cuba

30 May 2017

Best Photo Spots in Havana (and Cuba in general)

Posted in: best photo spots, cuba, travel guide|

Cuba is an amazing place for any photographer. Havana and Trinidad are full of street and architecture photography opportunities, Vinales Valley is perfect for landscape and travel photography. Colonial architecture and fantastic textures make Cuba a great background for fashion/portrait photography as well.

Below you will find a list of places (with sample photos and GPS coordinates) I think are the best for photography in Cuba. Make sure to visit them next time! If you have other favourite photos spots in Cuba, make sure to share them in the comments under this article.

Havana

The capital of Cuba and its most impressive city. Full of history, old colonial buildings, fantastic textures, vintage cars and interesting people. Wherever you go in the old Havana, you will probably find something or someone worth photographing, whether it will be colonial building, a busker or classic car driving through the streets.

The Streets of Old Havana (Havana Vieja)

It’s not a single spot, rather a whole large area: wander the narrow streets and four main squares (Plaza Vieja, Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza de Armas), and you will find good photo subjects every second. Below are some examples (which also show a variety of interesting subjects):

City museum in Havana

City Museum in Havana (GPS: 23°8’24” N 82°20’59” W)

Old Man in Havana

Old Man smoking cigars

Meat shop in Havana

Meat shop in Old Havana

El Malecon

It’s a broad esplanade and roadway, which stretches for about 8 km along the coast. Great place to photograph the sunset, old architecture, fishermen or people of Havana (it’s one of the most popular meeting places for them, especially young couples).Below you can see two images I took there:

Below you can see two pictures I took there: the first one is a long exposure photo I took there during sunset and the other one shows fisherman “at work”.

Malecon during sunset

This long exposure photo was taken during sunset (GPS: 23°8’35” N 82°21’45” W)

Fisherman at sunset (GPS: 23°8’35” N 82°21’45” W)

National Capitol Building

El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building, is a former seat of the Cuban government until Cuban revolution in 1959. Now it serves as a Cuban Academy of Science. Although often compared to Capitol in Washington, it’s not a direct replica, and in fact, many people find it more beautiful than its US counterpart.

Unfortunately, the building itself is being renovated right now, but it still looks quite impressive especially in the evening or at sunrise. Also, the area surrounding it is really picturesque with stretches of very colourful buildings.

Best views of the Capitol are from the rooftop of nearby Saratoga hotel, which happens to be the highest building in the area.

El Capitolio at sunrise

El Capitolio at sunrise photographed from Saratoga hotel (GPS: 23°8’2″ N 82°21’29” W)

Parque Central and Vintage Cars

Photographing vintage cars is a must when in Cuba, and even though you can still come across them virtually anywhere in Havana, one of the easiest spots to do so is in Parque Central (which is one of the most popular spots in Havana, and many vintage taxis are parked there). Besides this place might be good for some street photography as well.

Classic models from 50’s are really beautiful, and many are very well preserved. Cubans hope that in a few years they will be able to get new cars from the USA much easier and cheaper, so it’s very probable that those vintage cars will soon disappear. You can try some panning technique to create really great and colourful images similar to the one on the left.

Vintage cars in Havana

There are many classic cars parked in the Parque Central area and they serve as taxis (GPS: 23°8’12” N 82°21’31” W)

Vintage car in Havana

This photo was in fact taken in Paseo de Marti Street (GPS: 23°8’4″ N 82°21’31” W)

Revolution Square

Plaza de la Revolucion is a huge square from where Fidel Castro used to make his lengthy speeches addressed to the people of Cuba. It’s surrounded by Jose Marti memorial monument (Jose Marti: a poet, writer and leader of independence movement is a national hero of Cuba) and huge “portraits” of Cuban revolution leaders: Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto “Che” Guevera. The latter are a great background for some nice photos like the one below.

Revolution square in Havana

Revolution Square in Havana (GPS: 23°7’31” N 82°23’11” W)

Vinales Valley

Vinales Valley is an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables and especially coffee and tobacco are grown. The valley itself, which is surrounded by mountains, is very beautiful and picturesque. It’s ideal for some landscape photography but also great if you intend to photograph farmers at work.

