The Ultimate Travel Workshop: Central America & the Panama Canal

Discuss this workshop

20 days, 7 countries, 11 ports-of-call April 27 - May 18, 2011

Are you interested in travel photography — in capturing the flavor of a culture and its people? Are you desiring to travel to exotic ports and bring back photos showing the beauty and splendor of the location? Are you unsure how to go about getting these photos, all the while seeking the methods, tips and approaches that will catapult you to the next level in your photography skill set? Does the thought of walking up to a stranger in a foreign land, aspiring to take their picture, strike fear in you? Have you ever wondered just how the pros can get those dynamic and intimate photos?

Then this workshop is just for you!

In 2009, Nikonians Academy instructor Michael Mariant offered his Travel Photography and Visual Thinking lectures in traveling seminars for Nikonians. In 2010, Michael brought those lectures, along with highly acclaimed and related lectures in the travel genre back to Nikonians Academy as the Ultimate Travel Workshop — visited 9 countries in the Caribbean — in a unique collaboration with Nikonians Academy and the global study-abroad program Semester at Sea, all taking place aboard the Semester at Sea's floating university, the M.V. Explorer, a former cruise ship converted into a floating college university campus.

For 2011, and once-again led by Nikonians Academy instructor Michael A. Mariant, we are proud to offer the Second Annual "Ultimate Travel Workshop" (UTW 2011). Focusing on the aspects of travel photography and documenting the cultural experience, the workshop curriculum places an emphasis on the visual thought-process and the approaches to understanding what drives one to take a picture. With very little discussion on the technical side of photography, this workshop will lead you to explore the issues and obstacles that keep you from 'finding' the photograph, and then learning how to intuitively respond to the photographic moment, allowing for a connection between you and your subject.

"The Ultimate Travel Workshop was absolutely amazing. I had very high expectations since every workshop I have attended through Nikonians has been outstanding. The Ultimate Travel Workshop exceeded my expectations beyond imagining. Michael has challenged they way I photograph and the way I look at the world around me, whether it is in my backyard or across the globe. I am still working on assimilating all that I learned during the workshop, but I believe I will be a much better photographer for it. Try to attend the next year’s workshop, you will not regret it. Do not let things like never photographing people or sea sickness or your age stop you. This is an experience you should not miss."

Read what last year's UTW 2010 participants had to say about the experience

See images from UTW 2010


Wed. April 27 — Embarkation in San Diego, California

Thurs. April 28 — At Sea: Welcome orientation and first lecture on the genre of "Travel Photography" 

Fri. April 29 — Can San Lucas, Mexico

Sat. April 30 — At Sea: Lecture in "Cultural Sensitivity"

Sun. May 1 — Acapulco, Mexico

Mon. May 2 — At Sea: Lecture in "Visual Thinking"

Tue. May 3 — Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala

Wed. May 4 — Corinto, Nicaragua

Thur. May 5 & Fri. May 6 — Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Sat. May 7 — At Sea: Lecture in "Multi-Media Storytelling & Slideshow Production"

Sun. May 8 — Daytime transit of the Panama Canal

Mon. May 9 — Cristobal, Panama

Tue. May 10 — Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

Wed. May 11 — At Sea: Lecture on "Making Money in Photography"

Thur. May 12 — Roatan, Honduras

Fri. May 13 — St. Thomas De Castilla, Guatemala

Sat. May 14 — Belize City, Belize

Sun. May 15 — At Sea: Group Critique/Hands-On Edit & Post Production for the final show

Mon. May 16 — Cozumel, Mexico

Tue. May 17 — At Sea: Hands-On Post Production for the final show 

Wed. May 18 — Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA

While in country, we will practice and apply the methods taught in the classroom, including: people portraiture, cultural representation, architecture photography, documentary storytelling, travel and leisure photography, street photography, and more — all methods utilized by today's top travel photographers to capture the flavor, essence and character of the people and places you visit.

The UTW curriculum focuses on four components:

1) Establishment of your "Shooting Game Plan" (SGP) several months prior to the start of the workshop, to ensure that every participant can "hit the ground running" as soon as the gangway drops in each country. This is done through instructor-coached research of topics or themes that interest you for each country on the itinerary. Dedicated forum threads for every port allow you to discuss with the rest of the group and the instructor your ideas and SGP, to help build on the photographic potential in each country. These required pre-planning steps and forum discussions are integral to the success of the UTW experience for each participant.

2) Seven full days of classroom instruction focus on travel photography, cultural sensitivity and people photography, street photography, adapting a visual thinking approach to your photography, multi-media story-telling and slideshow production, and the ever-popular topic of making money in photography. Each of the daily lectures are structured for the next port(s) on the itinerary, allowing each lecture topics and port experiences to build on the next.

3) The classroom instruction is interspersed around day-long excursions in 7 countries and 11 ports-of-call, where you get to apply and experience the various methods, techniques and approaches of travel photography. In country, all participants will head out to implement their "Shooting Game Plan (SGP)" integrated with in-the-field application of the theories, methods and approaches of travel photography discussed in the classroom. Coupled with the classroom lecture, while in port, your instructor conducts a daily hands-on shooting session in the port area, providing working examples of street photography, cultural sensitivity, people photography and lighting. In addition, your instructor will make himself available for assistance, coaching, technical support and advice outside of the classroom lectures and the daily hands-on shooting session.

