Karen Kasmauski & Bill Douthitt Workshop in Bolivia: Lake Titicaca & Uyuni Salt Flats – 10 days

Embark on an electrifying photography odyssey across Bolivia’s Altiplano, where the majestic Andes Mountains await to dazzle your visual senses! This captivating journey promises an adrenaline-pumping blend of exploration and skill refinement as you capture the untamed and mesmerizing landscapes of South America.

At the heart of this thrilling expedition, you’ll find the skillful guidance of two seasoned experts: Karen Kasmauski, a master photographer, and Bill Douthitt, a veteran picture editor. Combining six decades of experience at National Geographic Magazine and other esteemed publications, they bring not only photographic expertise but also insights into editing, design, book creation, and exhibition curation.

As the digital age matures, choosing the right tool for the job is as important as choosing the destination.  On all tours offered by Sergio Photo Tours, you are welcome to use whatever tool you have available; from digital cameras to smart phones.  The variety of subject matter we will cover range from intimate portraits to landscapes and whether you choose a smart phone (Apple or Android) or a digital camera, the photographic base of knowledge and the development of your photographic vision are the same.  The latest smart phone cameras available to anyone in the marketplace are competing directly with higher end digital cameras, except in the telephoto and specialized optics categories.  But, you can purchase lenses and cases that can add more capability to your smart phone of choice.  Bring what you have.  Better yet, bring both.  We will show you how to get the most from whatever you want to use.  The emphasis will be on developing your unique photographic vision, less on the technical capabilities of each platform.

Your adventure begins in La Paz with an acclimatization period on Lake Titicaca and the Island of the Sun‘s visiting Inca ruins, before heading south into the Altiplano, where ancient civilization’s ruins echo amidst the challenges of the harsh environment. From the ethereal vastness of the world’s largest salt flat to the vibrant spectacle of volcanoes that look like melted candles, every moment presents a thrilling opportunity to capture the essence of this extraordinary landscape.

What truly sets this photo expedition workshop apart is its innovative, assignment-centric approach. You’ll push the boundaries of creativity through immersive shooting sessions and personalized editing guidance. By the end of this epic 10-day photo journey, you’ll have not only expanded your technical skills, but also gained deeper understanding of visual storytelling. You will return home invigorated and inspired from a photographic adventure with a meticulously curated portfolio that you’ll be proud to showcase.

Dates: October 31 – November 9, 2024

Karen Kasmauski

Karen Kasmauski is an award-winning photographer renowned for her extensive work with National Geographic, covering 25 major stories on topics ranging from radiation and viruses to global health issues and societal challenges like obesity. Her photography spans over 50 countries, documenting events such as earthquakes in Japan and life in Alaska’s north slope. Notable projects include books exploring nursing issues and global health, both featuring introductions by former President Jimmy Carter, as well as a documentary on Japanese war brides. Kasmauski also shares her expertise through teaching and leading workshops worldwide. Her talent has earned her prestigious awards and exhibitions at renowned venues.

Portfolio

Pulitzer Center

The Photo Society

Bill Douthitt

Bill Douthitt, as Science Magazine’s Photography Managing Editor, revolutionized its visual content by hiring top global photographers for covers and features on cutting-edge science. Formerly at National Geographic (for over two decades), he produced acclaimed single-subject editions and oversaw projects like the Millennium Project. Douthitt collaborated on notable stories, such as the Titanic anniversary with Jim Cameron and interviews with Buzz Aldrin. He’s also taught visual storytelling at esteemed institutions like the Maine Media Workshops and has earned awards for his work in photography editing.

Instagram

Linkedin

 

Tour Length
10 Days
10 Nights
Start / End City
Arrival: La Paz, Bolivia
Departure: La Paz, Bolivia
Best Season

October to November

Dates

October 31 – November 9, 2024

Please contact us for dates
Group Size Limit

6 (minimum) - 10 (maximum) Guests

Transportation

Van & 4x4 vehicles

Accommodations

Hotels & Hostels

Challenge Level

Level 3 - Moderate

Highlights

 

