Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Cuba Photo Tour - Ending the trip with visits to Vinales and Trinidad

When most people think about Cuba, they tend to focus on the city of Havana and all that it has to offer. On our trip to Cuba, we started with 3 full days in Havana, but then ventured out to some of the other areas of the country.

On our 4th day, our guide drove us from Havana to the small town of Vinales so that we could see some of the countryside and the tobacco fields. We were driving on a small road when we passed this farmer working in his field. As we drove past, I had just enough time to spot this guy and see that he would make an amazing subject for photos. I asked our driver to turn around and go back to the farm, and asked our guide if he could get permission from the man to photograph him.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 100-400mm lens, ISO 800, f/5, 1/640 sec)

The farmer had no problem with us photographing him, and so we all exited the vehicle and started taking photos of him. At first, we just photographed him as he worked in his field, and then I asked if we could take some portraits of him.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 100-400mm lens, ISO 1250, f/5, 1/400 sec)
I was using my Canon 1D X Mark II with the Canon 100-400mm lens which worked perfectly for taking wide and tight shots. We also had overcast skies which created perfect portrait lighting.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 100-400mm lens, ISO 1250, f/5.6, 1/500 sec)

Everything about this man said "Cuban farmer" to me. The weathered face, the old hat and even the colors he wore. After thanking the farmer for his time, we all got back in the car excited to have these images.


Vinales is not only a picturesque town, but it is also known for its farming and tobacco growing. When driving through the region, you can see many huts like this where the tobacco leaves are stored and dried.


These are young tobacco plants.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/200 sec, Canon 600EX-RT flash)

We entered the drying hut where the son of the owner of the farm was set to demonstrate cigar rolling for us. But he had his table and chair deep inside the hut in a really dark area. I asked if we could move his table and chair closer to the doorway to get some of the ambient light on him. He was fine with this. I then set up a remote flash (with an orange gel) to light up the dried tobacco leaves in the background. Our guests then took turns using the remote flash to get their shots.


It was really cool to see how easily he rolled the cigars.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/200 sec, 2 Canon 600EX-RT flashes)
After he was done demonstrating his craft, I asked him if we could take some portraits of him. This time I set up a second remote flash to light his face. As you can see, he is a natural model.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 100-400mm lens, ISO 400, f/5, 1/250 sec)

The next day, we went to visit an organic farm at the top of a hillside. A guide was showing us how they plant their crops, but I was more interested in the gardener who was tilling nearby. Again, I asked if we could make him our subject.

(Canon 1D X Mark II, 100-400mm lens, ISO 1000, f/7.1, 1/200 sec)
It was towards the end of the day and we had perfect golden light on him. He even gave me these two cigars to take home. Since I don't smoke, my brother was the happy recipient.


We were done shooting portraits of this man when he sat down to relax. I saw him sitting there in the distance and, using my 100-400mm lens, waited for him to breath in on the cigar and grabbed this natural pose of him.


The next day we made the long drive from Vinales to Trinidad. And just like our drive in to Vinales, on the drive out we saw another photo opportunity along the roadside. This man was tilling the soil with his two oxen and we all wanted to photograph that. Again, we checked with him to make sure he was OK with us taking his photo. He agreed and then went about his business as we captured many images of him working hard in the field.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens, ISO 100, f/10, 1/250 sec)

It was pretty late in the evening by the time we arrived in Trinidad, but we thought it would be good to stretch our legs after the long drive. After eating dinner we decided to walk the two blocks into the heart of the town. It was dark, but we could see how amazing this place would be in the daylight. And the next morning, we were enjoyed our first photo opportunities in this colorful town.


We walked through the more touristy areas, but also walked into the less traveled spots to capture the true vibe of the town.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens, ISO 1600, f/4, 1/60 sec)

There is a man in town who is well known in his country for being a master at pottery. We were lucky enough to watch him work his magic. This was also a great chance for me to teach the group about shooting with really slow shutter speeds (thus showing the movement of the wheel and clay).


This photo was taken at 1/8 sec to accentuate the spinning wheel. I waited for the artist to keep his top hand relatively still with slight motion in the lower hand.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens, ISO 500, f/4, 1/160 sec)
And yes, just like everyone else we photographed, we took portraits of him too.

He asked if anyone in our group wanted to try working the wheel, and after everyone declined I readily volunteered. My pot wasn't too bad, but nothing like his!


