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Street Photography Guide in Centro Havana (Cuba)

Street-Photography-Guide-Centro-Havana-Cuba-tahusa-blog-suggested-guide-street-lovers-central-america-vintage-travel-tips-film-photo-cameras-explore-area

Street Photography Guide in Centro Havana (Cuba)
Cuba is often crown as one of the most photogenic cities for street photography lovers. I’m sure you have all come across the extensive work on this magical place by famous Magnum photographers such as David Alan Harvey, Alex Webb, Elliott Erwitt…etc. No difference to those of you who are inspired by and are curious of this place, I decided to pack my bag one day and off I went on an almost 30 hours journey to Havana.

going-home-with-mama-and-kids-n-centro-havana-wandering-cuba-taken-with-hasselblad-xpan-II-xpanII-45mm-pano-panoramic-camera-agfa-vista-400Afternoon walk, Havana Cuba (Hasselblad Xpan II with Agfa Vista 400)
car-making-left-turn-in-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fleGoing left in Malecon, Havana Cuba (Hasselblad Xpan II with Agfa Vista 400)

I had a lot of fantasies about this place before I actually arrived at the airport. My head kept replaying some of the scenes I saw from movies and Instagram. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but certain for one thing – to try live with the vibe and capture something that represents the Latin America colours.

The-gas-station-petrol-next-to-Malecon-sunset-busy-repair-car-Leica-M10-digital-summicron-35mm-travel-street-photography-guide-centro-havana-cubaDaily life, Havana Cuba (Leica M10) (left) (Leica MP with Agfa Vista 400 (Right top, bottom)
housing-around-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fleoutskirt-seafront-gathering-place-in-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle

One Step in and You Enter a Different World
You don’t have to wait till you land at the José Martí International Airport to feel that you are officially separated from your family, friends and loved ones (if you’re not traveling with them). Everything in Havana exists as if time has frozen. Highly restricted internet access is probably the first and most significant hit you would get on your first day but to be honest, I actually grew to enjoy time with no instant messages and social media towards the end of my trip, it made me appreciate the time and attention for quality conversations with my traveling partner and the new friends I met.

Barber-shop-visit-portrait-of-client-local-cuban-in-centro-havana-tahusa-leica-film-summilux-35-1.4-asph-fle-travel-tips-guides
Barber-shop-visit-portrait-of-client-local-cuban-in-centro-havana-tahusa-leica-film-summilux-35-1.4-asph-fle-travel-tips-guides-haircutbarber-shop-haircut-salon-fc-barcelona-supporter-centro-havana-cuba-agfa-vista-400-leica-film-analog-35mm-summilux-1.4-asph-fle-street-guide
car-fleeing-speed-drive-driveway-highway-in-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fleVintage Cars, Havana Cuba (Leica MP Summilux 35/1.4 asph fle with Agfa Vista 400)
colorful-vintage-cars-vehicles-in-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle

You know those vintage cars that you see in the opening scene of Fast and Furious 8? Well, they are literally everywhere. They are also known as ‘almendrones’, a popular means of local transportation. If you are feeling touristy, there are car tours that you can sign up so you get to enjoy the sun and breeze while zooming through the allies and lanes of Havana.

soldiers-marching-centro-havana-wandering-cuba-taken-with-hasselblad-xpan-II-xpanII-45mm-pano-panoramic-camera-agfa-vista-400Marching, Havana Cuba (Hasselblad Xpan II with Agfa Vista 400)
Gas-station-men-entering-vintage-vehicle-in-centro-havana-cuba-summicron-35-leica-m10-street-photography-guide-travel-tipsVintage Vehicles, Havana Cuba (Leica M10 (Left) (Leica MP Agfa Vista 400 (Right top and bottom)
Busy-road-filling-with-cars-vehicles-centro-havana-on-the-way-to-malecon-cuba-street-scene-leica-summilux-35-asph-agfa-vista-400-negative-film-coloron-my-way-to-find-TV-cafe-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle

One point to note, its vibes during the day and at the night are very different, I still remember vividly the moments when I stepped out of the airport arrival hall to when I was greeted by my first hostel owner, I was in this super intense yet excited mode the whole time; these mysterious scenes and landscapes hidden in the dark corners and shadows were constantly challenging my visual perceptions.

Navigating your way in the offline world
I love unplanned trips and city explorations but one thing that I can’t live without here is to have a map that orientates me to this new surrounding. Language barrier is one thing and there are too many split roads and back lanes that branches off the main streets, you can get lost very easily! Also, the meet up points for collective taxis are dispersed around the city, the map always comes in handy when you ask for direction, at least there’s something that the locals can point to!

