(part 1: Havana is here). The tour details are here.
01. The streets of Trinidad are a riot of colour. There are so many combinations of saturated pigment that shouldn’t really work together but somehow they do and in an exciting way.
Photography and words: Damien Lovegrove
02. Javier our guide (Pronounced Havier) stands in the morning sunlight in the main square of old Trinidad, pictured right. Patterned light created by shadows has always been a fascination to me and I’ve employed it in my photography since 1984 when I started my career. I’ve even gone to the trouble of buying a plastic palm tree to use as a gobo/ faux dingle in my studio and I’ve designed Scattergels for use with Fresnel lensed lights too.
03. Top left: keeping pet song birds is a thing in Trinidad much like pet ferrets is a thing in the north of England. Top right: The yellow Fiat 126 will be as good as new when the paint dries. Middle left and bottom right: The sky colour, saturation and luminosity blends perfectly with the street scenes in Trinidad.
I was charmed by the friendliness of the locals and the vibrant, colourful beauty of Trinidad. So much of the world around me is bland right now with neutrals dominating clothing and house paint. The cars in mainland Europe seem to only be available in white, grey, silver or black too and this has been going on for nearly 10 years. I do hope the trend will switch back to colour again soon.
04. Bottom left. It’s great to see that horses in Trinidad have a dedicated place to meet up and have a chat. Top left and right: The cowboys of Trinidad wear spurs on their heels and carry big knives rather than six shooters.
Trinidad is a town where horses outnumber cars in the oldest areas. The single story dwellings and cobbled streets let the sun in and kept cars out in equal measure.
05. The corner store has pineapples today. The back streets of Trinidad are clear of rubbish and are really quiet throughout the day.There is a distinct lack of uPVC in the buildings and fabric of Cuba and there seems to be little of any kind of plastic in general use. Plastic is used for the bottles of water that tourists drink but I expect this gets recycled. Just two blocks away from where I took these shots hordes of tourists that were bussed in from a cruise ship are being taken on a tour of the old town. They are kept out of the way of quaint streets like these for fear of ruining the peace. I used the GF 32-64mm lens at f/4 for this shot to utilise the lovely bokeh.
Trinidad is a 320km, 5 hour journey by road from Havana. We took the route via Santa Clara and returned via Cienfuegos. The journey took us past rice paddy fields and grazing land before taking the mountain roads south of Santa Clara to Trinidad. I expected to see tobacco fields but those are further to the east.
Cuba is a long island with about the same land area as Florida. Havana to Trinidad takes about 5 hours by road. Incidentally Key West in Florida is about 106 miles from Havana by boat. (map source Google)
Camera: Fujifilm GFX50s (Velvia film simulation)
Lenses: Fujifilm GF32-64mm, GF110mm
Lighting: Natural light
Tripod: Novo T20, Benro G2 ball head and RRS lever lock plate
Monopod: Gitzo GM3551 with RRS ball head
06. Left: Top dog. Right: Heads will roll. A pigs head is the shop sign for this butchers shop.
I use a monopod for my street shooting. It holds the camera steady and carries the weight of the camera. It’s not that the GFX is particularly heavy, it weighs about the same as a Nikon D5, it just means my shoulders and upper boy are relaxed as I shoot. I can shoot with the GF 110mm lens at 1/60th second if I need to with the camera on the monopod. If I was hand held with the same lens I’d need 1/500th second to get sharp pictures most of the time. Fujifilm make a 120mm f/4 lens with a stabiliser but I opted for the optically wonderful 110mm f/2 lens and accepted the fact I’ll be using a tripod or monopod for everything.
07. Top: Timing the shutter release to capture a precise moment comes with practice. Knowing when the moment is right is something you can learn from a book but it takes practice, practice, practice to get it right. I’ve always gone for the rear heal to be lifting as my moment to capture a person walking but I have never learned the best moment for a horse. I was watching the men in the cart and I’m delighted with the timing here. Middle left: The big red tractor trundled through the street with it’s air conditioning and fancy front wheel hubs. Middle right: The horses aren’t tied up they just know to stand in the shade as the day heats up. Bottom: I rarely shoot street scenes but there is so much information to see in the detail here.
