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Finally Heading to Cuba
  
 
DougVaughn
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Finally Heading to Cuba


I've been wanting to do it since Obama relaxed the restrictions, and now that Trump is making it difficult again, I decided to beat the clock before the new regulations are published and effective. Hopefully government works slowly and my September 4th date will be within the window. Ideally, I would have waited until better weather in November but will surely still enjoy myself.

My wife is usually my photo travel partner, but she has no desire to go to Cuba, so this will be a solo trip. It would have been nice to have a fellow American traveler, but time is short to find someone. A fellow FMer recommend a private guide and translator, and it seems he will work out well.

I'm arranging my itinerary, so if anyone has tips on must see and must photograph locations, I'd appreciate them. I will be staying close to Havana with a day trip to Vinales since my stay is only Monday - Saturday. My focus will be people with buildings, cars, and landscape secondary.



Aug 04, 2017 at 05:36 PM
Lindrelt
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Finally Heading to Cuba


Was there in June last year... there will be photo ops everywhere for you. The people in many places are Ok with taking their pic but will ask for a tip -- about 1 CUC was expected. Others would wave you off if you held up a camera.

Old Habana was the most fun... and old cars everywhere! Have a good time...







Lindrelt 2017


Cruising in Old Habana

  NIKON D810    24.0-70.0 mm f/2.8 lens    31mm    f/8.0    1/60s    80 ISO    0.0 EV  




Aug 08, 2017 at 02:25 AM
mdude85
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Finally Heading to Cuba


Old Havana is nice -- check out the Church of St Francis of Assisi. The church and monastery cloisters are so beautiful. You can pay a guard a couple CUC and he will let you go to the very top of the bell tower which has great view of the city.

I heard nice things about Fusterlandia as well but did not get a chance to go.




Aug 09, 2017 at 01:44 PM
jdc562
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Finally Heading to Cuba


The biggest mistake in going to Cuba is thinking Havana is all of Cuba. It's a tourist trap. In my opinion, if you go to Cuba and only come back with pictures of 50's cars, run-down buildings on back streets, and old guys with dead cigars in their mouths, you got snookered by the tourist set-up fabricated and regulated by the Cuban government for suckers like you. Those old cars are maintained by law. Those cold, soggy cigars are there as props. If all you want are photos of decrepit old buildings, save yourself a bundle by going to the slums of your nearest U.S. city. Google Cuba photos and you will see all those same trite photos over and over proudly posted by tourists who went to the set-up parts of Havana and crow about having captured the "real Cuba."

Sorry to be such a hard judge, but by spending less than a week in Cuba, almost totally in Havana, you will be just another same-old tourist goof with photos you could have bought in a Miami postcard shop. You say you are "staying close to Havana." If you mean a beach resort like Varadero, this is the worst of the worst in so many ways. You'd be better off driving to Myrtle Beach. Start doing your research real fast. Vinales could be the best part of your trip. It has unique photo opportunities because of the dramatic landscape features and behind-the-times agriculture, but your tiny visit there won't get you much.

Cuba is not a teensy island. The real Cuba is more than 700 miles long. It's the biggest island in the Caribbean--about the length of California. Your planned trip is like going to Anaheim, visiting Disneyland, and thinking you have made a worthwhile photography trip to California. Cuba is very culturally diverse. For example, there's a massive, old, colonial French influence--from rich French and their workers fleeing old-time Haiti. This is on the Caribbean side and eastern end of Cuba, but hardly in Havana. Hugely diverse music is the heart, soul, and energy of Cuba. It has a strong Afro-Cuban and Afro-French origins, combined with Spanish. It is way beyond the Buena Vista Social Club. You will miss nearly all of this by only being near Havana.

You should add at least a week to your trip and go to other parts of the country. Several years ago I spent 15 days there with a super-knowledgeable Cuban guide. We did most of the length of the island: Guantanamo to Havana, including many music and cultural venues. Fifteen days was much too short, but it was a good scoping exercise.







