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Photographing Havana, Cuba

Updated on January 6, 2020
Cyndi10 profile image

Cynthia writes about a variety of topics. She is the former executive director of a nonprofit agency for children & adults with disabilities

Cuban skyline viewed from Estatua de Cristo park in Havana.
Cuban skyline viewed from Estatua de Cristo park in Havana. | Source

Havana, Cuba - A City of Interesting Photographic Opportunities

It's hard to know where to begin when speaking about a trip to Havana, Cuba. If you are a photographer, amateur or professional, the minute you enter the country, you don't know where to point the lens. The fact that Cuba is an old country and that it has survived pretty much intact for as long as it has means the opportunities for fantastic pictures are nearly everywhere. "Stories" abound that can be told with the lens and a snap. And the Cuban people are happy to supply any details you might miss.

Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is 500 years old and has been under Spanish rule, British rule and, for a brief period, was under the United States. Spain's King Felipe VI and his queen visited to celebrate the 500 year milestone.

Today, Cuba is under Communist rule and has been since the late 1950s.

When you enter first enter the Havana via ship, you truly step back in time because you enter at the oldest part of the city. As you venture further into the city, the further immersed in what feels like a time warp you become. The Spanish facade is nearly everywhere, with crumbling, yet, still beautiful buildings, awash in splashes of color against aging stone. The Spanish influence is especially prevalent in the architecture of beautiful Old Havana.

Listening to the lilt of the Spanish language adds to the very surreal feeling. We were able to secure our own guide and touring car. They are actually waiting on the Malecón Way to offer their assistance to tourists.Our guide spoke English, but our driver did not. Our guide told us that he, like many other Cubans, excitedly began to learn English when it was thought that tourism from the States was returning to the island and he acted as our translator in many instances.

Riding in a vintage, pink convertible - sans seat belt, wind whipping your hair - makes you feel giddy with a sense of unlimited freedom as you cruise along a highway that has very few other cars. Those cars you do see are also vintage with a few newer Russian model taxis or utility vans here and there. The cars alone, make and models of yesteryear, are the makeup of fantastic shots.

For the record, I used a Canon Rebel T6 for most of the pictures, especially the long distance shots. Some photos were taken using an iPhone. Take a moment to follow my path through Old Havana as the lens tell the story.

Colorful Cuban Archecture with Old World influence
Colorful Cuban Archecture with Old World influence | Source
The famed Malecón Way with its colorful buildings at dusk in Old Havana.
The famed Malecón Way with its colorful buildings at dusk in Old Havana. | Source
Riding in a pink convertable through Old Havana, images reflected in the windows of one of the more modern buildings circa '50s.
Riding in a pink convertable through Old Havana, images reflected in the windows of one of the more modern buildings circa '50s. | Source
Cuban classic cars. This scene of vintage cars and drivers is repeated throughout the city. Love that pink!
Cuban classic cars. This scene of vintage cars and drivers is repeated throughout the city. Love that pink! | Source
Entrance to one of the local Cuban restaurants.
Entrance to one of the local Cuban restaurants. | Source
Malecón Way at night with the Castillo de los Reyes del Moro, constructed in 1589, silhouetted in the distance.
Malecón Way at night with the Castillo de los Reyes del Moro, constructed in 1589, silhouetted in the distance. | Source
Night photo of Statue of Fray Junípero Serra with Juaneño Indian Boy in the Plaza de San Fransisco de Asís. A statue of Francis de Asis once stood on top of the bell tower.
Night photo of Statue of Fray Junípero Serra with Juaneño Indian Boy in the Plaza de San Fransisco de Asís. A statue of Francis de Asis once stood on top of the bell tower. | Source
Elaborate door to the basilica in Plaza de San Fransiso.
Elaborate door to the basilica in Plaza de San Fransiso. | Source
Cuban street at night in Old Havana
Cuban street at night in Old Havana | Source

Havana at Night

Many of the pictures are of Old Havana at night. We roamed the streets without thinking of being mugged or something worse. The people were just as friendly at night as they were in the day. On Malecón Way they talked to you as you watched the promenade of the vintage cars that made the nightly cruise along the Way.

There are lots of clubs with salsa dancing and cabarets. In other words, there is plenty of entertaining night life. Our friends went to a cabaret as we toured Old Havana.

For the record, Old Havana was just as spectacular and intriguing at night as it was during the day!

Cuban cobblestone street and outdoor restaurant
Cuban cobblestone street and outdoor restaurant | Source
View though the window of a restaurant on the Plaza de San Fransisco in Havana Cuba.
View though the window of a restaurant on the Plaza de San Fransisco in Havana Cuba. | Source
Statues in Plaza de San Franscisco in Havana, Cuba. One is alive. Can you tell which?
Statues in Plaza de San Franscisco in Havana, Cuba. One is alive. Can you tell which? | Source
Restaurant on Plaza del San Franscisco
Restaurant on Plaza del San Franscisco | Source

Current Cuban Travel

You can reach Cuba by air. Delta Airlines, for one, has a direct flight from Miami. At the moment, there is a different set of rules for visiting the country than when I went in 2018, but you still can visit the Caribbean's largest island. You need your passport and will be required to obtain a visa.

However, the country is currently experiencing another food shortage. That is unforturnate for the people who have endured a lot over the years. They still convey their spirit and sense of independence along with their extreme pride in their country and in their rich, colorful culture.


Change may eventually come to this island lost in time, but with it will be a loss of some of the charm that makes it such a unique photography opportunity. A specil loss will be that sense of being suspended in another time.