  • Instructors Karen Kasmauski and Bill Douthitt; decades of experience at National Geographic
  • In-depth photography workshop focused on an assignment-centric shoot-and-edit curriculum
  • Smart phone (Apple & Android) friendly…use your smart phone or camera, the goal is to develop your vision
  • La Paz, Bolivia – the world’s highest Capital city, nestled between the Andes and Altiplano at 12,000’/3,660m
  • Andes Mountains – the world’s longest chain with many peaks over 20,000’/6,000m
  • Lake Titicaca – the world’s highest navigable lake in Bolivia and Peru at 12,500’/3,810m
  • Bolivia’s Altiplano – 2nd highest plateau outside of Tibet – with an average height of 13,500’/4,100m
  • Native Aymara and Quechua people that are part of the intricate social fabric of Bolivia
  • Inca ruins on the Island of the Sun, the birthplace of the largest empire in South America
  • Uyuni Salt Flats – the world’s largest and highest salt flat – 4,085 sq mi/10,500 sq km at 12,000’/3,660m

Prices

Our tour prices are based on a tiered pricing modelMore guests = lower price, per person.  That means the prices go down on a per-person basis as more people book onto a specific tour departure.  Prices are based on double occupancy / twin share basis.  All prices are in U$ Dollars.  

Contact us for guidance on a quote for your group or private trip.

Lowest Price10 travelers$4,675 / per person
Average Price9 travelers$ 4,925 / per person
Optimum Price8 travelers$ 5,350 / per person
Highest Price6-7 travelers$ 5,950 / per person
Single Supplement Feeper person / per tour$ 985 / per single room
  • Single Supplement Fees are quoted per tour.  Contact us for details.
  • Deposit: $ 700.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee, included in the final price).
  • International airfare is NOT included in price.
  • For airline tickets, contact Geo Travel at 210-225-7903

Daily Itinerary

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Day 1 / Thu / Oct 31: Arrival La Paz, Bolivia (AM) – City Tour (PM)

 

Depending on your international flight schedule you will arrive very early in the morning (between 2-6 AM) at El Alto International Airport. The airport is in the city of El Alto which is on the edge of the Altiplano at 13,200’/4,100m above La Paz. Downtown La Paz is at 12,000’/3,660m and you are now at high altitude; so, you need to be aware of the effects of altitude on your body. You may feel light-headed and short of breath, but that’s normal.  Once we drop down 3,000’/900m in elevation to your hotel at 10,200’/3,100m you should feel much better.

Upon arrival, you go through Bolivian Immigration for your tourist visa (issued upon arrival) then Customs (Aduana).  Your guide will be waiting for you at the general passenger meeting point, just look for the sign from Sergio Photo Tours.  We will take your luggage to our private vehicle for transport to the hotel. We drive from the airport to the lowest elevation in the city of La Paz via winding roads with breathtaking views of the valley below. We head to Hotel Casa Grande Suites (5*) located in Calacoto-Achumani neighborhood.  You’ll check in and rest until lunch time (on your own) at the hotel.

The best way to acclimatize to altitude, is to move slowly, drink plenty of water and rest when you are tired.  Acclimatization time is a very personal affair, some do it quickly, and others take more time. It can take a few hours or a few days.  Listen to your body.  We design all high-altitude itineraries with acclimatization time built-in.

At 2 pm we’ll begin a 4-hour city tour of this fascinating city deep in the heart of the Andes; visiting open air markets, colonial neighborhoods, the witches’ market and take in the vast canyon of La Paz from breathtaking viewpoints.  We return to your hotel so you can rest before dinner.

After the city tour concludes you can freshen up and rest before dinner.  We will get to know each other better over a welcome dinner and talk about the rest of the trip in detail.  Now would be a good time to make sure everyone is set with all their clothing and equipment questions and anything else they need. We recommend a light dinner, avoid alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.  During the day you may want to enjoy coffee/tea or a Mate de Coca (coca tea), a local herbal tea that helps with acclimatization, but refrain from it at night.  Anise and chamomile teas help with digestion as well.

Keep drinking water, it’s very important for acclimatization.