As we walked back towards our villa, we saw this man sitting in his doorway. I fell in love with the distressed walls, the doorway and his look. We took photos of him, and it wasn't until reviewing the images that I noticed how worn out his shoes were. I had an extra pair of shoes that I had packed with me, and after seeing this, I asked our driver to bring him my extra pair of shoes on his next visit, which happened the be the following week.


It was towards the end of our time in Trinidad and the trip itself and we did not have group photo yet. I saw this home with great colors and steps and thought it was a perfect location for a group shot. I was just about to get everyone together for a photo when these school kids turned to corner and walked towards us. We asked the teacher if we could do a group shot for them. I plan on printing many copies of this photo and bringing it to them in December when we return to Cuba on our next photo tour.


And then, after the school kids left, it was time for our group shot. I took the initial photo and had Mike and Elmer leave room for me. Then I asked everyone else to stay in the same spot and had Elmer shoot an image of me. Using Adobe Photoshop, I dropped myself in.


On our first day in Havana, we visited a hotel rooftop to get a photo of the newly refurbished capital building. I thought that, as a final photo of the trip, that this location would make for a great night shot for the group. We were cutting it close, returning to Havana from Trinidad, and our driver was doing his best to get us to this location before sunset. We made it with only minutes to spare. We all jammed up to the rooftop, set up our tripods and cameras. I was using my Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 24-105mm lens. We set our cameras to ISO 160, f/16 with a 6 second exposure and got this parting shot. A perfect way to end an amazing trip!

We will be going back to Cuba at the same time next year, since the weather is optimum at this time. If you want to know more about that, you can get more information here.

And now...we are off to India!

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If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
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Friday, January 17, 2020

A message to all you photographers - Protect your ears!

Last month I had an in-depth hearing test at an audiologists office. I sat in the soundproof chamber and strained to hear the high-pitched tones being sent into the headphones, As I sat there, I kept thinking about all the loud environments I have been subjected to during my photography career.

I have photographed a lot of personal events with the DJ or band cranking out their music at very high levels. And, of course, the best shooting position is usually up on the stage, right in front of the loudspeakers. I have photographed NASCAR, Indy and World Rally Car races and did not wear any ear protection. And yes, I have been known to listen to the music in my car and on my headphones at levels that are a bit extreme.

All of this has added up over the years and taken a toll on my hearing. When I saw the test results, I was shocked at how much of my hearing I have lost.  And to make things worse, the audiologist told me that once you lose hearing, you cant get it back.

The audiologist said that I could get custom made earplugs or I could spend a lot less and order earplugs called Eargasms for approximately $40. These are small earplugs which fit into the ear and cut up to 21db of sound, but still allow me to communicate with people. I was sold right away and ordered two sets before I set foot out of the doctor's office.

A week later I was shooting a reception with a live band and I was acutely aware of the volume level. I reached into my bag and inserted the Eargasms into my ears. I took a couple of seconds to insert them and remove them to compare the volume levels. It was dramatic. I then grabbed my camera and continued my job, feeling better that I was doing something to protect what is left of my hearing.


MY WARNING TO ANY OF YOU PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO MIGHT BE WORKING IN LOUD ENVIRONMENTS IS TO USE EAR PROTECTION!

These Eargasms are really small and inexpensive, so there is no reason not to use them. Each set comes with a standard and a smaller sized set of shells. There is a small filter which you can move between the different shells if need be. When I put them in my ear, it is really hard for anyone to see that they are there.

What I liked about these products is that they are designed to reduce the overall volume but not cancel out the experience. They were designed for people who might be using them at a concert, wanting to hear the music but at a lower level. For me, as a working photographer, these let me cut the sound level during a party, while still being able to interactive with the attendees.  I also like that they come with a little cylinder to hold them, which can easily be stashed in my camera bags.

I now have one set in each camera bag, and am so thankful for this.

I know that, for me, damage has already been done. But at least I can try to prevent any more from happening from this point on. And with this blog post, maybe I can help others as well.

If you want to purchase some of these Eargasms for yourself, you can find them HERE.

I wish that I had done this 15 years ago!

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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________ 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Canon just announced the EOS-1D X Mark III Camera - Did they read my blog?

You may remember back in July of last year, I wrote a blog post called "What I want for my next cameras - Canon are you listening?"  It appears that Canon was listening, at least as it pertains to the flagship model. We will have to wait and see what Canon does for the 5D Mark IV replacement.

We saw a technology announcement from Canon back in October, but now Canon has officially announced the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III Camera and seems to have hit almost everything on my wishlist!


