Destination Cuba: North Winds & Waves On The Malecón

Our first days in Havana brought south winds and no waves on the Malecón…

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On our arrival back in Havana coincided with a change in wind direction and a little squall which had the waves pounding against the sea wall along the Malecón…

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The clouds also added to the drama as they played hide and seek with the sun…

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And we played tag with the crashing waves as they would sometimes sneak up and drench us…

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The water was warm but the air cooled us quickly.  The light and the waves kept us out shooting even though we were wet…

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I even had B&W in mind with the dramatic clouds, the city scape and the waves…

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Some people brought things to the water to offer sacrifices when the surf is high and the waves take the offerings out to sea…

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It was a real treat to end our week with big waves on the Malecón.   Thanks to a group of real adventurers who put in the miles and went home with the images to show for their hard work!  I’m looking forward to a return in 2014.  Limit 5 nearly full!

 

 

 

Destination Cuba: Viñales…Tobacco Region

I like to take a break in the hustle and bustle that is Havana and one of the best places to do this is to head a couple hours out of town to Viñales which lies in the heart of prime tobacco growing region…

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It’s like stepping back in time, to a slower and quieter pace.  And I was anxious to see the farmers I met last year.  After arriving in Viñales and checking in we grabbed our cameras and took a quick walk up the street.  Just as we arrived Raul was coming in from the fields with a wagon full of tobacco…

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Ada, RAul’s wife, saw us on the street and waved us in.  After exchanging a few words trying to tell her that I was there last year, she threw her hands in the air and then began hugging me as if welcoming an old friend.  When Raul came up and she told him who I was he too began hugging me and welcoming me back.  He even turned to his pigs and pointed at them showing me with his hands that they were much larger than on the last visit, confirming that he did indeed remember me and how I had held some of the little piglets last year.

Ada graciously offered Cuban coffee which we gladly accepted while we continued to photograph around the farm…

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While Raul went about his daily routine of harvesting the tobacco that takes three months to grow…

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And hanging it to dry for three months…

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Ada and Raul were gracious hosts and welcomed us in for a cup of coffee, some photos and lot’s of smiles as we struggle to communicate.  One thing is universal and that is their genuine smiles when I called them mi Amigos “my friends”…

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A stop at Benito’s tobacco farm found him home and he graciously allowed us into his drying barn while explaining his process for growing, harvesting, drying and shipping the tobacco…

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He explained that he is 72 years young and smokes 3 cigars a day.  His mom is 91 and still smokes a cigar a day.  I loved the twinkle in his eye when he told me this…

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Not only do the cars take you back in time, the old time method of farming with oxen pulled plows was interesting enough for us to pull over and make some images…

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Once again, the farmer was ever so gracious and paused in his work for a few minutes while we photographed him and asked what he was planting.  I wish I understood what he said…

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I’ll finish up my Cuban posts tomorrow with some final images made along the Malecon with north winds pushing the waves into a crashing frenzy.   Stay tuned.

Destination Cuba: Automobiles…Frozen In Time

The embargo halted the import of American cars into Cuba and so, for the last fifty plus years, the Cubans have learned to creatively keep their cars running one way or another…

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Some seem to be held together with Bondo and a prayer…

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And others are pristine, a dream car in any collection…

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These cars are a national treasure to Cuba and can be found on any street with many and varied backgrounds…

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And we hit many a side street in search of just the right car/background combination to aim our lenses at…

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My creative juices were flowing with anticipation of finishing these images to emphasize their colorful existence.  I found great pleasure in simply parking myself along the Malecon and working the cars, motorcycles and CoCo Taxis that passed by on their way to work…

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I set my ISO to 200 and adjusted my aperture with a shutter speed of around 1/15 in mind to blur the background while panning with the moving vehicles.  (Similar to Tech Tuesday BLur Motion recently only this time I am moving the camera with the auto keeping it sharp while blurring the background into streaks)…

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CoCo Taxis are an inexpensive way to get around the city when your body gets tired of walking (I’m told we walked 8 miles the first day and between 3-5 miles every other day)…

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The textured, crumbling buildings made great backdrops for the colorful autos.  Using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.0 and Color Efex 4.0 I emphasized these charachteristics in each image…

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It was fun using whatever creative license I felt appropriate and each image has it’s own, unique look…

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We even hired a couple of classic convertibles for a tour of the city…

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Our drivers graciously parked at our request for one last photo opp…

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Last year we hired an Edsel, this year it was a Belair…

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Next year I’m looking for a Cadillac.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Destination Cuba: Architecture…From Ruins To Restoration

The architecture in Cuba is mind boggling.  What was once a glamourous destination to the stars and jet setters of the US is now crumbling to ruins around it’s citizens.  People live in buildings that surely would be condemned in the US…

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How many families reside behind these walls?  What are their lives like?  These questions and more run through my mind as I aim my camera here and there…

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Nestled amongst the ruins, down one side street or another, a chance glimpse into a doorway reveals treasures of architectural beauty in all it’s splendor.  Such was the case in this Apothecary Museum in Havana…

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We managed to pop into a few churches to photograph.  My preferred setup is to use my Fisheye lens with my tripod centered for a symmetrical composition and then bracket five to seven frames to capture exposure information throughout the image and combing them into HDR images…

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Sacred Heart Church…

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A trip to the top floor of Hotel Sevilla yielded a different view of the city.  Using my telephoto lens compressed the scene to convey the feel of how tightly built the city is…

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We took advantage of our rental van and made a trip to Castle El Morro.  It’s a great place to make a pano shooting back at Havana…

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Our timing was right on as a tall ship passed by…

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The age, the texture, the overcast weather all added up to perfect B&W conditions.  I knew at the moment I clicked the shutter on the following image that I would convert the image to B&W using NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 and I would paint the color of the Cuban flag back in using a layer mask…

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It was the face that drew me into the middle of the street to center the castle in my frame, the dramatic clouds and monochromatic colors are what made me think B&W…

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While it may have felt that we left no street un-explored, Old Havana covers a pretty large area and I know that on my return visit next year I will find new streets to explore with many architectural treats in store.  Our adventure continues as I share some of my favorite car photos next.  Stay tuned.