Hotel: Miru Sur (5*)

Meals included:  D

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Day 2 / Fri / Nov 1: La Paz - open air markets - canyons - La Paz

 

We hope you rested well and enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the hotel.  We depart early to various locations within the city of La Paz, specifically to the open air markets as people are buying food to prepare for making meals for the dead. As we go deep into the bowels of the Indian quarter of La Paz we will witness anything from the odd to the weird and fascinating. It is a kaleidoscope of color, frenetic energy and deep religious beliefs; a mix of Pagan-Christian beliefs that create a unique opportunity to see people venerate the departed.  We break for lunch, then a brief review of what was shot that morning and head out to the agricultural fields in the eroded canyons near La Paz.  We return to our hotel to download photos, prepare for dinner then have a post-dinner class. Dinner and overnight in La Paz.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals Included: B, L, D

Mt. Ancohuma (6428m/21,085ft) in the Cordillera Real as seen fro

Day 3 / Sat / Nov 2: La Paz - All Saints Day - Lake Titicaca - Copacabana

 

Today is the Day of the Dead (el Dia de Los Muertos)…celebrations and reverie are happening all across the land.  We bypass the melee downtown and head out onto the Altiplano.  We depart west, along the shores of Lake Titicaca towards the pilgrimage city of Copacabana near the Island of the Sun. This route is one of the most breathtaking roads in the Andes and we have plenty of places to stop for the grand view of Lake Titicaca and the Cordillera Real to the east. The road takes us across the Straits of Tiquina then onto the Copacabana Peninsula to the end of the road. The border of Peru is just 20 minutes up the road. The Islands of the Sun and Moon are only an hour sail by motorized boat, both boasting grandiose Inca ruins and tremendous views of Lake Titicaca and the Andes. We will have lunch in Copacabana upon arrival then check into our hotel. Afterwards we have classroom and review to check progress on your photos. We will find a good location for the sunset and enjoy some magnificent views of the lake and Andes and the rugged landscapes of the Copacabana peninsula. Dinner and overnight in Copacabana.

Hotel: Gloria Copacabana (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 4 / Sun / Nov 3: Copacabana - Sampaya - Moon Island - Sun Island

 

Sunrise in Copacabana is always recommended, for those inclined, prepare to depart early. We return to have breakfast at the hotel, pack and head to the end of the road to a stone village called Sampaya, where an Inca road takes us into the heart of it…and their cemetery. This is a very old and traditionally built village; stone walls and thatched roofs with a nice view of the Island of the Moon. From here we board a motorized boat and head over to the Moon Island to visit some Inca ruins, then motor over to the southern end of the Sun Island where will spend two nights.  Our luggage will be taken by burros and porters to our hotel, a few hundred feet up the island. We will take our time, enjoy the views and slowly make our way to the top of the island via the Inca Stairs.  The views are nothing short of stunning and there are plenty of locals to photograph en-route. Once at the hotel, we check-in before having lunch. This is a no-vehicle location, everything is on foot, so our walks will be on well-established trails and we also have the option of getting into a boat to see some sights that require more travel time.  We will have time for image review before heading out the door for the sunset.  The island has many incredible locations, but it is recommended that we stay at the top of the island so we have better views of the sunset over Peru to the west and the sun’s ray lighting up the Cordillera Real, across the lake to the east.  Dinner and overnight on Sun Island.

Hotel: La Posada del Inca (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 5 / Mon / Nov 4: Island of the Sun - Chincana Inca ruins - full day

 

Do not miss the sunrise this morning…as the sun rises behind the Royal Mountain Range directly across the lake from us. We enjoy a leisurely breakfast then head to the north end of the Island to see the Chincana Inca ruins. Lunch at an appointed time before walking back across the top of the island to our hotel.  After we review photos we head out for sunset at another beautiful location. Dinner and overnight for our 2nd night on the Island of the Sun.

Hotel: La Posada del Inca (4*)

Meals included: B, L, D

An elderly Aymara woman tends to her scraggly sheep in the villa

Day 6 / Tue / Nov 5: Sun Island - Yampupata - La paz

 

Sunrises can be quite good here so the early risers should be out early for the clean beautiful light. Once everyone has enjoyed breakfast, we pack up and head down to the port where our boat will be waiting.  A refreshing 1-hour sail takes us to the end of the Copacabana Peninsula where our vehicles will be waiting.  Our destination today is La Paz.  A dirt road leads us across the peninsula and high above the lake for more views of the grand landscape as we continue past Copacabana and across the Straits of Tiquina.  Lunch en-route.  We plan to arrive in La Paz in the mid-afternoon.  Upo arrival we will have a photo editing session before dinner.  Dinner and overnight in La Paz.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 7 / Wed / Nov 6: La Paz - Oruro- Challapata - Jirira

 

