Cuba is in vogue as one of the world’s most popular destinations for photo tours and photo workshops. And no wonder!
A more inspirational setting for photography is hard to conceive. Its neck-snapping, dream-like, haunting-in-its-fantastical-unfamiliarity quality makes Cuba as #instaready and photo rich as any place on the planet.
Which explains why my immensely popular ‘Cuba Photo Tour & Workshop: Havana, Viñales & Trinidad’ offered through Jim Cline Photo Tours sell out fast. In fact, we just added a fourth departure for this coming winter to meet demand as pent-up urge to travel post-Covid pandemic begins to translate into bookings.
I can’t wait to return with my next group.
Even after more than 200 visits during 28 years, in this quasi-magical realm where the borders between reality and fantasy intertwine, on any day in any place I’m guaranteed at least one memorably unique double-take image.
In the ‘90s and first decade of the millennium, my focus was on illustrating travel guide books and magazine stories. Since 2011, when Obama opened the door for U.S. travelers, my Cuba visits have leaned heavily towards leading group programs, from helping set up and lead Santa Fe Photographic Workshop’s first Cuba programs to almost 100 trips for National Geographic Expeditions as photographer and “Cuba Expert.”
I love sharing this expertise with my photo tour clients.
My standard sell-out itinerary for Jim Cline Photo Tours follows a classic triptych: Havana, with all its grit, glamour, old cars, boxing gyms, dance troupes, and the Malecón seafront at sunset… Laid-back Viñales for quintessential landscapes and tobacco farms and farmers… And Trinidad, Cuba’s best-preserved UNESCO World Heritage city, teeming with cowboys, pulsing sunshine, and colonial buildings as if colored by Crayola. You can’t go wrong with this Holy Trinity itinerary.
And, of course, I bring all my experience and insider knowledge to bear to choose venues that are super interesting and photogenic.
We’ll shoot ballerinas in a fantastic yesteryear mansion in Havana’s once-chic Vedado neighborhood..,
… as well as an exciting Afro-Cuban dance troupe…
No photo tour would be complete without thrilling to a ride in convertible classic cars down Havana’s seafront Malecón…
On a purely physical level, Cuba is astoundingly photogenic…
The talcum beaches and bathwater-warm seas the colors of peacock feathers; the bottle-green mountains and valleys with waterfalls tumbling to jade-colored pools; the ancient cities with their flower-bedecked balconies, Baroque churches, and palaces and castles evocative of the once-mighty power of Spain. Cuba’s landscapes are soft and calming, epitomized by chartreuse cane fields undulating like a great, swelling sea. Royal palms are everywhere, towering over the countryside like columns of petrified light. And then there’s Viñales with its tobacco fields, and mogotes —sheer, freestanding limestone knolls the size of skyscrapers— looming over a broad valley suffused with the softness of a Monet painting.
As to Havana… its urban decay, humbling living conditions, and surreal street life are the backdrop that make the city a breathtaking panegyric of photographic potential.
I love working Cuban streets, especially away from tourist zones. They’re an endlessly spontaneous theater. Everyday activities here have a gritty contextual quality that evokes a nostalgic and seductive response, piquing subconscious analysis about the social and cultural complexities of contemporary Cuba. You don’t need to push the envelope to find poetic and emotionally charged images that spark the psyche. Often, I’ll linger at a particularly compelling street corner and “work” the scene, waiting patiently for slice-of-life moments amid the non-stop street theater.
To experience Cuba at its most sincere best, please join me on a photo tour and workshop and learn how to take professional quality images like a National Geographic photographer!