Maps.me was my lifesafer, download it in advance. This app has a library of maps that covers other parts of Cuba and continents. Anyway, when in doubt, follow the main road, it’ll eventually take you to the city centre.

please-listen-to-me-phone-card-centro-havana-cuba-agfa-vista-400-leica-film-analog-35mm-summilux-1.4-asph-fle-street-guideOffline World, Havana Cuba (Leica Summilux 35/1.4 asph fle with Agfa Vista 400 (Left and Right top bottom)
skateboard-skating-streetkids-centro-havana-cuba-agfa-vista-400-leica-film-analog-35mm-summilux-1.4-asph-fle-street-guidecouple-kissing-in-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle

A Natural Street Photography Heaven
Every corner and person, each sunshade and moment,  anything that came into my eye insights had my attention. The ever changing sceneries made it challenging to decide what I want to focus on, so I strongly recommend you to have a careful think about this and have a list ready, so that you don’t get too carried away with the buzz that goes on around you.

tight-fit-between-parents-motorbike-centro-havana-cuba-agfa-vista-400-leica-film-analog-35mm-summilux-1.4-asph-fle-street-guideLocal Neighbours, Havana Cuba (Leica Summilux 35/1.4 asph fle with Agfa Vista 400) (Left and Right)
painting-the-frame-neighbors-centro-havana-cuba-agfa-vista-400-leica-film-analog-35mm-summilux-1.4-asph-fle-street-guide

Some might think it’s easy to capture unique shots in Cuba but in fact everything is so typical that it looks as if it is staged: that perfect natural sunbeam and warm bouncing sidelights against the colorful walls and people, you’ll need some creativity on composition to add your signature to the photo. If you’re truly into street photography, I challenge you to take this extra step and visit other towns and neighborhoods located on the South East of Cuba, you may unveil more surprises. I personally like Trinidad a lot more than Havana, I wil explain the reasons in another post.

black-man-under-sunshine-next-to-colorful-vintage-car-centro-havana-cuba-agfa-vista-400-leica-film-analog-35mm-summilux-1.4-asph-fle-street-guideToo Sunny, Havana Cuba (Leica Summilux 35/1.4 asph fle with Agfa Vista 400)
Lady-outside-hostel-sitting-waiting-for-her-husband-vivid-color-Cuba-havana-tahusa-centro-Agfa-400-Vista-Leica-Summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle-11663-film-photography-guide-street-travel-travel-guide-tipsold-man-in-restaurant-giving-me-gentle-smile-centro-havana-leica-summilux-35-1.4-asph-fle-agfa-vista-400

Suggested map
suggested-map-of-centro-havana-cuba-tahusa-Street Photography Guide Centro Havana-blog-travel-tips-guides-malecon-route-places-to-visit

Suggested spots

  1. Malecon
  2. Calle M Area
  3. Avenida de los Presidentes Main Road
  4. Monumento al General Antonio Maceo (Cross section)
front-view-of-Che-Guevara-Mausoleum-in-centro-havana-cuba-travel-photography-guide-street-trip-scenic-attractionsPlaza de la Revolucion, Havana Cuba (Leica Summilux 35/1.4 asph with Agfa Vista 400)
Hotel-Nacional-de-Cuba-iconic-place-in-havana-agfa-vista-400-summilux-35-1.4-asph-fle-leicaHotel National, Havana Cuba (Leica Summilux 35/1.4 asph fle with Agfa Vista 400)

Street photography tips in Havana

  1. People in Havana are more alert than other parts of the country, so you either do it quick or you make an effort to communicate with your subject so that they don’t feel ambush and less of a shock. This will also avoid you being asked for money after you pressed the shutter.
  2. Don’t get me wrong, Cuban people are kind but just stay alert to those who act overly generous, in case they have their eyes on your money instead. And for those who offer you restaurant suggestions, make sure it is the place that you want to go and not been forced into, the locals get commissions for bringing in customers.
  3. Sunglasses are the go-to neutral density filter (even better than your camera viewfinder!) And it saves you from the harsh highlight from the sun and gives you a better idea on composition.
  4. Always wear comfortable shoes. I walked an average of 25,000 steps each day and I have to lift my legs up for better circulation and reduce swelling when I go to sleep at night.
  5. Follow the light and the main road to the Malecon, there is always something interesting to capture.
  6. Bring a few more spare batteries, unlike other cities there is no way you can find a spare battery that could fit into your cameras.
neighbors-in-squart-complex-n-centro-havana-wandering-cuba-taken-with-hasselblad-xpan-II-xpanII-45mm-pano-panoramic-camera-agfa-vista-400Local Neighbours, Havana Cuba (Hasselblad Xpan II with Agfa Vista 400)
Street-around-hostel-in-centro-havana-wandering-cuba-taken-with-hasselblad-xpan-II-xpanII-45mm-pano-panoramic-camera-agfa-vista-400Local Neighbours, Havana Cuba (Hasselblad Xpan II with Agfa Vista 400)
workers-construction-n-centro-havana-wandering-cuba-taken-with-hasselblad-xpan-II-xpanII-45mm-pano-panoramic-camera-agfa-vista-400Construction Workers, Havana Cuba (Hasselblad Xpan II with Agfa Vista 400)

Money Exchange
There is an auto money exchange machine at the arrival hall of the Havana airport. But I also did some exchange at the banks in the city center. The best way is to ask your Casa owner for advice, it does take some time to familiarize yourself with the money system and the way they work.

