Saturday, 30 April 2016

An Accidental Technique: Improving a Shot

I liked the composition and the foreshortening of perspective produced by a 300mm tele lens. 
But it was a bit 'busy' in the background.
I took several more shots of the same scene as the light levels dropped.
In this shot I noticed that a bus passed during the longish exposure, effectively blotting out some of the people in the background, thus making the background a bit cleaner.
I could have done this in Photoshop, I guess, but it was a lot easier to use a long exposure (and a bus!).

Friday, 29 April 2016

Citizens; Remember to Bring Your Passport With You!

As the photo tour group leader I see it as my job to ensure all clients remember to bring their stuff with them when leaving a hotel: electrical adaptors, paperwork, passports and anything stored in the room safe.
On one memorable day I went round asking everyone as we left Club Amigo in Trinidad (not recommended, by the way).
In fact several people asked me if I had my passport with me.
For some unknown reason I never checked until we were at a viewpoint about 25mins down the road from the hotel.
I suddenly panicked, getting that horrible sinking feeling in my stomach.
I checked my bag and Yes, passport was back in the hotel. Duh!
Luckily the driver was quick to get me back there before the hotel staff (never fast movers in Cuba) could get to my room.
Passport recovered OK.
Note to self, practice what you preach.
Here's a converted political poster that states "Always remember to take your passport with you!"
Sage advice I think...
Created using a low res head shot of 'moi', layers in Elements and a font called Broken Detroit.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Cuban Revolutionary Posters and Propaganda

Cuba is a totalitarian society, so it's no surprise to see that it still advertises its revolutionary zeal on the street. 
In the form of massive posters, graphics and  revolutionary one-liners...
Interestingly, there's no other type of advertising anywhere on the island.
Onward, towards victory!
This is probably the most common catch cry seen across the island nation.
According to some sources it was used by Comondante Che in one of his many political speeches.

"This people's revolution is invincible"
A simple message: el jefe (the boss) gets about and spreads the good word, this time in Cienfuegos province
One of my all time favourite political posters.
Can't argue with this one: Fatherland, or death.
Short and to the point...
Something that few visitors to Cuba can argue against
Blockade: the largest genocide in historyThe Cubans endure, despite the blockade, but the question remains: how much better off will they be when the USA stops meddling in their lives?
One of my favourite images of Guevara.
In fact Che remains almost more of a revolutionary hero than Castro.
A foreigner (Argentinian) and a trained medical doctor, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara epitomised the ideal of the individual fighting for equality and freedom in Latin America.
Unfortunately his desire to rid Latin America of capitalist exploitation brought him directly into conflict with the USA (simply the best capitalist exploiters money could buy).
He was successful in Guatemala and of course, in Cuba, but it was his revolutionary actions in Bolivia that resulted in his betrayal and eventual murder by CIA agents.
Commander in chargeNo question as to who is the boss in Cuba...
Part of a revolutionary posted seen in the Museo de la Revolution, Havana

Tank busters
I snapped this mural - painted up the side of a four-story apartment building before I realised it was modelled from a famous photo of Castro in action during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

Socialism: the only guarantee of being free and independant
Another great street poster of El Che, this time in Baracoa, Eastern Cuba
Another towering figure in the revolution was Camilo Cienfuegos, whose image appears on posters and street corners almost as much as Castro's.
About Cienfuegos (who somewhat mysteriously disappeared while flying from Camaguey to Havana in October 1959, Che remarked "Camilo practiced loyalty like a religion..".
Here's a Jose Fuster mural featuring Guevara and Raul Castro
Post revolution, indeed, post Soviet era, Cuba found a staunch ally in the form of Hugo Chavez.
Here's Che and Chavez immortalised in a street mural by Havana street artist Jose Fuster
Ernesto Che Guevara given something of the Andy Warhol style image treatment
Cuban flag seen through the balcony windows of the Museo de la Revolucion
Sensationalist poster depicting Fidel Castro waving to the joyous crowds in Havana who have just learned that Battista, the Cuban president has fled the country
Close up of that same poster in the M de la Revolution
This was a poster snapped outside an office for the protection of the revolutionEvery local area has one of these offices - set up after an assassination attempt on Castro.
Essentially making the people 100% responsible for ensuring the leader's safety
Cienfuegos and CastroOutside the same revolutionary office
Castro jumping off his tank during the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA backed Cuban exiles