Cubans on holiday.
Cubans on holiday. | Source
Estatua de Cristo overlooking the city of Havana, Cuba.
Estatua de Cristo overlooking the city of Havana, Cuba. | Source

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love." Ernest Hemingway, Cuba's adopted native son.

Cuban landscape with Estatua de Cristo in the background.
Cuban landscape with Estatua de Cristo in the background. | Source

Plaza del San Francisco Havana, Cuba

A
Plaza del San Francisco Havana, Cuba:
Havana, Cuba

get directions

Plaza de San Francisco de Asis has been a popular gathering spot for tourists and locals since the Spanish traded in the square.

More examples of Cuban architecture.
More examples of Cuban architecture. | Source
Cuban skyline in the morning.
Cuban skyline in the morning. | Source

Photography Tips

Even if you are an amateur photographer like me, there are a few tips you can use to enhance your photography skills.

1. Don't be afraid to try to capture people and places that interest you.

2. Mentally frame the shot in your mind and point your camera in that direction.

3. Photographers refer to the Rule of Thirds, meaning divide your framed shot into thirds and decide where to put your main focus or important elements when you compose your shot. If you have the capability on your phone camera or your DSLR, activate your grid. It is a useful tool to easily see your shot in thirds.

4. Shoot at sunrise or sunset (dawn or dusk) when you can better control the direction of the light. Lighting at other times of the day is not as focused coming from one direction versus another.

5. Edit your pictures. For those using the camera on your phone, there are apps that allow you to edit on your phone. If you are using your photos in your blogs, you can also edit your photos in various programs. Canva.com is a design program where you have the capabilty of edited your photo for use in your designs. Become familiar with the edit possibilities and be creative.

6. Don't be afraid to take pictures of the same landscape or items from different distances or angles. For example, Estatua de Cristo appears in a couple of shots in this article but from different viewpoints.

7. Take a few classes. There are great classes online that can help you improve your skills. Who knows? You may decide to start a new career.

8. Always have fun. Photos are a way to preserve memories and share experiences. You really can't go wrong if you take a few moments to frame that which interests you.

Thanks to photography, my trip to Havana, Cuba is well preserved.

Edited photo of metal statues in the Plaza del San Fransisco.
Edited photo of metal statues in the Plaza del San Fransisco. | Source
2 photos used to create 1 design showing Cuban fan store
2 photos used to create 1 design showing Cuban fan store | Source

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Cynthia B Turner

Comments

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Just a quick visit to wish you a very Merry Christmas and blessings for the holiday season.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      9 months ago from Georgia

      Hello Peggy, I was happy to share the sights of Havana. I hope I am able to return and have the chance to visit some of the museums there. Take care.

      Hello Bill, It was an awesome visit. If you ever have the opportunity I would say go.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      9 months ago from Houston, Texas

      An art museum in Katy, Texas has featured several exhibits which showed many photos from Cuba along with other types of art. I really enjoyed your photos of Havana and reading about your impressions of visiting there.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      9 months ago from Olympia, WA

      The architecture is stunning...or your pictures are....either way, Cuba appears to be candy for the eyes.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      9 months ago from Georgia

      Hi Chitrangada, Thank you for taking a look at the article on Havana,Cuba. It was a great place to visit. I hope to return at some time. There are still so many other sights to see there. Take care!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      9 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Great informative article about Cuba. Your pictures are beautiful and the information is interesting enough to tempt people, to plan a trip to this wonderful place.

      Thanks for sharing the details.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      10 months ago from Georgia

      Hi John, I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos. I realize Cuba has its issues, but really think Cuba is one of those special places in the world. It is certainly an amateur photographer's dream. Thank you so much for reading. Take care and write on!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      10 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Great photos you have shared here Cynthia. Cuba has always held intrigue and appeal and you showcased it well. Thanks for sharing.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      10 months ago from Georgia

      Hello Linda, Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the article. We were told that many Canandians make Cuba a destination. If you have the opportunity, go. There is so much more to see and do than what I was able to do. If I am able to go back, I will make visiting as many museums as possible my goal. Take care!

      Hello Pamela, It was a great trip and if old architecture is what you like, you will not be disappointed with Cuba. I especially liked the colorful facade that many of the buildings have. I understood from our guide that some of the buildings were damaged by Hurricane Irma and have yet to be repaired. There did seem to be a lot of buildings in a restoration phase in Old Havana.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Take care!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      10 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I've never thought of visiting Cuba before. Your photos and descriptions make the trip look and sound very enticing. I like the fact that the people are friendly and that the area that you explored was safe.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      10 months ago from Sunny Florida

      You really covered your trip to Cuba thoroughly, and it makes me want to visit. I love the old architecture. It sounds like you had a spectacular visit, and there is so much to see also. I really enjoyed your very thorough article.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      10 months ago from Georgia

      Hello Lorna,

      The trip was excellent. I really didn't know what to expect and I liked visiting that way. There is so much more that I would like to explore and I hope that I have another opportunity to go.

      Hello FlourishAnyway,

      I would definitely recommend that you add it to your list. Havana is fascinating and the people were very friendly. There seemed to be tourists from many other countries, as well. I would love to see some of the other cities and the beaches. There wasn't time for that. Hopefully there will be a next time.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      10 months ago

      This is an excellent article about such an exciting place. I would love to visit Cuba and in particular Havana. Great photos highlighting the many attractions, and I like the way you have outlined the history of this beautiful part of the world.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      10 months ago from USA

      This inspires me to put Cuba on my bucket list. I had never considered visiting before.

    • Cyndi10 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cynthia B Turner 

      10 months ago from Georgia

      Thank you for your comment Liz. It was a special trip.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      10 months ago from UK

      This is a beautifully illustrated article. You showcase Havana to good effect.

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