Being Here Now
The Art & Practice of Street PhotographyTM




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A Cuba Travel Workshop
By Photographers – For Photographers!

February 2020




Photography "has little to do with the things you see
and everything to do with the way you see them." – Elliott Erwitt




This Cuba Street Photography Tour is open to those with a desire to photograph life in Havana, the Republic of Cuba – preferably using Fuji X or Leica M digital cameras. Both of these systems are well suited to the classic image-making activity we will be practicing. Using these tools we will be engaged in both “street portraiture” and “street photography.” (The distinction being that the "street photography" genre involves images captured without the subject being aware.) In either event this Tour is for photographers who prefer to capture a moment rather than create it.



The Details

Buy experiences instead of things.




The Spiel

selfie-T-shirt Photographers' Hands-on Tour of Havana

Legally, U.S. citizens are now able to go to Cuba, with a legal tour company, under one of 12 OFAC (U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Asset Control) categories without obtaining the paperwork licenses in advance. One such category is the “people-to-people” program where a rigorous, daily program of cultural/historic activities, are clearly outlined and adhered to*. This Tour is such a program.

Most Americans assume that Cuba, the Pearl of the Antilles, is a social backwater with little tourism and even less contact with the outside world. The truth is that the country has some 68,000 tourist rooms and accommodated 3 to 4 million tourists last year. It is a Caribbean destination for many Europeans as well as citizens from the countries that were, or are, communist or socialist in governance.

Now, with the recent thaw in US–Cuba relations, the influx of American tourists threatens to become a tsunami, overwhelming large areas of the country's brittle infrastructure.

At the moment Havana is a city where a photographer does not have the difficulty of finding a view that does not include many of the iconic signs of a place having been 'domesticated' by U.S. companies like MacDonalds and WalMart. How long this situation lasts is anybody's guess.

This Tour and the Photo Walk workshops are all about the light and the way you see it. Not necessarily about the particular light of Havana, but light as the over-arching necessity for photography – the science and, more importantly, art, of natural illumination and your individual point of view.

We will encourage participants to choose one fixed (prime) lens for each morning and afternoon walkabout session and stick to that lens for that entire session. Zooms are great tools: you always get a photo of some sort, but they do not always force one to think in the most creative way about the potential photo at hand. With a zoom most photographers begin to shoot by pondering, "Do I want to take this at 28mm or at 50mm?" After this decision you still have the rest of the picture-taking process to figure out. Alternatively, when faced with a picture opportunity, fixed lens at the ready, you will start by thinking, "How can I best frame this image with what I have at hand?" "What angle of view will create the most dynamic photo?" "What f-stop will give me sharpness through the whole scene or create the out-of-focus surroundings (bokeh) I need to isolate this subject?" You will begin to think about this image before you and only this image instead of thinking, "If this first photo doesn't do the trick I can always zoom in or out to better advantage!" You will begin to practice being in the present with your photography.

Just as Buddhism attempts to get one to live in the present, in the now (as that is all we really have, your picture-making will begin to focus on the image in front of you right this moment. The idea is to create the best, most interesting photograph you can with this one chance. Digital has made many of us move this idea to the rear of our consciousness. We know we have hundreds of images to burn freely and forget that it is this one that is the most important image we will ever take – at least until we approach the next shot. Take your time with this photo. There may be instances where you will have to react quickly to get the picture (even though, with time, you may have anticipated it) but just as often you will have extra seconds to do the job right. A 50mm, or wider, fixed lens also gets you into the action (which will show in your Point Of View) rather than let you stand outside the action, clicking from afar (a distancing that almost always shows in the final photo.)

***********

All modern, as well as many vintage, cameras have the ability to create excellent photographs. And, in the final analysis, viewers of your images (other than other photographers!) won't give a fig whether your tool was a $9000 Leica or a $100 plastic Holga. What they will care about is that your photographs are engaging, emotion-generating, thought-instilling creations. Otherwise, why bother?

While we welcome any DSLR, rangefinder or so-called mirror-less model in this adventure, we gear it with the Fuji X-camera system and Leica M cameras in mind. These are clean, somewhat pared-down systems without the instrument clutter of most modern DSLRs. More bells and whistles only distract from the task at hand. Really, all we need on our chosen tool is a way to adjust ISO, lens aperture and shutter speed. We used to think all the rest was 'gravy' but, increasingly, many have come to see and understand that this 'gravy' is a system-clogging, artistic distraction from the central focus of our craft. Adding functions ought not be confused with increasing functionality.