After an early breakfast we begin our journey south along the Altiplano.  We climb out the canyon of La Paz then head south, passing by the industrial city of Oruro and other smaller typical Altiplano towns.  Our goal for today is the northern edge of the Salar de Uyuni. We have lunch en-route in Challapata and should arrive at the salt flats in the late afternoon, with plenty of time before sunset. We will check-in to an Aymara family-run hostel that has been helping tourists here for decades, even before there was electricity, potable water or a maintained road. The road is still rough for the last 20 miles but the scenery is as marvelous as it has always been. Above us is Mt. Thunupa Volcano, an 17,450’/5,322m mega-volcano that juts out into the northern salt flats providing numerous vantage points for fabulous photography. Sunrise and sunset are especially good here, no matter the location or season; it is especially photogenic during the rainy season from December to March. During the dry season the opportunity to create abundant abstract photos is never-ending. After sunset, we head back to our hostel for dinner and sleep.  Our approximate elevation is 12,000’/3,660m…same as downtown La Paz!

Hostal: Doña Lupe (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 8 / Thu / Nov 7: Jirira - Thunupa Volcano - Coquesa - Jirira

 

We have a full day here in the northern edge of the Uyuni salt flats. We begin with a pre-sunrise departure so we can arrive at our location with plenty of time.  We return to our hostel for breakfast then have an editing session to see how everyone is progressing with their vision and see the results.  We have lunch then following another workshop session, we venture out in the late afternoon to ascend the flanks of Mount Thunupa, providing a vantage point from which condors soar. From this elevated perch, the vastness of the Salar de Uyuni becomes unmistakably evident, highlighting the volcanic activity and glacial history that have sculpted the landscape over millennia.  This volcano’s activity during the Pleistocene era, with lava flows constructing its layers, and its former glaciated state until about 15,000 years ago, bear testament to its storied past. Once an island on Lake Minchin and Lake Tauca, which were integral parts of the Altiplano, Mount Thunupa offers jaw-dropping views from this height of 1000′ above the salt flats, affirming the impossibility of seeing the edges of the world’s largest salt flat.  At the end of the road, a brief 10-minute walk unveils a hidden cave housing mummies from the pre-Inca era.  On the western horizon, volcanoes appear like serrated dots the on the Bolivia-Chile border.  Our plan is to catch the sunset at salar level, so we have plenty of options to choose from.  We will make our decision based on the current weather patterns for the day.  We return to our hostel for dinner and rest.  Overnight in Jirira.

Hostal: Doña Lupe (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

Details of native cactus species on the island of Incahuasi

Day 9 / Fri / Nov 8: Jirira - Uyuni Salt Flats - Incahuasi Island - Uyuni

 

Our adventure commences before dawn as we embark on a short drive to the edge of the salt flats. Witnessing the sun illuminate Thunupa’s summit as it ascends over the eastern horizon is an experience you want to photograph.  The sun rises swiftly at these latitudes, so we retreat to the hotel for breakfast and a brief session to download and review your sunrise shots.  After a brief rest, we continue our journey inland towards the ancient caves of Chiquini, where the intriguing formations of petrified plants await our exploration.  The winding route guides us through canyons and lofty overlooks, each offering a distinctive perspective of the salt flats. Along the way, we indulge in a picturesque picnic lunch before returning to the hotel for a brief rest.  As the day draws to a close, we drive across the salar before sunset where we have one last chance to see the sun do its magic.  We continue southeast out of the salt flats and arrive at our hotel in Uyuni in time for dinner.  After checking-in we head to Minuteman Pizzeria – one of the best pizza restaurants in Bolivia!  Home-made beer and fresh pizza, salads, and a chocolate cake that melts in your mouth!  Tonight you will enjoy a well-deserved rest with fast wifi, hot showers and comfy beds.

Hotel: Toñito (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 10 / Sat / Nov 9: Uyuni - fly to La Paz

 

After breakfast we head to the airport in Uyuni for our 9 AM flight, arriving 1 hour later in the city of El Alto.  The best views are on the left side of the plane, where you can see the salt flats, Thunupa volcano and the Altiplano region we just traversed a few days ago.  Our transfer vehicles will be waiting for us and we will drop quickly from the Altiplano to the lowest part of La Paz in time for lunch.  After lunch and brief rest, we begin the final session of downloading photos, editing, and personal portfolio reviews.  At the end of the afternoon, you will have a solid portfolio showcasing the raw beauty fo Bolivia’s Altiplano and it’s people.  There will be time to freshen up before our final group dinner.  Afterwards it’s time for your final preparations as most flights depart very early the next morning.  You may have a chance for a quick rest before departing to the airport.  Our transfers usually begin at midnight and arrive 45 minutes later to the airport with plenty of time for international flight check-in.  We will coordinate with anyone staying longer in La Paz or have different flight times.

