One of the unique things about Cuba is the lack of advertising.
When you’re out on the street, there just aren’t any billboards, signs, etc. No Coca-Cola signs, no big billboards, none of that kind of thing. Once in a while you’ll see a propaganda message – but otherwise there’s none of the usual media we’re used to seeing plastered everywhere.
While walking Central Havana, we came up on this billboard – an unusual sight in Havana.
One of the best times to go out shooting pictures is right after it’s rained.
Rain adds saturation to colors – and the rain also leaves behind these magical looking glasses called puddles.
For me, photography is all about this kind of magic – those special elements that come together at a venue and surprise us with a new point of view. Puddles bring reflections – and reflections bring magical ways of seeing.
Being out on a morning after the rain is one of the best times for a photographer. You just have to be open to it – open to seeing it, right there, on the ground before you. Mostly, you need to get lower – to fill out the reflection, to combine the upper (real) and lower (reflection) portions of the image into the right balance.
This image is from a recent photo walk with Doug Kaye at San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center – one of our favorite venues. It was shot with my Nikon D600 and tweaked in Photoshop CS6 using Nik Color Efex Pro 4 (Detail Enhanced and Pro Contrast), Topaz Simply 4 (Black and White II present – mostly in the reflection half of the image) and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 where the final tweaking was done – adding midtone structure and the color.
I thought about taking out that patch of fog in the upper right – but, somehow, it works for me just to leave it alone as a point of interest. Actually, for me that patch of fog is part of the magic!
Mid-afternoon (after we both took short naps!), Doug Kaye and I headed down to the Malecón, officially Avenida de Maceo – Havana’s esplanade and seawall. The clouds were getting interesting and the on-shore wind was strong, kicking up the waves.
Along the street, decaying older buildings would periodically be interspersed with restored ones – or with buildings with signs out front from the City Historian announcing they had been selected for restoration. This must have been a very beautiful spot back in Havana’s hey day – and also a frightening place to be whenever big storms and hurricanes roll over the island.
I processed this image as a single image HDR – although I substantially muted the effect. I enhanced the contrast and the colors using Lab color tweaks in Photoshop CS6.
One of the most enjoyable things about street photography is discovering a venue – we think of it as a “stage” – which looks interesting. As the photographer, you position yourself across from the stage – and just wait for the world to show up on your stage.
This image is one example from my recent visit to Havana, Cuba. We had finished walking through an open market and noticed some interesting things going on outside, just across the street. I was tired and wanted to sit down – and found a spot that let me just look across the street at this “stage”. There were lots of cars and motorcycles going by in the street – so the venue was a bit challenging in terms of squeezing off shots in between the cars getting in the way.
As I was watching the world showing up on the stage – this guy with the straw hats appears – and starts sort of sorting them. Perhaps inspecting them is the right idea. As he was doing so, I captured this particular image – with him holding the top hat uppermost and really giving it the scrutiny.
Coincidentally, standing on the sidewalk behind him is Raúl Cañibano, one of the Cuban photographers who walked and worked with us every day we were in Cuba. His pensive look reminds me of his look much of the time we were together. He’s got his Nikon D40 in hand, is paying close attention to what’s happening around him – and ready to capture an image at the drop of a hat!
Returning from our morning out on Dawn Patrol in Havana, we walked up Obispo Street (Calle Obispo) back to our hotel. Obispo is lighted with these strings of tiny overhead lights – making for a colorful scene!
This is one of my favorite images from Havana – taken on our second morning out in the streets of Old Havana.
He was just standing in this doorway – getting ready for work and watching the world go by. I was just learning the techniques of street photographers – how to connect with a potential subject, how to gain a quick, non-verbal agreement with them about taking their photograph. He was such a great sport – happy to see us and happy to have us take his photo – and, I think, it shows in his attitude in this image.
In the years to come, I’m hope to remember a lot of special memories from our amazing week in Cuba – and one of the special ones will be my memory of this painter on our second morning out into the streets of Old Havana. Wish I had gone over afterwards and just given him a big hug!
Here’s another “window shot” – this time looking out my hotel room window at the street corner below.
On my last day in Havana, I woke up really early, finished packing for the trip home and then looked out my window at the street corner intersection below. Loved the light – and took this shot! I processed it as a square image to better focus on the car lights, etc.
Only thing I wish had been different is that the car had been one of the older classic cars seen almost all the time in Havana!
As I was walking along the Embarcadero this morning, that beautiful Milan F-line street car passed me by. Truth be told, I almost walked right out in front of it – but fortunately I looked left and avoided what would have been an awkward collision!
AS it zipped by me, I pulled up my Nikon D600 and shot this image – looking into the morning light. I post-processed this image using a combination of Topaz Simply 4 – to remove details – along with a trip into Lab color in Photoshop.
Doug Kaye and I spent another couple hours shooting around Justin Herman Plaza and Embarcadero Center before heading to lunch at one of our favorites: Slanted Door in the Ferry Building.
This image is from a day of photo walking with Doug Kaye in Chinatown and North Beach neighborhoods in San Francisco in late March 2012. Chinatown is so rich with photographic opportunities that we were moving very slowly while doing a lot of street photography.
When street shooting this way, it’s great fun to try to find a stage – a venue that has visual interest all by itself – and then to wait for human subjects to appear on that stage. In this case, there’s a building on the north side of one of the streets with a pseudo-American flag painted on the wall. We stood on the opposite side of the street and waiting for interesting folks to appear on the stage – capturing many different images. This was one of the best – a smoker standing back against the wall and looking up at the bright morning sun.
Taken with a Canon 5D Mark II using the 70-200mm f/2.8L lens – shot at 80mm, 1/1600, f/4. Post-processed in Lightroom.