With the above said, we will still be taking large numbers of shots during our six and a half days on the streets of Havana and roads of the western provinces. Not from nowhere do we have the old saying "practice makes perfect".  The great photographers that we all admire paid their dues in time and shooting to get their iconic status. In Malcolm Gladwells' book Outliers he wrote, after studying success in various fields, that about 10,000 hours of actually doing a thing are required before the hard work of practice - paying one's dues so to speak, truly starts paying off. Gladwell found this was true for the 'naturally gifted' as well as those who were... well... more ordinary in their talents. What the research really means is that there are basically no shortcuts to fluency; one must Do The Work.** (What 10,000 hours boils down to is forty hours a week for five years, or twenty hours for ten years, etc.!) And remember, Ansel Adams once said that if he got twelve really good photographs during the course of a year he was happy!

 

* Everything in Cuba is, at all times, in flux. While we make every effort to stick to the schedule of the day, things can happen to make improvisations with comparable alternatives necessary! Come prepared for the delightfully unexpected and serendipitous. The flexible – and prepared – good photographer takes such events in stride and makes the most of any opportunity. Additionally, as the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is in a state of change, new regulations applying to us may come into play.

** I would encourage you to read Gladwell's books as well as Steven Pressfield's Do The Work! Overcome Resistance and get out of your own way.

 

 


 

 

A   Tour Cost

  Total cost for the photo tour is US$3195 per person, double occupancy, based upon 4 to 6 paying participants. While most such tours stay at hotels we stay at a casa particular (a Cuban B & B). We require a deposit check of $800 within a week of you making your reservation with us. Your balance must be paid at least 90 days before the start of the Tour. A transaction fee of about 3.5% will apply if you pay your balance by credit card.

Our group will contain at least 4 but no more than 6 participant-photographers.

All prices on this site and in any promotional and informational material are listed in US dollars.  Prices while we are on the Tour may be in either US dollars or Cuban Convertible Currency (CUC).

If you have participated in other Tours/Workshops with us you are eligible for a $200 discount on the price of this trip!


     Your tour price includes and pays for:

     US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorized people-to-people Cuba travel permit

     Double room with en suite bath for 7 nights.

     Photo Walks with a Tour leader(s) (general schedule below)

     All breakfasts and lunches; 5 of your 7 dinners

     Transfers to/from Havana airport and our lodging

     Group transport for Tour activities that need it

     Entrance fees for Tour-included activities

     Pre-Tour instructions to prepare you for Cuba as well as dozens of articles

 

NOT included in your tour cost is:

   your airfare to our departure point: Tampa (TPA), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Houston (IAH) or NYC (JFK, EWR) from your home base*

   Cuban visa ($50)

   Cuban Airport Exit Fee ($25)

   baggage charges as well as excess weight fees

   two dinners in Havana during the Tour

   drinks (after the first, included, one) during meals

   personal outings and entertainment and incidentals (music/dance, gifts, etc.)

   medical expenses incurred before, on, or after the Tour

   money exchanging fees

   travel insurance. More info here

   any optional activites not required by the Tour

   a single room with en suite bath (available for extra cost)

   tips for meals and services


   Do ask about any other items if you have questions.

 

* If your flight from home to the departure-to-Havana-airport (we use Tampa or Ft. Lauderdale) leaves you less than three hours of layover time you should get a flight for the day before and stay overnight at a hotel near your departure airport. Allow a good three hours plus for all the paperwork clearance and boarding requirements for your direct flight to Cuba! Allow at least 3 hours for your layover between your arrival from Havana to the US airport for your trip home, as well. We use La Quinta Inn Tampa Bay Airport at 4730 W Spruce Street (circa $150 total) because it's a 10 minute ride to Tampa Airport and they have a free airport shuttle service. Ft. Lauderdale is more difficult in terms of lodging but we have found the Motel 6 to work.

** NEW! Your regular U.S. medical insurance policy may cover you in Cuba if the policy is a global policy. Do check to find out whether this is the case with your medical policy. If you are not covered we have a very good option for our participants.

