Mexico Cookbook Assignment Summary

Screen Shot of Mexico Itinerary Map by Ralph Velasco

Click for "live," interactive map.

Many of you have asked me to provide an overview of my recent assignment to shoot the travel and cultural images for a cookbook on the regional cuisine of Mexico, so the following is a summary.  It was a whirlwind of a trip but it went without a serious hitch and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.  CLICK HERE or on the map above to be brought to an interactive map, then you can hover your mouse over each pin to see the name of the location and other third party info.  Over time I may add my own images and other details to each pin, but for now those are stock photos and other peoples’ images and information that you’ll see there, not mine.
  • Number of days allotted to the assignment: 35
  • Average work day: 10 to 14 hours
  • Days off: 0
  • Different hotels: 15
  • Cities ~ 41 (often we’d base ourselves in one city and then visit multiple cities each day in that area)
  • Flights: 13 (I came to really like Aeromexico and their medium sized jets that fly into small, regional airports)
  • Lost luggage: 1 (I had a bag that got delayed about 12 hours in Oaxaca, turned out not to be a big deal)
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: 9
  • UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages: Mexican cuisine (one of only two cuisines, France’s being the other)
  • Estimated time traveling by plane, car, train, boat, motorcycle, taxi, other: 128 hours, so > 5 days
  • 10,000+ images made
  • >230 GB of RAW images made
  • ~ 150 images estimated to be used in cookbook
If you have any other questions about the assignment, I’d be glad to answer them, just ask!


Ralph Velasco is an Orange County-based photography instructor, international photo tour guide and author.  

He’s an award-winning blogger and the creator of the My Shot Lists for Travel app for iPhone.


  1. Ok, we realize you can’t always believe what you hear on the news, but what about the crime? Did you ever feel, of the 35 days spent, unsafe traveling through Mexico?

    Nancy & Shawn

    • RalphVelasco says:

      Hi Nancy & Shawn,

      There was never a time at all during that whole time that I felt unsafe. There were quite a few uniformed police around in many places, as well as a military presence with official road blocks in several locations, but not once did I feel uneasy or unsafe. We stayed away from the border towns where much of the violence is concentrated. Of course, as always, we traveled with common sense in mind and didn’t flash or advertise expensive gear. Whenever I travel I have my guard up and try not to get too complacent, but that’s in any country.

      Hope that helps,


  2. I really appreciate your sharing your Mexico experience. I have been living in Casas gRandes, Chihuahua for the past 4 years – and I am shocked by the medias endless portrayal of Mexico as dangerous – These years here have been some of the most enlightening life enriching experiences; My overall experience has been kindness and generosity – yes violence exists in the world and is perpetuated by un-humane policies and the ‘war on drugs’ is a big business – we say down here if you’re not into the trading of drugs or arms, tourists and American’s are not the target – The local economies who relied on tourism have suffered because of this media/drug war- I totally advocate getting to know our neighbors to the south ; There is much to be gained as Human Beings- the land, the people, the FOOD, the history and art are deeply connected to the Southwest – conservation, birdwatching, beautiful landscapes, wonderful community activities – celebrations are worth the effort of the journey – If I can be of help to anyone interested in the borderlands please feel free to contact me; Beyond the fear an amazing world exists – it has changed my life – gracias Ralph !! It was inspiring to read your articles ; )

    • RalphVelasco says:


      Glad you enjoyed the post/podcast, and wonderful that you’re living in that area. Chihuahua was the most surprising part of the trip and we all had a great time.

      Good luck there!


  3. Rick Godwin says:

    • Number of days allotted to the assignment: 35
    • Average work day: 10 to 14 hours
    • 10,000+ images made
    • ~ 150 images estimated to be used in cookbook

    Wow, Ralph – you and your camera were definitely busy every day on that Mexico cookbook assignment.

    Working 35 days – shooting 10,000 (minimum) images > ~286 images a day (overall averaging of 12 hours a day)

    Shooting ~286 images a day, on an average 12 hours a day > ~24 images an hour
    > 2.5 images a minute, 5 images every 2 minutes.

    Out of 10, 000 images, ~ 150 images used in the cookbook > only 1.5% of all the images made the final cut!

    Congrats again on the successful completion of a career assignment!

    • RalphVelasco says:

      Wow, Rick, when you put it that way, makes me tired all over again just thinking about it, but that’s the reality. Still enjoyed almost every minute of it, and thanks for the calculations!

      • Rick Godwin says:

        You’re welcome, Ralph…

        Hey, one little bitty idea for perhaps a future workshop series of yours:

        Would love to attend a session to hear and see the back-story on many of those 150 photos selected for the Mexico cookbook, spoken in terms of the photography techniques you used to capture the images. I’m sure we, as amateur travel photography enthusiasts, could all learn much (as always) from you in how you went about photographing the images.

        Would also be interesting to hear how you prepared for the Mexico assignment, regarding the photography side of it (equipment, shot list, etc.)

        Just a passing thought..:)

        • RalphVelasco says:

          Hey Rick, too funny, but I’ve already got a presentation called “Putting the Travel in Travel Photography” wrapped and ready to go and it’s right along the lines of what you’re asking for. I’ll start getting it out there in the first quarter of 2012 and should be up in San Francisco at Calumet Photo around then. I’m planning to do a “lite” version of it when I speak at the Travel & Adventure Show in Santa Clara the weekend of February 18 & 19, 2012.

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Ralph Velasco is a professional photographer and instructor who has traveled extensively and taken photographs in over 40 countries. Ralph Velasco Cultural Tours offers unique cultural touring opportunities that combine compelling locations with breathtaking views, relevant local history, scheduled activities and time to explore on your own. His events are available in dazzling international locations around the globe and his services include public speaking, corporate cultural tours and events, corporate photo walks, photo walking tours, photography eBooks, photography classes and group training seminars. His photo walking tours provide the opportunity for hands-on photography experience with a professional instructor to develop the skills necessary to capture a variety of photo subjects, settings and lighting. Ralph gives private photography lessons and his photography boot camp includes a seminar and training on camera basics, elements of composition, and a personal review of your own photography. United States and international locations; Corona del Mar & Orange County CA.

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