifer_spelman

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