Wifi Card
This is essential for you to keep in contact with your families and friends and of course for sharing your amazing photos on social media. Usually the wifi cards are available for sale at the park, you can get 1hr, 2hrs and 5hrs card. I would suggest you getting the longest hour option so you can go without wasting another hour in the queue. I was very conscious with the time limit, I have my eyes on the watch regularly and spend less than 20 minutes online each day. From my experience, 10am is the best queueing time because the sun isn’t too bright and there should be plenty of stocks. Look for the end of the queue when you get there, give a head nod to the person before you so the he acknowledges that you’re behind him, then you’re free to move around the area. When it’s almost your turn, just join the queue again.

block-and-complex-n-centro-havana-wandering-cuba-taken-with-hasselblad-xpan-II-xpanII-45mm-pano-panoramic-camera-agfa-vista-400
tree-and-green-man-blue-vintage-car-centro-havana-cuba-agfa-vista-400-leica-film-analog-35mm-summilux-1.4-asph-fle-street-guideFunny shape tree with vintage car, Havana Cuba (Leica Summilux 35/1.4 asph with Agfa Vista 400)
morning-yawn-in-front-of-telephone-stand-waiting-for-wifi-card-shop-in-centro-havana-cuba-Agfa-400-Vista-Leica-Summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle-11663-film-photography-guide-street-travel-travel-guide-tipscandid-man-under-sun-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle

TAHUSA Recommended Film ISO and Focal Length
I would suggest bringing your favourite film camera because it has a lot to shoot in the city itself. The light is always perfect so ISO100 film is good enough but if you want to do something more extreme in zone focusing, you may use ISO400 film and stay at F11 without worry about focusing and a 35mm lens would be a perfect match.

sports-stadium-in-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fleSports Stadium, Havana Cuba (Leica Summilux 35/1.4 asph with Agfa Vista 400)
Stadium-sports-centre-in-centro-havana-next-to-malecon-agfa-vista-400-street-snap-photography-guide-leica-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle
Taxi-in-the-corner-of-the-road-centro-havana-cuba-dim-light-evening-travel-street-leica-m10-summicron-35mm-f2-IV-rangefinderTaxi, Havana Cuba (Leica M10 Summicron 35/2 pre-asph V4)
local-produce-farmers-in-truck-delivery-centro-havana-cuba-after-sunset-dim-light-leica-m10-summicron-35-travel-street-photography-guide-tahusa-tipsafter-sunset-getting-dark-in-centro-havana-cuba-not-many-street-light-dark-returning-casa-leica-m10-summicron-35-travel-street-guide-photography-tips

 

Check out other City Guides

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Street-photography-guide-in-mongkok-mk-banner-travel-guide

 

8 Years, 32 Film Cameras, 500+ rolls of films – Beginning of My Film Photography Journey

my-8-eight-years-film-photography-journey-cameras-hasselblad-xpan-polaroid-one-step-2-reasons-why-i-started-shooting-film-how-to-begin-film-analog-leica-

8 Years, 32 Film Cameras, 500+ rolls of films – Beginning of My Film Photography Journey
8 years ago in June 2010, I came across this Japanese drama called “Sunao ni Narenakute” talking about how social network brings people together. In the first scene of the first episode, the main character was staring at a camera displayed in a shop, and it looked absolutely beautiful.

My head kept replaying that same scene over and over again, and at the end, I decided to google it. I typed in “Leica M7” and there I was, my very first introduction to this German brand. Not just that, for someone who shoots with digital cameras for most of his life, it was a very sad surprise at the time to find out that it is an analog camera.

travelling-with-leica-film-cameras-photography-blog-europe-map-shoot-film-begin-journey-personalMap of Prague when I travel with Film cameras

My-leica-m2-black-repaint-with-summilux-35mm-1.4-fle-asph-favourite-essential-camera

My First Film Camera
When someone is hooked to a camera brand, you know what’s next – I spent days and nights searching for the different Leica models.

To give you some background, I bought my first Canon 40D DSLR in 2009, then became super obsessedwith Bokeh, wanted to try out all the lenses and upgraded every single lense to premium Canon L prime and zoom lense. In less than a year, I decided to sell my entire Canon DSLR and Prime lenses family and give film camera a try with my first ever Leica, M6 with the famous 35mm f2 Summicron aka King of Bokeh. The shutter impressed me most, so quiet, stable and clean. But I felt that something was still missing, I kept asking myself “what, is this it, surely Leica has much more to offer other than its solid and simple design!?”

