6 Things not to miss in a Cuba Photo Tour
I was asked to make a list of 6 places or events never to miss in a Cuba Photo Tour – and limiting it to 6 was difficult! But if I have to keep myself to 6, then these are the places/things you simply cannot go without if you’re a photographer…
I have been visiting the country leading Cuba Photo Tours or on private visits, several times a year for the last few years. Every time I go, even if I’m photographing something I’ve shot before, I find something new and exciting. Havana is a vibrant and photogenic fusion city that’s perfect for travel photographers – it’s classic Cadillacs and1920’s art deco on the promenade, it’s elegant colonial houses in Vedado and an old man sitting in a wooden arm chair smoking a cigar in the noontime heat. It is an unforgettable photo tour in one of the most welcoming cultures in the world.
1: The Classic Cars.
Stepping onto a street in Cuba is like stepping back into the American 1950s; the classic cars you see all over might be old, but they’re as polished and classy as they looked seventy years ago. At least on the outside. Taking a ride in one might make you think it’s about to fall apart, but they always make it from one side of town to the other. One of my favorite things to do being on a Photo Tour or on my own is hop into the back of one of these serving as a taxi, and follow the driver with my camera as he goes about his day. Since these taxis also act as buses, you can make new friends with every person who hops in, and what’s more, get some great pictures.
Hop into the back of one of these serving as a taxi, and follow the driver
2: The Barbers.
It might sound surprising, but a Cuban barber is one of the most photographically interesting subjects you can find in Havana when you are in a Cuba Photo Tour. Their shop fronts are generally some architectural and decorative afro-latin-european mix, and just about every kind of person will traffic in and out of said shops throughout the day. People aren’t just in and out for a quick shave; they take their time, sit and talk, it’s a cultural mainstay, so if you have the chance at a photo session inside a shop, take it. You can get not only great, authentic pictures of Cuban life, but also good conversation.
3: The Boxing Gym.
The Rafael Trejo gym is straight out of an old movie. Photographing there gives you the heat and dynamism of the boxing sport, and the 1950’s classic ambiance that you can’t find anywhere else. The best boxers in Cuba train at this, and a few other gyms around the city, so you’ll be capturing the top of the game on film. And the gym itself is not only amenable to photography sessions, but visually iconic; shooting in there makes you feel like you’re standing next to Bogart on the set of The Harder They Fall.
The best boxers in Cuba train here
4: The Tourists at La Bodeguita del Medio.
Not only does it claim to be the birthplace of the mojito, but the Bodeguita del Medio was a hot spot throughout the years for several famous personalities from Pablo Neruda to Ernest Hemingway. It’s maintained its old Havana flair, and now draws big, mixed crowds, both inside and out. You’ll find a lot of the usual suspects waiting to be photographed: an old lady with a cigar, street musicians, and shoe shines, but also an eclectic mix of tourists trying to sample the experience of the iconic Cuba. Guaranteed with the amount motion around this place you will see something extraordinary.
5: El Malecon.
This famous esplanade runs down from Vedado to Havana Harbor, and is one of the busiest, most architecturally and culturally iconic routes you can walk in the city. It’s the main thoroughfare for wanderers, lovers, tourists, and locals, so from the romantic habits of young Habaneros to entertainers trying to lure in foreigners, you’re sure to capture something interesting on film.
It takes a turn at the harbor and runs along the coast, where you can capture an enchanting sunset over the city’s old town. As well, the early morning light will serve you well; on any given morning, in the ethereal sunrise glow, you’ll find fishermen shoving off from the sea wall and shop keepers getting ready for the first customers of the morning.
You can capture an enchanting sunset over the city’s old town
6: Che Guevara or Revolutionary Images.
In all of Cuba, but especially in Havana there’s one icon that shines high above the rest, and that’s the face of the revolutionary Ché Guevara. You might suppose it’s easy to find posters or images of him plastered on walls all over, but it’s surprisingly difficult. The paintings and posters do exist, and often in places that are well enough away from crowds that you’ll get a very authentic Habanero scene along with a shot of the great Ché.
And, while these posters are prolific in the United States and other parts of the world, there is something totally different about a photo of his image that has been taken in Cuba. Plus, he’s an unavoidable part of the photographic story of the capital.