 

 

 


 

Wild
  Tour Dates

     Photography near or during the week of a full moon provides night illumination that can be used to great advantage by photographers, especially in a city with lots of darker neighborhoods. Also, as most of us do not want to work when the heat and humidity are at the highest, we prefer conducting our Tours during the northern hemisphere winter.

      Please confer with us before making reservations and paying for any flights or hotels!

 

    Our 2020 Tour will be conducted Saturday to Saturday in February 2020. Exact dates forthcoming.

 

 

 

 


 

F
     Accomodations

We use a casa particular (a Cuban B&B) fronting on the Malecón with sea views from the living and sun rooms. Rooms are based upon double occupancy. If you require a single room you may have to pay an additional supplement. Further, if you require a plush hotel room there are several hotels a 10 minute walk away. The price add-on is quite substantial! As well, this may not be the tour for you. Call or email us.

     Participants coming alone may be teamed (for accommodation purposes) with another photographer as a roommate if there is another suitable participant.

 

 


 

A      Physical Requirements & Dietary Information

     Level: EASY to MODERATELY ACTIVE

     As there will be lots of walking in the warm, humid climate of the city, the ability to walk a couple hours in the mornings and two to three hours in the afternoons is a necessity. Anyone who can get around any large city at street level with ease should have no problem. Do note, though, that many places in Havana you might wish to visit on your own, as well as several restaurants on our itinerary, are above street level and require many, many steps. If you have ambulatory issues you must let us know!

     Additionally, Havana streets are a minefield of broken pavers, cracked cement, uneven elevations and other challenging issues. Walking any distance with a camera to your eye is a recipe for physical disaster. Look down frequently and don comfortable and stable footwear for our daily activities. Save the fancy shoes for your nights out (when wearing such attire might be more appropriate but will expose you to even greater danger of stumbling in poor light.)

     Almost all evenings will be free after about 6:00 p.m. for individual exploration – music, dance clubs, cigar bars, etc. Whatever you decide to do in the evenings is fine as long as you are ready for our activities at 9:00 a.m. the next morning! When you are late you hold all your companions up! Havana is the same time zone as Eastern Standard Time in the U.S.

     Cuba is a poor country economically. For those who have traveled to other great metropolises around the world Havana may surprise you with its lack of 'street food'. It is limited, in the main, to ice cream and a few pastries as well as fruits and vegetables meant for the table and other uncooked fare. The restaurant scene is improving, however, and we will eat our meals in a variety of excellent local restaurants and eateries.

     If you have any dietary issues or requirements please let us know before you sign up for this Tour. For those with gluten-free and other dietary needs the country may be a bit of a challenge, not in eating elementary meals but in getting much diversity during your week stay. Vegetarians ought to be okay; vegans?

     Cuban health care is first class and relatively inexpensive (a co-pay of about US$30 for a hospital emergency visit with your proof-of-insurance). But, who wants to experiment with such a event when on a photo-vacation!

     Finally, do not expect to buy any medications while in Cuba. Bring whatever you need with you, in its original, labeled container.

 

 

 


 

Insurance      Insurance

Tour participant are required by Cuba to have medical insurance. Our air charter may include a basic policy in the cost of the airline ticket. NEW! Your regular U.S. medical insurance policy may cover you in Cuba if the policy is a global policy. Do check with your carrier to find out whether this is the case as U.S. insurance companies have not, previous to summer 2015, offered health insurance that you can use in Cuba. If your medical policy will not cover you in Cuba we can provide information on a carrier whose coverage is very good and whose cost is reasonable. Medical evacuation is a valuable tool in the traveler's kit, as well. Some insurers provide this or it can be purchased as an add-on.

Prudence dictates that you investigate other insurances, too. We do not require travel insurance but, depending on your circumstances and location (a snow belt where airport closures are possible, for example), it may be wise to purchase it. We will not provide refunds to you if you call us in Tampa and say you are stuck in a snowstorm in Boise and cannot get to Havana for at least three days! (Our flight is a Wednesday and Saturday ONLY Charter so if you miss it you will have to purchase a new ticket at full cost, assuming seat availablity.) There are many providers of travel insurance so you may wish to consult a travel agent as to one that meets your needs. Before you purchase, read the whole policy; the big print giveth, the fine print taketh away!

