Photo Workshop Adventures: Classic Cuba - Oct 2015

Malecón, Havana, Cuba

Malecón, Havana, Cuba

In 2015, after about 15 yrs of long hours in the IT world and very little travel, I decided to treat myself to a trip somewhere. I’m fit somewhere in the realm between amateur photographer and professional. I 2nd shoot some weddings each year and shoot some events my area. My true love in photography is capturing people in the world around me. I love capturing the natural beauty of people being themselves. I wanted to see what it would be like to capture the culture and people somewhere foreign to me. I felt like i had gotten too comfortable taking photos in my community of south Louisiana. Cuba has always been an a huge interest and mystery to me. I loves the idea of stepping back in time, and seeing the color, the textures, and the old cars of Havana. I looked at many different trips to Cuba, quickly settling on Photo Workshop Adventures (PWA). PWA seemed to be very organized. Michael Chinnici, the leader had been going to Cuba multiple times a year for 9 yrs.  Some destinations i don’t mind winging it.. but Cuba seemed like a place I want someone with some experience.  

From the moment I stepped off the plane into the Havana airport, it was apparent we weren’t in the US any more. After a little time our luggage arrived and the group of 10 hopped on a bus with Michael the leader, and our Cuban tour Guide. Going to Cuba i expected the accommodations to be nice but rustic. To my surprise hotel in Havana was beautiful and incredibly comfortable. There was even an in hotel doctor on call at all times.  

Michael and our Cuban Guide brought us to different areas of Havana each day. Michael is a quiet and reserved person, it took me a little while to get used to his nature. He was always close enough to answer questions or give pointers.. but didnt hover over you checking on you or your work. He gave you the freedom to shoot what you wanted and how you wanted to do it. He'd show a few of his personal photos of the location we were traveling to on the bus on the way. He'd provide a few suggestions and tips.. but upon arrival he'd quietly and casually stayed out of the way. I thought it was a very good and graceful way of managing a tour.  He kept us on a rough schedule but gave us the freedom to explore the area. The cuban people were incredibly friendly. Photography was welcome. Very few people said no to photos if asked. The people loved to talk and tell stories. Many spoke english very well. This was far more than a photography tour, it was very much a cultural immersion and experience. Michael brought us to meet famous local musicians, artists, and friends of his. These people gave us a real picture of how life in Cuba is changing. The best way to describe the cubans i met would be humble, proud, and excited about the changes coming to their country. In Havana my favorite stops were Rafael Tejo Boxing Gym,  a market in old havana, and the Melecon. The youth at the boxing gym were amazing. Proud, enthusiastic, respectful with amazing talent. The market and the Melecon were giant photo opportunities for capturing people and their daily lives.

In just a few days in Havana we captured old classic american cars, amazing architecture, fresh open air markets, a beautiful classic cuban home, a tobacco farm, a youth boxing gym, and an amazing farm to table restaurant overlooking a beautiful valley. This barely scratched the surface of Havana. Only only excited me more about coming back. I found myself planning my next trip and making lists in the evening of things i wanted to come back to shoot on another trip. Our group stayed busy but I never felt rushed. Photo Workshop Adventures did a very good job of timing the pacing the trip very well. I could easily spend a month in Havana just shooting the streets and the Melecon (sea wall and roadway where many cubans spend time socializing) but i felt Michael did an amazing job giving us a huge taste of Havana's diverse culture and scenery in a very short amount of time. I was lucky enough to have a very good group to explore and travel with. Everyone got along, everyone contributed to the experience in a different way. It was amazing to see everyones photos from the same location. We all took very different approaches to capturing what was around us. I learned from not only Michael but everyone else on the trip too.

After one night in Cienfuegos, we traveled on to Trinidad. Trinidad’s accommodations were even more special. Our group took over a small Paladar/bed and breakfast. We had the place to ourselves. It was beautiful with a ton character. The family that owned and ran it were friendly and welcoming. This was my favorite portion of the trip. Trinidad has much the style and character of the French Quarter in New Orleans. Much more colorful with an artsy feel. Trinidad seemed to move at a slower pace than the hustle and bustle in Havana. By this point of the trip I had found my stride. I was comfortable in the country, and comfortable walking up to people and taking their photo.

The Classic Cuba trip was an amazing adventure, and left me wanting more. I got some great shots, i learned quite a bit more about photography, made some new friends, and most importantly got to see and experience a very special part of the world. The cubans are amazing people full of pride and character. This trip just left me wanting more time in the country to capture not only its classic beauty but the changes taking place.

Photos from Havana:

Photos from Trinidad, Cuba