Experience and photograph Cuba’s two most photogenic cities: Havana and Trinidad. In the capital city, we’ll join as many as one million Cubans for the unforgettable May Day Parade–the year’s most important event.
Cuba’s frozen-in-time stage-set backdrop lends a twilight zone ambiance that Hollywood couldn’t dream up if it tried. It guarantees superb photography. But Cuba’s real magic and photographic appeal isn’t simply its crumbling architecture, one-of-a-kind revolutionary icons, or spruced-up vintage cars. It’s the seemingly mundane, quintessential experience a lo cubano that provide for the most authentic grass-roots photography and which you’ll forever cherish as favorite take-aways.
No-one knows Cuba as well as renowned travel journalist, National Geographic photographer, and Cuba expert Christopher P. Baker. Chris has authored and illustrated eight travel books on Cuba, and has written about and photographed Cuba on behalf of entities from the BBC and CNN to National Geographic, New York Magazine, and Playboy during three decades of travel to Cuba.
Chris combines great skill as a non-technical tutor (his focus on the art of visualization and composition and use of light includes a “How to Compose Stunning Travel Photography” presentation) with an unparalleled, all-encompassing comprehension of Cuba, and a capacity for concise, engaging and exciting explanation. (Most importantly, this includes the enigmatic complexities, eccentricities, and ideologies of the Revolution; plus, the philosophical, humanistic, non-materialistic qualities that define the Cuban approach to life.)
Day 1: (Apr 24)Arrive on your flight to Havana, you’ll be picked up at the airport and transferred to our B&B in the heart of Old Havana. We’ll meet late this afternoon for a 5:30 p.m. orientation meeting, then ride along the Malecón in Eisenhower-era convertibles for a welcome dinner at La Guarida—Cuba’s most famous (and photogenic) restaurant and the set for the Oscar-nominated movie “Strawberry & Chocolate.” Overnight: Private B&Bs (casas particulares), Havana
Day 2: (Apr 25) Walking the earthy back streets of the colonial quarter with our local Cuban photographer-guide, Chris will regale you about the city’s fascinating history while meeting every-day Cubans along the way. Chris will take you inside humble homes to photograph speakeasy nail salons, santería shrines, etc. We’ll then visit Galería Corrales, dedicated to the legacy of Raúl Corrales before relaxing in the heat of midday. We’ll finish the day with a late afternoon shoot of classic American cars around Parque Central, then walk along the Prado and through the atmospheric tumbledown streets of Centro Habana. We’ll photograph the sunset along the to the famous Malecón, the seafront boulevard offering a microcosm of Cuban life: the elderly walking their dogs; fishers casting their lines, or casting off in great inner-tubes; musicians practicing their instruments; and since this is Cuba, no end of lovers canoodling. We’ll dine at a nearby paladar (private restaurant) before walking back through the streets of Centro Habana.
Overnight: Private B&B, Havana
Day 3: (Apr 26)We’ll set out early, accompanied by a model–perhaps Hanny, an aspiring model who combines grace and elegance with extreme beauty; Karina, one of Cuba’s foremost fashion models; or Lisy Delgado Napoles (Miss Cuba International 2017)–as we take bicitaxis for a ride through Habana Vieja. We’ll photograph along the way, including at a farmers’ market and in the resplendent interior of Iglesia Merced. Later, we’ll visit tumbledown Gimnasio Rafael Trejo, an unlikely venue where Cuba’s future boxing greats train. After lunch, we’ll have a private photoshoot with Raices Profundas Afro-Cuban dance company. The balance of the afternoon will be free for you to explore Centro Habana and Habana Vieja at leisure before dinner at one of Habana Vieja’s premier paladares. Tonight you’ll have the option of a thrilling evening alfresco at the famous Tropicana cabaret–a fantastic and sensual photographic experience! Overnight: Private B&B, Havana
Day 4: (Apr 27)This morning we journey to Trinidad, passing through the delightful bayside city of Cienfuegos in time for lunch at Chris’ favorite paladar outside Havana. Afterward, we’ll photograph a former sugarcane community, including inside a ration store adorned with astonishing revolutionary murals. Then continue along the Caribbean shoreline, arriving the colonial town of Trinidad. We’ll have time to settle into our accommodations before setting off in late-afternoon to explore Cuba’s third oldest colonial city–a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is remarkable for its state of preservation. We’ll enjoy dinner together in one of Trinidad’s most sensational private restaurants, with fabulous views over the colonial city. Overnight: Hotel E La Calesa or private B&Bs, Trinidad
Day 5: (Apr 28)We’ll rise early for a golden hour walk, letting serendipity guide us through the streets of Trinidad, immersing ourselves in the local life as we shun the touristy quarter in favor or lesser visited quarters where a traditional cowboy lifestyle still prevails. After freshening up, Chris will then lead an introductory tour of Trinidad’s colonial core, including introducing us to an artist friend whose ingenious one-of-a-kind wood-crafts are to be seen to be believed—a sublime photogenic experience. Following an early afternoon siesta, we’ll shoot the local “car wash” (otherwise known as the Río Tamaya), then before dining at photographer Julio Muñoz’s airy restaurant overlooking the cobbled main street. Overnight: Hotel E La Calesa or private B&Bs, Trinidad
Day 6: (Apr 29)This morning we’ll journey into the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we’ll shoot a quinceañera–a girl celebrating her fifteenth birthday–at Chris’s favorite 18th-century hacienda. Following a traditional lechón (suckling roast pig) lunch at the adjoining farm, we’ll depart Trinidad and return to Havana. The evening is at leisure. Overnight: Private B&B, Havana
Day 7: (Apr 30)This morning, we’ll visit a “lost in time” mansion gone to ruin and whose occupant lives surrounded by all-things pre-revolutionary: everything in the house dates from the 1950s (or older)! Here we’ll photograph ballerinas from Cuba’s Ballet Nacional for stunning situational portraiture in an astounding setting. We’ll then walk a few blocks to visit one of Chris’ closest friends–an ace mechanic, offering a chance to photograph him working on his 1948 Buick and collection of antique Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Following lunch at photographer Sven Creutzmann’s Belmont Art Café, we’ll visit with Chris’ friend Roberto Salas–a renowned raconteur who left New Jersey to document the Revolution on January 2, 1959, and became one of Fidel’s official photographers. The balance of the day and evening are at leisure. Overnight: Private B&B, Havana
Day 8: (May 1)Rise early this morning to join the thousands of habaneros as they head to the Plaza de la Revolución for the May Day Parade–Cuba’s most important political event. Expect the plaza and surrounding streets to be thronged with as many as one million people! The opportunities for sensational photography will astound. The balance of the day is free time for optional activities to engage in your own “support the Cuban people” activities. This evening we’ll enjoy a slideshow of everyone’s favorite images before enjoying a farewell dinner at one of Havana’s top paladares. Overnight: Private B&B, Havana
Day 9: (May 2)In the afternoon, we depart Havana for Miami and home.