4) Every evening the ship leaves from a port-of-call, the entire group meets for a post-port session called "Revelations and Experiences". This open-mic format in the classroom allows for participants to share their port experience (both through their pictures and personal stories) in regards to application of the classroom instruction on methods, theories and approaches. Further challenges and thoughts to ponder are presented by your instructor, in preparation for the next port-of-call.

The workshop is limited to 30 participants only, to ensure an academic environment on-ship and provide one-on-one instruction and assistance between the workshop participants and your instructor.


Unlike the UTW 2010, where one fee covered both the workshop and ship passage (and was paid in full at the moment of workshop sign-up), the Nikonians Academy workshop fee for the "Ultimate Travel Workshop" is $1399 per person. This fee, paid in full, covers the workshop component only.

Registration with Semester at Sea (SAS) for your ship's passage is done separately through their program. There are multiple cabin classes and rates, along with an early-booking discount, all heavily discounted exclusively for Nikonians. This passage rate includes your cabin fare, three full meals on the ship every day of the voyage (including when the ship is in port), full cabin steward service (including daily room cleaning and nightly turn-downs of the beds), and full access to the SAS-offerred short seminars and classes on-ship.

IMPORTANT: All workshop participants MUST download the SAS Registration Form PDF (see link below) to be completed and returned to Semester at Sea with your $300 deposit. Final payments for ship passage are arranged through Semester at Sea.

The Nikonians Academy rebooking and cancellation fee for this workshop is $100

******Download your registration form here***************

Note: Inside cabin denotes a cabin without portholes located on the inside portion of a hallway; Outside cabin denotes a cabin with a porthole located on the outside portion of a hallway. All passage rates quoted on the registration form are special Nikonians Academy rates. Please read the details at the bottom of the registration page in regards to single occupancy and additional family members/passengers in each cabin.

Note: While the workshop curriculum is open to Nikonians, the SAS voyage is open to all, including family members and friends. Spouses, children and relatives can register at the same Nikonians rate through Semester at Sea for cabin bookings. For spouses and children, there are multiple day trips available in each port, ranging from cultural site visits to recreational options. These trips will be available for sign-up in the months prior to departure as well as on-ship after embarkation.


All participants (including spouses/children) MUST have a valid passport with an expiration date beyond December 2011.

The airport of arrival will be the San Diego International Airport (SAN) for embarkation on the ship and the airport of departure will be Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL).

Plan on arriving in San Diego on April 27 for the late-morning embarkation on April 28. Recommended hotels in hotels in San Diego will be provided in the workshop forums. Plan for departure at Fort Lauderdale late in the evening on May 18 or, preferably, on May 19.

There will be an extensive online forum on with additional photographs, sailing information, pre-sailing/photography assignment preparation, packing suggestions and help, gear suggestions and more!


The M.V. Explorer is a 590-foot-long, 25,000 ton, 7-deck vessel with full modern amenities. Originally a luxury travel ship, the vessel is now equipped as a floating university campus and one of the fastest, safest and most technologically advanced ships afloat with a top speed of 28 knots. The M.V. Explorer includes two dining rooms, a fitness center, a pool and sundeck, spa and salon, 8,000 volume library, computer lab and free Wi-Fi Internet. The ship is small and intimate when compared to the common mega-cruise ships of today, with a passenger capacity of only 800 and 200 crew members.


When digital was taking over the film world, Michael was hand-picked by the Institute for Shipboard Education to overhaul the Semester at Sea photography program and facilitate the transition to digital. Semester at Sea takes college students on a 100-day ‘Voyage of Discovery’ around the world as they embark on an itinerary to several countries, immersing themselves in the host country’s culture for a week, all while calling a former cruise ship-turned-floating university their home. Michael implemented a myriad of change to accommodate digital photography in the global travel environment while introducing several lectures to assist the emerging photographer, including his highly-acclaimed Visual Thinking lecture, Cultural Immersion in Documentary/Travel Photography, and Self-Editing for the Digital Photographer. After four voyages in the past six years, Michael continues his work as a remote and on-site consultant and coordinator for the program's multi-media department, providing instruction and orientation for the staff photographers each voyage and cultivating current and always-evolving technologies into their travel photography program.

  • You will learn

    • People portraiture
    • Cultural representation
    • Architecture photography
    • Documentary storytelling
    • Travel and leisure photography
    • Street photography
    • and more
  • What to bring

  • Required

    • There will be an extensive online forum at with additional photographs, sailing information, pre-sailing/photography assignment preparation, packing suggestions and help, gear suggestions and more!
    • This is the link to the Ultimate Travel Workshops forum.
  • What is provided

    • The Ultimate Travel Workshop ;-)
  • Venue Information

      Please check your venue by specific city area location.


This is a unique opportunity for sea travel and photography learning and at an unbelievable price. Plus you can do it as a famliy trip.


The Ultimate Travel Workshop: Central America & the Panama Canal workshops are provided in the following locations:

City Area Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Central America and Panama Canal 27-APR-2011 Michael A. Mariant $1399 $1429 Sold out

Member prices are only applicable to Nikonians Silver, Gold and Platinum Members. Non-members can register as Nikonians members here. Nikonians Basic members can upgrade the membership level here. Membership payments help sustain the growth of the Nikonians community and its services such as the Nikonians Academy.