08. There is a laid back Caribbean vibe about the place. A retro cool ambience.
09. A carriage driver checks out a group of approaching tourists looking for potential customers. An elderly gentleman poses for a photograph. The dollar tips these guys get go a long way here.
10. Top left: Overtones of New Orleans can be seen in this wonderful balcony just off the main square in old town. Bottom left: These domino players were sort of aware I was beside them but they were too engrossed in their game of dominoes to care. They just set up their table in the road, late in the afternoon on a shady street. Bottom right: Health and safety at work. I’m not sure that extinguisher is within it’s test date.
11. It helps to know a few dance moves when directing dancers. I went for a tango Argentino line for the shot of Yulienni Jiménez Ramirez and Andy Michel Alvarez on the left. Some bemused tourists watched from behind our cameras as we took over the main square. I doubt this has been done before so I wanted to give it a go.
I use the tripod for all my directed shoots like the dancers and model shots shown here. It allows me to set the frame then go in to adjust lighting or the pose without having to re establish the composition.
12. A girl in a red dress and a guy in dark attire was my request to Javier when he booked our dancers and he delivered.
I love working with crisp afternoon sunlight. It’s a dream to create shadows with and I nearly always shoot into the light until about ten minutes before sunset.
13. I cracked a joke about a blossoming romance. The reaction was a lovely real moment to capture. It’s one thing to capture a moment but moments need to be created too.
14. I hired this beautiful Cadillac for ten minutes while we did a fun shoot.
15. I was a wedding photographer for many years and the times spent posing couples came in handy here too. I like the depth that shooting down the street gives this shot and the virtual diagonal created be the eye line.
16. This green taxi has seen better days but wow!, Red, green and blue, the primary colours of light at almost maximum saturation.
17. Andy building rapport with a horse.
My pictures were inspired by the colour palette of Jack Vetriano’s paintings. He just didn’t use enough blue :)
19. The ladder placed against the wall made a perfectly simple shot more striking. That bottom rung looks a bit dodgy. You wouldn’t get me up there.
20. Shooting with the light as the strength in the sun fades. I left my GFX on a sunny day white balance to allow the natural colours to be rendered. The Velvia film simulation added to the contrast and saturation.
21. The blue is striking and almost surreal. I think these remind me of my paintings with poster colour paint when I was a lad. I was taken by the saturation that could be achieved so easily with the GFX.
22. Yulienni Jiménez Ramirez and Andy Michel Alvarez were are dance couple and although they weren’t a ‘couple’ when we started the shoot they had quite a bit of chemistry by the time we finished shooting.
25. I cajoled a couple of local onlookers to pose for our cameras.
26. Less is more. Here is Rocio keeping us guessing.
27. Living the dream.
28. Our last excursion of the trip was to the beach. We were the only people there at 8am. The bikini was one I had bought on Amazon for my USA wild west adventure (June 2018) and I thought it would work well here too.
30. I love the rendering of these GFX50s files in black and white and I wanted to share some with you. These have the Acros G film simulation that give skin a healthy glow.
31. A girl on a car bonnet/ hood is a sequence of shots that I have wanted to take for some time. I wanted to keep it classy and avoid a tacky glamour look. I bought the Wayfarers on Ebay before I travelled to Cuba. Cubans can’t buy goods online yet so I left the sunglasses and a few other styling items with Rocio when I left the island. I’m sure she will still have them next year for when I return.
32. I attached a fallen palm leaf/ branch to my lighting stand using my boom arm clamp and hoisted it into place to cast the suns shadows on the car and Rocio. When a gobo is made of a branch of leaves it is called a dingle. It’s a term I learned when I trained as a lighting director at the BBC.
34. I got a peaceful easy feelin’ in Trinidad.
That’s it for now. Cuba, (pronounced kooba) what a place!
Join me here in 2019 for my next Cuban adventure. I’ll be visiting the same spots and mixing it up a bit with a visit to a ballet school among other variations. If you are visually stimulated like me Cuba is the place to take your camera. There is no better time to go than next Spring. The rapid social and economic changes caused by a thaw in the Cuba / US relations under president Obama have stalled meaning change has been put on ice. The Castro rule in Cuba has ended and Cuba is welcoming tourists with open arms. The dry, warm, spring climate is just wonderful. Click here to see our itinerary and details for the 2019 Cuban adventure. If you’ve not seen part one of this 2018 trip click here.
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