Sometimes, Simple Is Perfect
After a while, I fell in love with Lecia like everyone else for the very reason, its simplicity. It has distinct shutter dial, ISO dial, Aperture ring and film insertion process. The simplicity cleared my mind from the complex setting of DSLR. Of course, DSLR has its own benefits and its settings help professional photographers to achieve better results. At the time, my head was just fixed on taking nice pictures and wanted to leverage the best tools for best results. But after using Leica, it gave me a moment to step back and realize that mindset is equally important, if not more, than the gears you use. It’s all in your head.

color-reversal-film-in-medium-format-camera-mamiya-7ii-mamiya7ii-rangefinder-try-film-photographyInserting color slide film into Mamiya 7ii
how-did-i-pick-up-film-photography-ilford-hp5-reliable-black-and-white-film-leica-cameraIlford HP5 film with Leica M2



Begin the Journey with the First Roll Of Film
YouTube and Google taught me how to load a film. I can still remember my first roll of film – Black and White Ilford XP2. It marked the beginning of my film photography journey. I was dying to get the film developed after hitting the shutter 36 times. Phew. The relief I felt when I received the scanned copies from a local lab, I got all 36 shots exposed. They were definitely not appealing from a professional photography perspective but to me, they meant the world, a vivid memory that would stay with me for life. Even today, I am still in awe when I flip through my archive sheets for this collection, trying to recall the mood and thoughts when these shots were taken.

8-years-film-photograph-journey-how-begin-film-Rollei-black-and-white-film-camera-bw-sydney-australiaFirst black and white film shots with Leica M6 and Summicron 35, Sydney 2010
8-years-film-photograph-journey-how-begin-film-Rollei-black-and-white-film-camera-sydney-australiaBlack and white film shots in Bondi, Sydney
Canonet-film-photography-color-negative-sunset-sydney-australia-begin-photographyVery first film images taken with a Canonet, Balmain Sydney
Canonet-film-photography-color-negative-sunset-sydney-australia-begin-photography-yellow

Film Developing and Film Scanning by Myself
One day, my friend Franky said, “Hey Anson, let’s go shoot the Mardi Gras at Oxford Street”. Okay. I packed my film Leica with two 50mm lenses, hopped on the car, and off we go. After a quick ferry ride, we arrived at the Sydney City Centre.

In my bag there was Ilford HP5, Pan 400, Arista Premium 400 and Legacy Pro 400. These names shouldn’t be unfamiliar to you but unfortunately some have already discontinued. We shot from 2 to 9pm, then went home. Pouring, mixing and stirring, we got all the chemicals ready in the containers. Started with my favourite film developing app, Film Dev Chart, we began the process: develop, stop bath, fix, hypo clear. Twenty minutes later, I took the films out of the develop tank, hung it up and examined the picture one by one. I took a deep breath. I could have screwed this up in as many ways possible but yet I was so fearless.

leica-ilford-pan-400-Noctilux-50mm-f1-begin-film-start-photography-sydney-australia-bw-black-and-whiteSelf scanned and developed Ilford FP4 at ISO800, shot in Mardi Gras, Sydney 2011
leica-ilford-pan-400-summicron-collapsible-begin-film-start-photography-sydney-australia-bw-black-and-white-portraitleica-ilford-pan-400-summicron-collapsible-begin-film-start-photography-sydney-australia-bw-black-and-white
leica-ilford-pan-400-summicron-collapsible-begin-film-start-photography-sydney-australia-bw-black-and-white-portraits-dress-up-propsSelf-developed Ilford Pan 400, Sydney 2011

In all honesty, scanning films is not my favourite hobby, but I enjoy previewing the images from the negatives. The long hours needed for dust removal and color toning completely outweigh my interest in film. However, having improved my workflow consistently, I am now used to scanning black and white images only.

8 years on, I have tried Nikon Coolscan V, Epson V700 and V850, and the last one is what I still use now.

ilford-ddx-rodinal-developers-film-stop-bath-fixer-tried-photography-self-development-journey-black-and-whiteMy favourite developer Ilford DDX and famous Rodinal
darkroom-print-printing-of-my-work-on-photo-paper-black-and-white-bw-film-process-develop-test-papers-adjust-timedarkroom-print-printing-of-my-work-on-photo-paper-black-and-white-bw-film-process-developTrying to make actual prints in the darkroom

Second part of my Film Cameras and Gears Journey, please click the link below

8-years-film-cameras-and-gears-journey-enjoy-film-analog-leica-MP-black-paint-analog-leicavit-summilux-35mm-1.4-asph-fle-11663-copy