If you are coming on our trip with lots of expensive gear it ought to be insured. If it is stacked under your Homeowners policy be certain you are covered in Cuba!

Here are some carriers issuing insurance in the areas discussed above. Note we have no affiliation to them nor do we get any kickbacks from them for listing them here. Obviously, we also do not endorse them in a formal way, either. We have used them but never made a claim – the real test of any coverage.

 

 

 

 


 

bb      What to Bring

Good shoes are more important than a fancy camera!

Comfortable clothes that you can get a bit dirty and that are easy to wash in a sink or shower. Havana is humid so quick-drying (a relative term) fabrics are best. There are no laundromats in Havana. (Correction: I have heard that Cuba's first pay-laundry opened in late 2015!)

Bring a circa 50mm or wider lens. You will want to get close, perhaps uncomfortably so. But this is a technique we will tackle on the tour.

Laptop computer or tablet with appropriate software installed if you want to do any post-processing on the island. A laptop is also helpful if you want to communicate with the states via email once or twice. (Our lodging does not have internet access for us. One has to go to a major hotel for internet usage.)

Obviously, any medications you use on a regular basis. Keep them in the original container with the prescription on the label.

Accessories (Plenty of SD/CF cards, cable release, extra batteries, filters, 3-way adapter plug, multi-outlet power strip, power cords, etc.) More on the specifics in our Tour Package Info.

Cuba restricts some imports, even by tourists who are not leaving these forbidden items behind!

Details on what to bring – and what not to bring (Read this page carefully!) here.




 

     Who Should Come

The ability to get on well with a group is of crucial importance. This is your photo tour but you are also a member of a group; a group where everyone has a strong personality and an urge to do certain, specific things. Some may want to get more comfortable approaching potential photo subjects on the street while others may want to refine their technique and vision. Tour leaders will address your concerns and questions in areas you wish to explore and provide practice tips for you.

This tour is for those photographers who already have good working familiarity with their digital cameras. No basic instruction on cameras or photography is included in this tour.

Most of our time will be spent in taking photographs with (if you wish) perhaps 15% of the time spent with the tour guides analyzing the results of all that work behind the lens.

With only 4 to 6 participants in the tour we will usually stay together as a group but if interests diverge more than can be accomplished under this rule, we may split into two smaller groups for any particular session.

 

 

 


 

Street photography is 99.9% failure. – Alex Webb

 

 


 

 

First      Staying in Touch With Home

The internet and mobile usage is tightly controlled in Cuba. Internet cards with one hour of internet connection time are available at hotels, with most of them offering Wi-Fi access or actual terminals for your use. SIM cards for cell phones are a hassle to buy as there are only two Havana locations (that I have been able to find) where SIMS for foreigners are sold at a package cost of $3CUCs per day for specified lengths of time (and the card must be surrendered before departure from the country.) I have never successfully obtained one even after standing in line for hours at the State-operated telephone bureau!

 

 

 

 

 


 

W      Deposits & Refunds, Cancellations


Within 7 days after you make your reservation (by telephone, email, facsimile or other means) we require a deposit of $800 per person to hold your place for the Tour. We will send you an invoice for this deposit and then one afterward that includes the payment and your balance due, with the sequence of due dates for your other payments. The final payment for your place in the Tour will be due in full 90 days before the start of the Tour.

Your place in the Tour may be cancelled without notice if you have not paid any fees upon their due date.

If you find you cannot go on the Tour after you have made a reservation/payments to us, you can cancel your participation. To do this you must notify us in writing. An email and/or a telephone call concerning your intent to cancel will also be helpful as this is a small group endeavor and your cancellation will affect the whole Tour.

Please read this page carefully as it describes our Cancellation Refund policy in full.

 

 

 

 


 

Tour Leaders


Below is a list of the photographers who will be leading our Photo Walk sessions and classroom work. All have many years of experience photographing people on the street as well as landscapes. All are familiar with Cuba, either living there or having photographed there.

Go to this page to see their photography work.

 

 

Diego F. Lastre is a Cuban photographer engaged in street photography as well as commercial advertising and newspaper, magazine and book work, having more than 30 covers since 2009. He has traveled all over the island working with Editorial Letras Cubanas on a book about the pre-Baroque in Cuba.

