HOW CUBA INSPIRES PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHY IT’S THE PERFECT TIME TO VENTURE THERE
Cuba is a dream destination for a photography holiday. With its charming grit, timeworn feel, and unique character, the country inspires street and portrait photography. Andrew Bell, one of the photographers who guides our Cuba Photography Workshop, shares his insights on what it is about Cuba that makes us grab our cameras.
Cuba is a truly special place; it gets under your skin and you want to return over and over again. For me, the thing that makes it truly a great place for photography are the people; so friendly, inquisitive and always willing to lend a helping hand, stop to talk and ask questions. There’s a new story unfolding around every corner; you could shoot entire photo essays on a single back street for a year and only capture half of what happens. On top of all that you have the light; incredible warm colours, beautiful pastel buildings, the glistening white caps when you get near to the coast and the rich earthy colours as you head further in-land.
The Unique Urban Charm of Havana and Trinidad
Havana, the setting for our Cuba photo tours, is the epitome of a capital city; forever in a state of flux, always changing, growing to meet the needs of its citizens. Yet at the same time it’s at a standstill; classic cars that would be in museums or long scrapped are still people’s daily drivers, taxi’s or used to give tours of the city. The mix of architecture is wonderful, old colonial buildings nestled up against communist era blocks, next to modern glass fronted offices. Every time we visit new bars and restaurants have sprung up, areas of town which were derelict a few months previous now have new homes or are being turned into new business, but the pace of life remains typically Cuban.
Trinidad, where the longer of our Cuba photo tours ventures too, is as far from Havana as you can imagine; a living museum almost untouched in hundreds of years; a UNESCO World Heritage site the entire town is under a protection order meaning that little or nothing can be done to modernise, especially the facades of buildings. Life here is so relaxed and laid back it’s unbelievable. It’s a photographer’s dream to shoot here, without any effort you can create images which could be from today or a hundred or more years ago. Old men sit in the street playing dominos, cowboys plod slowly along the cobbled streets on horseback, school children run and laugh and play without a care in the world, and, if you want to unwind even more, 10 minutes in a taxi and you’re on the golden white beach at Playa Ancon, the warm sand beneath your toes and a cold mojito in your hand. Bliss!
The Time to Travel to Cuba is Now
Changes are coming to Cuba, with the passing away of Fidel Castro and the relaxation of travel restrictions from the US the Cuba of old will soon start to disappear. We’ve seen a great deal of change and modernisation in only the last four or five years; since it has become legal for Cubans to start their own businesses, their entrepreneurial spirit has led to the opening of dozens of new shops, bars and restaurants and new buildings appear every time we visit. Whilst it may be some time before we see the first big western brands opening branches in Havana, if you want to see the old Cuba and catch a glimpse of what things have been like for the last 60 years, then now, right now is the time to go. It’s the perfect timing for a photography holiday to Cuba.
Our Cuba Photo Tours Are Tailor-Made
Anything you want to shoot during our Cuba photography workshops can be accommodated; we try to organise days which suit everyone’s taste and interest. The focus is on travel photography and documenting what we see day-to-day, and that is made up of street photography, landscapes, architectural and editorial photography. As we head out of town there are more opportunities for landscapes and nature / wildlife images. We also try to lay on at least one day where we shoot something different; salsa dancing, an impromptu fashion show, a concert or event.
Expect To Gain Photography Skills
We concentrate on helping people improve their ability to quickly and successfully compose an image. For us the more technical aspects of what a camera can do are less important than making sure you capture the moment; being able to see when something is going to happen and being ready to not only take the picture, but take it in such a way that it tells the story and gives its viewer an immediate understanding of what was happening.
Beyond that, we make sure to spend lots of one-to-one time with everyone and offer them tuition on any aspect of photography they’re keen to expand their ability in or knowledge of. We can create personalised tuition plans for everyone who would like one and throughout the week we work individually and collaboratively on creating photo projects.
Text by Andrew Bell. Images by Andrew Bell and Andy Scaysbrook.
Keen to photograph Cuba with us? You can join us for a 10-day Cuba Photography Workshop in Havana and Trinidad. Now with 15% discount!