Hotel: Mitru Sur (5*)

Meals included: B, L, D

 

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Day 11 / Sun / Nov 10: Airport Transfer in La Paz

 

We will coordinate a departure time from the hotel based on your flight schedule. Most international flights heading to North America depart between 3-4 AM. The ride from the hotel to the airport takes 45 minutes. Domestic flights require 1.5 hours before departure and international flights require 2.5 hours before departure.

Hotel: none

Meals included: none

End of our services.

Kasmauski-Ethiopia

Karen Kasmauski - photographer, storyteller, film producer and educator

 

Award-winning photographer Karen Kasmauski has photographed 25 major stories for National Geographic. Many proposed by her, these include subjects like Radiation, Viruses, Genetics, the causes of infectious disease, and America’s struggle with obesity.

Karen has worked in over 50 countries, covering earthquakes in Japan and oil workers on Alaska’s frozen north slope. She has flown over nuclear weapon test sites, and ventured into Russian prisons, followed families displaced by conflict in Africa and documented disease outbreaks in the Amazon.

Her award-winning book “NURSE: A World of Care,” explores global issues facing the nursing profession and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Karen’s previous book “IMPACT: From the Front Lines of Global Health” looks at the causes of infectious diseases throughout the world. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote introductions for both books.

The daughter of a Japanese war bride, Karen explored her roots in producing the 2015 documentary film “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight—The Japanese War Brides,” which broadcast globally on BBC.

Karen has taught photography and video storytelling at the Corcoran School of Art, George Mason University, and the Maine Media Workshops. She has led photography workshops and tours in Alaska, the Galapagos, Egypt, Greenland, Antarctica, New Guinea, Japan, and Iceland.

A first-prize winner in the prestigious Pictures of the Year competition, Karen’s photographs have been exhibited at National Geographic’s headquarters, the United States Capitol, the National Academy of Sciences, the Newseum, the Carter Center, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Douthitt-Alaska

William Douthitt - photo editor, photographer and designer

 

As Science Magazine’s Photography Managing Editor, Bill Douthitt transformed the publication’s picture use, hiring top photographers around the world to create hundreds of striking covers and features depicting cutting edge science advances.

Before joining Science, Bill was National Geographic Magazine’s Managing Editor for Special Editions, producing award-winning single-subject issues on exploration, space, wildlife, climate, and history.

Over his National Geographic career, Bill worked as a designer, photographer, and writer. He picture-edited over 200 stories, wrote the cover story on the Cassini Saturn mission, and managed the Millennium Project—a 500-page series of stories exploring key 21st century issues including population, biodiversity, climate, and science frontiers.

He worked with filmmaker Jim Cameron on a 100th anniversary story on Titanic’s sinking, interviewed astronaut Buzz Aldrin about the first trip to the moon, and once arranged to suspend Microsoft’s Bill Gates 50 feet in the air for a story on digital technology.

Bill has taught visual storytelling at the Maine Media Workshops as well as photography and news writing at the Corcoran School of Art, George Mason University and George Washington University.

Bill’s picture editing work has received awards in the Pictures of the Year competition and has contributed to winning National Magazine awards.

Included

  • airport Transfers IN and OUT of your arrival city
  • private vehicles and drivers
  • bi-lingual photographer & guide Sergio Ballivian
  • expert instruction from photographer Karen Kasmauski
  • expert instruction from photo editor Bill Douthitt
  • all hotel / hostel /estancia accommodations for all nights (based on double occupancy)
  • all daily meals as denoted on the itinerary as ‘B, L, D’ (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • all entry fees and permits to protected areas: national parks, islands and museums
  • domestic airfare within the destination country (if there is a domestic flight in the itinerary, it’s included)
  • unlimited bottled water per person per day
  • snacks during the whole trip
  • Over 25 years of experience in tourism

Not Included

  • international airfare to destination country
  • visa requirement and fees
  • personal expenses of any kind (liquor, laundry, personal purchases, etc.)
  • telephone, email, mobile phone, Wi-Fi services
  • emergency evacuation expenses
  • personal travel or health insurance, doctor visits
  • gratuities to guides, drivers and other personnel

 

We, of course, would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic to make sure you receive medical care.