Snap the perfect shot with Atlas Obscura and National Geographic photographer and Palm Springs expert Christopher P. BakerWhether you’re a professional photographer or getting started, you’ll love this photography trip. Leading the way is an award-winning photographer to show you lesser-seen photogenic delights, teach you new techniques, and help you hone your craft in one of the world’s most beautiful and interesting destinations.

“Chris, I really enjoyed you as a photographer, a guide, and of course as a fabulous story teller. I loved your positive energy

Trip Overview

Palm Springs has long lured artists and movie stars to bask poolside in their sensational Modernist homes surrounded by majestic mountains glistening with snow in the winter sunshine. Join National Geographic author and photographer (and Palm Springs resident) Christopher P. Baker on this one-of-a-kind photo workshop and learn the art of photography as storytelling as we explore Modernism’s retro-chic place in the sun. Making the most of the gorgeous winter and early spring weather with cameras in hand, we’ll also explore such über-photogenic and off-beat Greater Palm Springs sites as Pioneertown and Joshua Tree National Park, plus the Salton Sea’s artsy Bombay Beach and nearby Galleta Meadows Sculptural Oasis.

NOTE: This trip is self-drive and involves a significant amount of driving on Day 2 (approx. 150 miles round-trip) and Day 3 (approx. 250 miles round-trip) from Palm Springs.


  • Masterpiece Modernist architecture
  • A lived-in Western movie set in the High Desert
  • An enigmatic offbeat art hub and surreal scrap-metal sculptures
  • Expert instruction on how to compose, use light & shadow, and tell a story

Note on Safety

We’ve designed this workshop with current health and safety precautions in mind. To maintain adequate physical distancing, participants will arrive in their own vehicles and provide their own lodging and meals, including preparing their own self-catered lunches. Staff and participants will be expected to follow the latest CDC guidelines, which include keeping six feet of distance between people who are not traveling together. Visit Atlas Obscura’s Trips FAQ for more information.

See here for California’s most up-to-date policies for visitors traveling from out-of-state.


Day 1: Modernism’s Place in the Sun

We’ll meet up in early afternoon for a welcome and introduction, as well as an orientation for the exciting days ahead. Then we’ll take a tour of historic Palm Springs, stopping to photograph the most iconic of the desert oasis city’s stock of more than 2,000 Modernist homes and public buildings that define the vernacular style of the city. Mad Men-era retro reigns in the desert oasis city, where many homes are adorned with classic convertible cars in the driveway. We’ll begin at the former Tramway Oasis Gas Station, with its Space Age flying-wedge roof (today it houses the Palm Springs Visitor Bureau) before taking in the seven Steel Houses designed by Donald Wexler. We’ll also photograph a medley of other Palm Springs’ classics, including the “House of Tomorrow” and the Romchamp-inspired Bank of America building. Ol’ Blue Eyes himself would feel right at home!

Day 2: Western Movie set and the Great Outdoors

Following your breakfast, join Chris for a one-hour presentation on how to take stunning travel photography. Armed with some new insights, we’ll head up to Joshua Tree National Park to hike among, and photograph, the incredible granitic rock formations and monoliths and equally photogenic and wackily eerie Joshua Tree yuccas. This is the High Desert (average elevation about 3,500 feet), and weather can vary markedly in winter: from warm crystal-clear sunny days with deep blue skies to bitterly cold, when a blanketing frost or fresh overnight snowfall can make for sensational Insta-ready photography. And the High Desert is a riot of color in springtime, when the cactus and wildflowers bloom. We’ll explore the park’s distinct ecosystems, including such sites as Skull Rock, Arch Rock and the Cholla Cactus Garden. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch in the park. In late afternoon, we’ll head to nearby Pioneertown, a quirky desert oasis of Spaghetti Western-style edifices built in 1946 as a set for Hollywood movies and today a one-of-a-kind lived-in “museum” perfect for a ‘golden hour’ and ‘blue hour’ shoot.

Day 3: Offbeat Art & Metal Beasts

Take breakfast at your leisure. We’ll then follow scenic Hwy 111 for the Salton Sea, perhaps with a stop for a de rigueur date shake at Shields. Although the (accidentally) man-made “sea” is now a wasteland that bears no resemblance to its storied past as a watersports resort destination, our destination—Bombay Beach—is a fascinating and funky (not to mention colorful) bohemian enclave of eye-popping art. We’ll revel in the photo ops through late afternoon, including more off-beat art at nearby Salvation Mountain, before heading to Borrego Springs to photograph Ricardo Breceda’s now-iconic metal sculptures of giant beasts during the ‘golden hour’ and ‘blue hour’ either side of sunset. We’ve an added special treat for you here! The early sunset leaves us time for some light painting and night photography together in the desert before we head back to Palm Springs.

Day 4: Slide-show celebration and critique

Head homeward or onto your next destination. If you’d like to extend your time in Palm Springs, Chris will be happy to offer advice and suggestions. Once you’ve had a chance to download and send Chris your favorite images, he’ll prepare a slideshow to share online—a chance to see everyone’s outstanding images, as well as our progress over three full days of shooting. Chris will provide a personal critique to help you to continue to improve your photography.

Trip Leader

Christopher P. Baker
—the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year’—is an acclaimed travel writer and photographer based in Palm Springs, where he has lived for 15 years. He has written and photographed hundreds of feature articles for publications from BBC World and Conde Nast Traveler to National Geographic Traveler and Penthouse. His almost 30 travel guidebooks and coffee-table books for Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, and other leading publishers include Palm Springs & Desert Resorts and five other books on California. Chris’ profession as a full-time travel journalist informs his vision and work. He has photographed two National Geographic travel books on assignment, and is represented by Getty Images and Alamy. He has taught for Santa Fe Photo Workshops and leads travel photography tours around the globe for Jim Cline Photo Tours, National Geographic Expeditions, and others.

TOUR DATES: Nov 19-22, 2020
PRICE: $860