Aug 09, 2017 at 08:15 PM
chez
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Finally Heading to Cuba


jdc562 wrote:
The biggest mistake in going to Cuba is thinking Havana is all of Cuba. It's a tourist trap. In my opinion, if you go to Cuba and only come back with pictures of 50's cars, run-down buildings on back streets, and old guys with dead cigars in their mouths, you got snookered by the tourist set-up fabricated and regulated by the Cuban government for suckers like you. Those old cars are maintained by law. Those cold, soggy cigars are there as props. If all you want are photos of decrepit old buildings, save yourself a bundle by going to the
...Show more

Well, I'll play the devils advocate here. Seeing all of Cuba in 15 days...you are just scratching the surface of the place. I'd much rather spend 10 days in Havana than trying to see everything ( and seeing nothing ) in 15 days where you are in one place for a day or two...then onto another.

Sure Havana has its tourist areas just like any other city, but there is nothing stopping you from getting a taxi and heading out to other locations within Havana. It really is not hard to find the "authentic" Havana if you just step away from the tourist plazas and just walk into the back streets with your camera...get lost wandering. I spent 10 days in Havana and maybe 3 of those days in the tourist areas...the other days I took taxis to different Havana neighborhoods and just wandered.

I'd much rather spend my time in one part of Cuba...really get to know the place and the people rather than just skimming all of Cuba on a whirlwind tour.




Aug 10, 2017 at 12:13 AM
 

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mdude85
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Finally Heading to Cuba


jdc562 wrote:
The biggest mistake in going to Cuba is thinking Havana is all of Cuba. It's a tourist trap. In my opinion, if you go to Cuba and only come back with pictures of 50's cars, run-down buildings on back streets, and old guys with dead cigars in their mouths, you got snookered by the tourist set-up fabricated and regulated by the Cuban government for suckers like you.



Your opinion is wrong, because the government does not have enough resources to do that. It can barely restore and maintain a few public squares. Cuba is currently not market-oriented enough to figure out how to profit from the numerous things you claim it does.

But it is true that certain parts of Havana are touristy, just as certain parts of Paris or LA are touristy. But they're tiny slices of the city. Old Havana is the most touristy part of town, but it is also home to 100,000 people.

I've also been to many "slums" around the U.S. and I can assure you that none of them compare to Havana.

I think if you come back from Cuba without an appreciation for the complicated political, cultural and sociological history of the place, then you have been snookered.



Aug 10, 2017 at 12:45 AM
DougVaughn
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Finally Heading to Cuba


The words "near Havana" may not have conveyed my point well. I meant I wouldn't be straying far from Havana, except the day trip to Vinales. I'm staying in a casa particular in a non-touristy part of the city and do think I'll get a pretty authentic experience there.

I agree Havana doesn't represent all of Cuba, but I only have 5 days. Unfortunately, I still have to work for a living and can only get a few days away. I look forward to retirement and more travel but am not quite ready to add 10 years to my age.

As Chez noted, I think a person can meet some real people by getting into various neighborhoods and just walking and observing. That's a big part of my plan. I'm not being snookered by some travel company with a pre-planned agenda. A local Cuban is arranging for me to have a translator and driver. Yes, I wish I spoke enough Spanish to get by, but this is the next best thing.

As I said in the original post, the cars and old buildings aren't my primary subject, although I'm sure I will shoot a few of those Miami postcards. Why not... I'll be there. My real focus will be people... as many as I can meet, hopefully doing the kind of activities they do every day.




Aug 10, 2017 at 10:24 PM
DougVaughn
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Finally Heading to Cuba


mdude85 wrote:
I think if you come back from Cuba without an appreciation for the complicated political, cultural and sociological history of the place, then you have been snookered.


This I agree with. Some who have been there and met average Cubans (even if only Havana) have told me it sticks with you in a way you can't explain. I want to experience that aspect first hand, and even if I only have a few days to do it, it's worth the relatively small price I'm paying.




Aug 10, 2017 at 10:28 PM
Colin F
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Finally Heading to Cuba


You're going to have a great time. I went there about 4-5 years ago (using my old Panny G3 m4/3 system) on a guided photography trip through a college in Vancouver, and we hit Havana; Vinales; Soroa; Cienfuegos and Trinidad. While some stops were a little rushed, it was fantastic.

Just because you're mainly in Havana, doesn't mean that you're stuck with cheezy, touristy shots (although I unknowingly was guilty of taking a few of those myself out of ignorance). The city is large, so you can explore the millions of nooks & crannies and get very good, creative shots. I had some fantastic experiences.

You can see some of my Cuba images on my website.



Aug 11, 2017 at 05:01 PM







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