The first and most important request was for Canon to step away from their previously conservative approach to memory card slots and go all in with CFExpress. I was frustrated with Canon putting in one fast slot and one slower slot. With the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, I can burst out more than 1000 frames without any buffer lag, but more importantly I can download images much faster than in the past. This time around Canon took the plunge and did it right, and I can't wait to be using these new super fast cards. I hope to have one of the pre-release cameras in my hands any week now.

I wanted more focus points and an even better focus system and in the technology announcement, Canon alluded to something new. Now we know that the 1D X Mark III has a iTR AF X 191-Point AF system (iTR stands for Intelligent Tracking and Recognition). It is not completely edge-to-edge for the focus points, but from everything I have been told, this is a much improved system with face detection and more.

I wanted cleaner images at high ISOs, and from what I have been told, this camera should deliver on this. The standard ISO range is 100-102,400 but this is also expandable to 50-819,00 which  This means that the camera could theoretically shoot in almost pitch black and grab images. There is a new low-pass filter and a new DIGIC X image processor which should deliver extremely sharp images. I will test this and let you know my own opinion soon.

I did ask for lighter weight, and this camera is slightly lighter, but not dramatically so. Oh well, we can't have it all! This is a big camera with a lot of technology in it. The good news is that I should be able to shoot almost 3000 images on one fully charged battery. This is a huge advantage over cameras like the Sony A9 which can do just a fraction of this.

I really wanted both WiFi and Bluetooth to be integrated directly in the 1D X Mark III and Canon did that. Not only did they integrate both wireless technologies, but they increased the speed of the built-in Ethernet port and offer an external WiFi transmitter for increased speed and range.

Canon increased the burst rate to 16 frames per second, which will be really handy when capturing images at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo. When shooting in Live View, the camera can achieve 20 frames per second, and do so completely silently, although I don't expect to use this as often. Well...the silent mode maybe when shooting events on a tripod (like bar mitzvahs and weddings), but it is not likely that I will be looking at the LCD on the back of the camera when shooting sports and wildlife.

For those people interested in video, Canon has increased the specs for video capture, but since I am a still shooter, I will leave that review up to the experts.

All of this goodness comes at a price, with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III costing us $6499. They are currently available for preorder at B&H Photo.

Overall, I really excited to get my hands on this new flagship camera from Canon, and I promise to give you my real-world review once I do. I expect this to be very soon.

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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________ 


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Cuban Photo Tour - Dancers from the National Ballet at sunset

First of all, I would like to say Happy New Year to all of you blog followers out there. I hope that you all have an amazing 2020 with great people, great experiences, capturing photos that excite you. I am looking forward to an amazing photographic year with trips to India, Costa Rica, Scotland, Ireland and of course the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The year 2019 ended with my first photo tour to Havana, Cuba for my first photo tour in the country. As part of this, we had a chance to photograph two amazing dancers from the Cuban National Ballet. When Mike (the owner of M&M Photo Tours) and I planned this out, we decided to have the dancers meet us at the famed Malecon area of the city about an hour before sunset. We arranged to photograph them for up to 2 hours, aiming for golden hour light and sunset shooting, and that plan worked out perfectly.


We met Kathy and Grettell at the Malecon and I thought it would be best to position them on the seawall with the iconic lighthouse in the distance.


With the perfect evening sunlight, I encouraged everyone to shoot without any flash. We asked the ladies to face the setting sun and to do some of their classic poses.


I had two cameras with me: the Canon 5D Mark IV paired with the Canon 24-105mm lens and the Canon 1D X Mark II paired with the Canon 100-400mm lens.


I started with the 5D Mark IV and wider lens to capture both Kathy and Grettell as they made their jumps.


Then, in order to give the ladies a break in between jumps, we switched to photographing one dancer at a time. This time I switched to the 1D X Mark II with the longer lens to isolate Kathy in mid air. We still had a decent amount of light, allowing us to achieve shutter speeds of 1/1600 sec at ISO 320 (at f/5). For this shot, I cropped out the wall below Kathy to have just her and this beautiful pose above the water. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip.



We moved Kathy to a point at the end of the seawall and all had a blast capturing photos of her in this perfect light.


 This is a tighter crop of the same photo above.


As Kathy posed, I encouraged everyone to move around to get different perspectives.


We photographed until we lost the golden hour light...


...and then I broke out two of the Canon 600EX-RT flashes and a Canon ST-E3-RT transmitter. I used the MagMod grids on both flash units and also added 1/2 CTO gels to both (to match the golden light from the sun). I determined the proper camera settings for everyone and then, with people holding the flashes in front of Grettell, we took turns using the transmitter and getting photos of the ladies in low light.