Tobacco crops in Vinales Valley

Tobacco crops being grown in the Vinales Valley (GPS: 22°38’3″ N 83°43’32” W)

Vinales Valley

One of the best ways to explore Vinales Valley is riding a horse (GPS: 22°37’51” N 83°42’44” W)

Trinidad

Trinidad is a town located in the central Cuba, on the southern coast. It’s one of the oldest Cuban cities, and it’s full of colonial architecture. Even though it’s relatively small, especially when compared to Havana, it’s still full of great photo opportunities.

Colonial architecture in Trinidad

History Museum in Trinidad (GPS: 21°48’17” N 79°59’8″ W)

One of art galleries in Trinidad (GPS: 21°48’17” N 79°59’5″ W)

7 February 2017

Colors of Cuba

Posted in: cuba|

Slightly different post today as it will contain several images instead of one as usually.

Cuba (especially Havana but not only) is full of wonderful colors, textures and amazing detail virtually wherever you look. From facades of the old colonial buildings, to fruit sold by street merchant to vintage cars. And in this post I will show several examples of them found in various Cuban cities, mainly in Trinidad and Havana. Even though the images are something different from my usual work, I hope you will enjoy them too.

13 January 2017

Sunrise in Havana

Posted in: cuba|

Sunrise in Havana

Unfortunately I’m very busy recently and don’t have much time to write new posts but that should change soon. One of the things I’m currently working on is the new layout of the blog. I hope to finish it by the end of the month. It should make finding interesting content much easier as right now I have a feeling that a lot of interesting posts get lost.

As for the photo it shows one very beautiful sunrise in Havana, Cuba photographed from the roof of one of the buildings.

Sunrise in Havana

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15 December 2016

Internet in Cuba

Posted in: cuba, travel guide|

Internet in Cuba

To access Internet in Cuba, you need to buy NAUTA WiFi cards

To access Internet in Cuba, you have to buy NAUTA WiFi cards

Easy access to Internet makes travelling & photography so much easier. You can check sunrise and sunset times, verify bus/train timetable on the fly, reserve hotels (or change reservations) during your travels, upload photos to the cloud for backup or share news with your friends on Facebook and so much more.

How to access Internet in Cuba?

But Cuba is communist country and so Internet is as limited and controlled by government as any other goods and services. Right now only one company, NAUTA, offers it.

In order to use it you have to buy a WiFi card for 2 CUC (which is 2 EUR at the time of writing). This card contains WiFi credentials (user and password) which entitle you to use WiFi for 1 hour.

You can buy WiFi card in many hotels, in ETECSA offices (which is telecommunications service provider in Cuba) or in black market, where it will usually cost 1 CUC more than official price. Buying the official way (through ETECSA) has its downsides – you will have to stand in a long queue and also you will be able to buy just 3 cards per person on a given day.

Where can I use WiFi?

To access Internet in Cuba, you need to buy NAUTA WiFi cards

Each WiFi card has user credentials you can use to access WiFi

The issue is that WiFi isn’t widely available. Many hotels have it now, as well as some restaurants and bars. But if you’re staying in casa particular most likely you won’t be able to access the Internet from your apartment. There are also several spots in parks that let you connect to Internet.

Most of the time connection isn’t great but at least for me it wasn’t terrible either. I was able to check emails or travel information without problems.

Make sure to manually log off

Also bear in mind that if you would like to use remaining time on the other day you have to manually log off from the WiFi network. To do that put 1.1.1.1 in your browser URL address and once the page loads click on the “Cerrar sesion” button.

If you forget to do this, your session will continue and will reach 1 hour limit without you using Internet.

Night in Havana

Havana, compared to European, Asian or American cities, is very dark at night. In Havana just a few buildings are lit in the night and you can see them in the photo below. It even sometimes happens that lights in the whole street don’t work at all.

Night in Havana

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9 December 2016

Malecon during Sunset

Posted in: cuba|

Impressed by Canon 5D MK IV

Time spent in Cuba let me do much more testing of Canon 5D MK IV (I shared initial impressions here) and the more I use it, the more I like it and the more I’m impressed with it. Improved dynamic range is a game changer for me. I can now push the shadows by several stops without sacrificing quality – something I couldn’t do on 5D MK III. Sharpness and resolution of the images is also excellent (despite the fact 5D MK IV uses AA filter unlike Nikon D810 for instance). Touch screen is fantastic (I love focusing using it 🙂 ) and built-in GPS is a welcome addition (although it drains battery quicker).

