I've resigned myself to never being a regular blogger... but before the fabulous Cuba Photo tour with John Barclay and Tony Sweet becomes nothing but a memory, I'm going to share a few notes and some iPhone images that I've managed to process already. (most of these were processed on either my iPhone or my iPad while I was in Cuba) More to come one of these days. HA! (as in, don't check back daily because who knows when I will get to the next installment)
My trip started on January 4, 2013 so that I could stay in the Miami International Airport Hotel and be ready to meet with other participants at 6:00 AM sharp on January 5, 2013. By arriving late afternoon on the 4th, I had the added benefit of dining with John, Tony and one other participant in the tour. :-)
After meeting bright and early on the 5th to get our tickets, visas and tour itinerary as well as some key guidelines for clearing customs and immigration in Cuba, we proceeded out of the hotel and over to the area in Terminal E for check-in to our charter flight. One strange sight to see is shown below... MANY of the Cuba bound passengers took advantage of 'wrapping stations' that were in the charter flight area to have their bags weighed and wrapped in plastic (either green or clear seemed to be the two options) before checking in to their flights. As Americans, with our rules for passing through security and the knowledge that even our checked luggage may be subject to search, we found this very odd! The image below is one taken with the iPhone SlowShutter camera app and processed with several other iPad or iPhone apps.
On arrival in Cuba, cleared immigration, picked up our baggage, cleared customs and exited the airport. We were met by representatives of the tour company that organized our People-to-People tour, taken to our bus and from there to a restaurant for lunch with our guide Lazaro, Judy (tour company representative), and our driver, Umberto. After checking in to our hotel, we wandered around the Prado (a wide avenue with a central park area), took a few pictures (none processed yet) and had dinner in a nearby and very convenient restaurant serving Cuban style food. We had good food, great mojitos and a relatively early night so we could be off to a flying start the next day. The image below is an iPhone image of the view from my hotel room in the early morning hours; low light images on an iPhone are quite noisy so I made this a pointillist image in the style of Seurat.
Our first stop after breakfast was the Colon Cemetery in Havana. At first, I wondered how we could possibly spend two hours photographing at this location but I managed to easily fill the allotted time and only managed to touch the surface of this huge (157 acres) cemetery filled with elaborate mausoleums and monuments. I will definitely have more images from this location at a later date. In the meantime, the image below is a detail of a small portion of the facade of one of the many elaborate mausoleums.
From the cemetery, we went somewhere for lunch (cannot recall where) and then wandered around Old Havana where the following couple of images were taken. The first one below is an interior shot of a lovely old building; the second is of a "famous" gentleman we met in the church square in Old Havana. He told us he was famous and had the proof, a copy of a travel magazine on which his photo was the cover photo. He also told us that he doesn't smoke and his cigar is merely a prop (made of newspaper, if I understood correctly). But he happily posed for us and was happy to accept a few Cuc in return. (the Cuban currency tourists use is pronounced "kook" and spelled Cuc)
On our second full day in Cuba, we traveled by bus from Havana to Trinidad with a stop in Cienfuegos en route for lunch and a bit of photography. We spent 3 full days in Trinidad and could easily have spent many more. Since I've not had a chance yet to process LOADS of images (and believe me, I took MANY with both my iPhone and with my "big girl" camera), I'm just going to share one of my favorites from Trinidad, an iPhone panorama stitched with AutoStitch to get the entire facade of the shell of an old and what must have been quite beautiful church before it fell into ruins.
After spending time in Trinidad, we returned to Havana for our last two nights in Cuba. We traveled a southern route that put us closer to the water, took us over some roads less traveled by tourist traffic and afforded us some sights we would not have seen had we stuck to the main road between Trinidad and Havana. One of those sights is shown below... an iPhone shot through the bus window of rice drying on the highway. The workers rake the rice to distribute it more evenly and facilitate drying. If oncoming traffic is met while one lane of these two lane roads is being used to dry rice, one of the vehicles simply drives over the rice!
The next three images were all taken at an old train station where a couple of workers are crafting various items out of old train parts as well as, I think, maintaining the old trains stored there as a sort of museum for anyone stopping by. There were quite a lot of subjects for images and, as with everything else, I have more to process in the days/weeks to come! The first two images below are both Hipstamatic camera images, the first is a still life I spotted behind a door, the second is of the welder's glove where it was left on the worktable while he was on a break and the third is a native iPhone 4s camera image of one of the two workmen posing for us.
Unfortunately for me, the meal I had my second to last night in Cuba did NOT agree with me and I was unable to stay with the group in Cojimar. However, I managed to capture a few images before becoming so ill that I grabbed a taxi back to Havana and slept for the rest of the day, missing out not only on Cojimar, but the night shoot from the top of our hotel and the meet-up with another group of American photographers who were just setting out on their own Cuban adventure. In spite of that, I had a SUPERB time in Cuba and would happily return. The image below is of the bay in Cojimar (an iPhone panorama stitched from six images) which was a favorite location of Hemingway's and served as his inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea. The sky was spectacular!