Diego uses Fuji and Nikon digital cameras and has taught workshops in Chile and Panama. Exhibitions of his striking work have been mounted in Cuba, Chile and Panama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilbur Norman is a Santa Fe writer and photographer who studied social anthropology and has owned rare book and tribal art galleries. His first camera was his father's bakelite 120/220 Ansco Panda. He has ‘upgraded’ many times to where he now feels somewhat competent to handle his current image-making tools: the Leica M10, Leica M246 Monochrom, and several of the Fuji X-cameras; kit chosen for the beautiful rendering produced by their companion lenses. He is quite partial to black and white whether on film or on digital, except in the tropics, and in commerce, where color is (usually!) king.

Wilbur has led tours for photographers on three continents. His work may be viewed here and has been exhibited in Santa Fe, NM, USA; Havana, Cuba; The Louvre Museum in Paris; the Leica Users Group 2014 Yearbook; etc.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best. – Theodore Isaac Rubin

 

 


 

Tour Schedule

Below was our 2019 schedule and itinerary. 2020 will be similar with, maybe, a different USA jumping-off city to Havana. While we make every effort to stick to the plan, things happen and you, as both a group and as individuals, may ask to vary it.

The particulars? More detail here.

 

Friday afternoon or early evening, February ??, 2020.

Meet at La Quinta Inn Tampa Bay Airport at 4730 W Spruce Street (near Tampa International Airport) in preparation for next day's departure to Havana.

 

 

DAY 1 – SATURDAY, February

 

Depart Tampa International/Arrive Havana, José Martí International Airport

Transfer to casa particular or Hotel

Check into our rooms

Dinner (included)

Evening free

 

 

DAY 2 – SUNDAY, February

 

Breakfast* in lodgings (included)

EARLY morning photo shoot at Morro Fort

Photo Walk along the Prado (Wilbur)

Lunch (included)

Late Afternoon Photo Walk

Dinner (included)

Evening free

 

 

 

DAY 3 – MONDAY, February

 

Breakfast in lodgings (included)

Photo Walk of Old Havana

Lunch (included)

Photo Walk

Dinner (included)

Evening free

 

 

DAY 4 – TUESDAY, February

 

Breakfast in lodgings (included)

Photo Walk

Lunch (included)

Visit University of Havana

Dinner (included)

Evening free

 

 

DAY 5 – WEDNESDAY, February

 

Breakfast in lodgings (included)

Shooting Film

Lunch (included)

Photo Walk

Photo Walk at Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón

Dinner (not included)

Evening free
   (Evening Photo Walk for those who wish)

 

 

DAY 6 – THURSDAY, February

 

Breakfast in lodgings (included)

Trip to the western province of Pinar del Rio

Social mixer, lawn of the Hotel Nacional

Dinner (not included)

Evening free

 

 

DAY 7 – FRIDAY, February

 

Breakfast in lodgings (included)

Visit the Hemingway Finca Vigia Museum in Cojimar

Lunch

Visit Fototeca de Cuba

Farewell Dinner (included)

Evening free

 

 

DAY 8 – SATURDAY, February

 

Breakfast of coffee & sandwich (included)

Transfer to José Martí International Airport

Flight Home!

 

 


 

Street Mechanic at Work      Events Subject to Change

Everything in Cuba is, at all times, in flux. While we make every effort to stick to the schedule of the day, things can happen to make improvisations with comparable alternatives necessary. Come prepared for the delightfully unexpected and serendipitous. The flexible – and prepared – photog takes such events in stride and makes the most of any opportunity. Additionally, as the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is in a state of change, new regulations may come into play that we must follow. As we will be a small group, activities may be amended with the consensus of participants.

 

 


 

Co      Photo Release / Tour Review

PhotoHavana/FotoHabana may ask you to submit a few of your photographs from the Tour to use on its web site or in promotional/publicity materials. We will always give attribution for your photographs if and when we use them!

We will ask you to submit a brief blurb on your opinion of the Tour to use on our web site or in promotional/publicity materials. Also, after your return home, we will ask you to fill out a brief questionnaire rating us on the trip – both the good and the bad.

 

 

 

 

 


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All images and text © 2015-2019 Coup de Foudre, LLC & Wilbur Norman

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