Along Calle Mercederes in Havana Viejo you'll find  a curious shop titled ArmeriaThis used to be a gun shop. In preRevolution times you could buy guns, ammunition and explosives over the counter. Now no one owns a gun (apart from police and army) so there's virtually no gun crime in Cuba
Today it houses Castro's personal weapons collection - including this hunting rifle set, complete with 24-carat triggers, presented to Castro by Mikhail Gorbachev...
Seen in Havana just after President Obama's visit to Cuba
Perhaps this poster herald's a new era in International relations
An interesting and very pertinent poster in the Museo de la Revolution.
Cretin's Corner pokes fun at the capitalist aspirations of Battista, Reagan, Bush senior and Junior...

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Shooting in the early evening is simply the Best Time

As every professional photographer knows, shooting at dusk is one of the best times to get great light.
Combine this with artificial lighting - like this street lighting in Camaguey, Cuba, and you have double the impact.
Leave it another 40 mins or so and the shot is wasted with glaring white street lights and dead black skies.
Even in the 30 mins or so before real dusk, you'll find the light has deeper, richer qualities, long shadows and great visual appeal...
I was just a few minutes late for this 'early' evening shot - the brighter sun rays had already deadened off the church tower - but the warmth of the colours and that lovely ambiance still permeated the scene nicely.
Taking it one step further.
Here's an HDR shot I made of one of the more colourful street corners in old Havana, on Cuba and O'Reilly.
The light has pretty much gone yet the brightness of the murals and house textures jump off the page in the HDR process (here, using Aurora HDR Pro)
Here's the same spot (in single frame HDR format - the one above is a three frame HDR) shot at 11pm.
The incandescent and mercury vapour (?) type lighting add little to the ambiance of the street scene...

(Five shot HDR, Plaza San Francisco, Havana)
Even if you leave the shooting a bit late, if the sky still has some colour in it, combining that with artificial lighting gives a better result. 
More colour, brightness and contrast than a straight shot with a black night sky.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Some Cuban Cats and Dogs (and a chook)

Here are a few nice examples of Cuban mutts and cats and, curiously, a chook, relaxing in their homes - mostly photographed by Natalie Hitchens (with a few from Robin.)...
(HDR processed using Aurora HDR Pro).

Cheeky boy
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Sleepy boy
Pic by Natalie Hitchens

Chooky girl
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Cat peering out of someone's front room
(Pic by Robin Nichols)
Nina with a State name tag
(Pic by Robin Nichols)

A peso a photo
(Pic by Robin Nichols)

Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
Pic by Natalie Hitchens
(long lenses save pesos...)
Un perro macho
Pic by Natalie Hitchens

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Art Deco Tour in Havana

Here are a few pictures shot on our art deco tour of Havana.
We had a guide and an architectural expert on the tour, pointing out the major art deco attractions in the suburbs of  Playa, Miramar and Vedado, finishing off at the Bacardi building in Old Havana. Well worth the trip if you have a morning to spare on your stay in Havana (and have an interest in some of the different architecture in the city).

Edeficio Arenal
Old movie theatre under repair in Havana
Close up of the Arenal Theatre, Havana
Art Deco details, Arenal Theatre, Havana
Original Lalique glass panels in the restaurant of the Casa de la Amistad
Once a private house (now nationalised) it has a neo-classical exterior with plenty of art deco interior elements..
Locals share a moment in the entranceway to the art deco edificio López Serrano
Foyer of one of the city's most iconic art deco apartments - El edificio López Serrano (Looks like it could easily be a set for Batman Returns..).
Sadly in need of a  lot of repair...
El edificio López Serrano
Terrazzo entrance hall to the
edificio López Serrano

Inside the foyer of the deco/art nouveau Barcardi Building in Habana Vieja
Barcardi Building
View from the street

Adjacent to the El edificio López Serrano, this old basement garage door in the art deco style needs just a bit more love and attention to prevent it from disintegrating entirely!