So expect full review of Canon 5D MK IV in the near future.

Malecon during Sunset

I wouldn’t by myself if I haven’t taken any landscape photo while I was in Havana. One of the most obvious places to do that was to shoot sunset golden hour at Malecon. Malecon is a broad roadway which stretches for about 8 km along the sea coast. It’s a place where couples are dating and enthusiasts of fishing spend their free time trying to catch something.

Very warm light, nice textures and smooth water… it had to be nice picture 🙂

Malecon during Sunset

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5 December 2016

Free Presets for Capture One 10

Posted in: capture one, cuba, download, presets|

Free Presets for Capture One 10

Every once in a while I share some free presets on my blog.

And today, to celebrate recent release of Capture One 10, I decided to share a free collection of presets for Capture One. There are 22 different presets in this collection which should be good for landscape, architecture and some street portrait photography.

Download link

You can download the presets for free below:

 

BTW you can find more free presets here.

Installation instructions

To install the presets in Capture One 10, follow below instructions

  1. Download and unzip archive.
  2. Launch Capture One software.
  3. Go to Adjustments tab.
  4. In the “Styles & Presets” section click on the combo box and select “Import…” item.
  5. Navigate to the directory where you unzipped the presets, select all the presets you want and click on the Open button.

Example of using the preset

Below you can see example of the preset in action. Please note that apart from applying the preset (Architecture_Colonial) no additional post processing was used on this image. So with my presets you can create similar images very easily:

2 December 2016

Capture One 10 & Laundry in Havana

Posted in: capture one, cuba|

Capture One 10 released

Some great news – just yesterday my favorite RAW processor, Capture One was updated to version 10! I’ve been using Capture One 10 for some time already as I’m in the beta program and I must say I love it! With each release this powerful app becomes even more powerful enlarging the gap between Lightroom.

Capture One 10 review

You can read my full review of Capture One software below, now updated for version 10:

http://hdr-photographer.com/2015/09/capture-one-8-review-or-why-i-said-goodbye-to-lightroom/

New features in Capture One 10

The main features of this update are following:

  • Improved performance – I always loved how fast Capture One was. And you know what? It now became even faster!
  • New 3-phase sharpening tools:
    • “Diffraction correction” – input sharpening that corrects sharpening problems of a lens
    • Regular sharpening – it’s a normal sharpening tool similar to previous versions of Capture One. It still got some enhancements. First, there is new Halo suppression slider that reduces halo artifacts caused by sharpening. Second, sharpening can now be added as a local adjustment so it’s possible to apply different sharpening to different parts of the image, which is great!
    • Output sharpening – you can also apply sharpening specifically for your output recipe (e.g. different for web, for full-size image or for print).
  • Camera Focus tool – although I hardly ever shoot tethered (although this changes as I’m playing with light recently in my small home studio) I think it’s a great feature. You can now adjust focus manually in tethered shooting mode. Both Sony, Nikon, Canon and PhaseOne cameras are supported.
  • Support for compressed RAW file formats like Canon sRAW or Nikon RAW M.
  • Some changes to the default workspace. For example photo browser is now on the right-hand side of the screen.

Laundry in Havana

I always liked colonial architecture and was very happy to see it in Cuba. Although you can generally find it across whole country, in Havana you will the most beautiful and most monumental pieces of it. And the best thing of all is that it’s still used – not only for museums – for hotels, restaurants but also people live there.

Laundry in Havana

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30 November 2016

Cuban woman smoking cigar

Posted in: cuba|

Cuban woman smoking cigar

Today I’d like to share my first image from amazing city of Havana. In my first post from Cuba, I wrote it’s a great city to do some street photography – wherever you look there is something worth photographing – from street artists to colorfully dressed people to the poor fighting for better tomorrow. Photo below shows a traditionally dressed Cuban woman smoking cigar. It’s one of those photos you simply have to take when being in Cuba.

What I really love about this portrait is color – blue doors behind her contrast so well with the reds and oranges of her clothes!

Cuban woman smoking a cigar

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