For these photos, we set our cameras to ISO 1250, f/5 and 1/200 sec, and I powered the flashes to give us the best light on our subjects. At this point, we had attracted quite a crowd of people watching our photo session. They were also doing their best to get their own photos of the dancers with their phones.


As soon as I saw the color growing in the sky, we moved the dancers so that the sunset would be directly behind them.  We had these bands of pink coming from behind the clouds which really added drama to the sky. I switched back to the Canon 5D Mark IV with the 24-105mm lens to get wider shots. Once again, I determined the best camera settings and flash power, and we all took turns using my transmitter. I only brought one set of Powerex Pro AA batteries, but luckily they lasted for the whole shoot. This was another favorite photo from the trip!


While the others were using my transmitter and flashes to light the ladies, I took advantage of the time to capture photos of their silhouettes against the fading sunset.



This last shot was taken at 6:12pm and we were just about out of sunset light. I asked both ladies to pose on the wall for one last silhouette shot for the group. After this, with all of us were feeling the exhilaration of a great photo shoot, we went to a nearby hotel rooftop and enjoyed a good mojito to celebrate another amazing day in Cuba!

This part of our photo tour was so amazing that I know we will do it again next year, and maybe even try it multiple evenings. 

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Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________ 

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Cuban Photo Tour - The people of Cuba

Looking back at my first trip to Cuba, there were a lot of things that I expected and some things that surprised me. One of the biggest surprises was how open and friendly the Cuban people were to us, and how the majority of my favorite images were of the people who we met along the way.

Almost everyone we encountered were inviting, friendly and curious about our group. They may not like our current government and the restrictions put on US tourism, but they definitely had no problems with American people.


As part of our photo tour, we visited one of the local markets, and had fun photographing the merchants as they sold their goods.


Unlike some other cultures, people in Cuba were mostly accepting of us taking their portraits, and usually did so with big smiles on their faces.


We saw this tall Rastafarian butcher who was feeding these stray cats. I was laughing as I took the photo, because this would not be approved by the FDA in the United States.


As we moved through the market, I was teaching our guests how to shoot from different points of view. In this case, I was showing how we could take a portrait through the merchant's pineapple, but make sure the focus was on the woman.


We did not use any flash when shooting these portraits, only relying on the sunlight coming through the open walls of the market. This created some really nice portrait light on the merchant's faces.


We saw this one butcher who was selling government subsidized meat. He was the perfect subject for me to teach about portrait lighting. He was in a dark corner of a room, but facing out into the window light.


I photographed him from the side angle and then from outside the window to show the different compositions to the group.


Later that same day, we visited a cultural show where these local dancers performed. While watching the show, I saw the movement of the dancers and encouraged our guests to slow their shutter speeds and catch some of the motion of the dance.


We were shooting at ISO 500 at an aperture of f/4 to get a shutter speed of 1/20 sec.


The room was small, but the colors were amazing.


One night we went to a dinner show where we were entertained by some well known Cuban performers. Not only was it a fun experience, but this was a chance for me to teach high ISO shooting.


One of our guests was reluctant to shoot at any ISO above 2000, but I showed him how we could get very good photos even at ISO 6400 using the Canon 24-105mm f/4 lens on the Canon 5D Mark IV camera.


We were taking a walking tour of Havana and came across these older men playing dominos. I stopped our group and asked these men if we could photograph them during their game.


This was a great chance to teach once again. I showed our guests how getting down low, brought us into the game.


I got behind one man to get a shot over his shoulder, when I saw this look on his opponent. That is pure intensity and I knew I had a favorite photo from this match.


This guy had a classic Cuban look about him, cigar and all.



I was teaching how photographers need to tell a story when taking photos. Sometimes, this involves photos that are not of people's faces, but just their hands and tiles.


I was just about done shooting when I noticed this guys hat, with the word "Cuba" embroidered on the back. I changed my focus point to his hat and took this shot to tell the story of where we were.


We were done shooting and about to continue our walk through the city, when this tall Rastafarian guy walked up to watch the old men play. We said "Hey, you are the butcher we saw the other day!" and he smiled. I had to photograph that!

Stay tuned for more photos from Cuba including local farmers and some sunset photos of incredible dancers from the National Ballet.

__________________________________________________________________________
Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!
__________________________________________________________________________
If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.
__________________________________________________________________________
Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa, Costa Rica, Europe, Asia, India and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.
__________________________________________________________________________