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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