Garrett Graham: American Graffiti in Cuba

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This is a syndicated blog post from Garrett Graham. It and the photos in this post are used with permission.

Havana Is a colorful and beautiful place. You can’t go two blocks without finding a live band playing salsa music or a cobblestone plaza built in the 1800s. Needless to say the city and people photograph beautifully.

The country has a foot in both the present and the past, so I decided to channel that past and only bring a film camera. Call me hipster or whatever you’d like, but I felt the right camera to bring was my Bronica ETRS. I left my SD cards and Canon at home and this is what I brought back.

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Equipment-wise, I used a Bronica ETRS shooting 120mm Kodak Portra 400 with a SEIKO Zenzanon E-II 75MM F/2.8 PE lens.

I never ran into any issues shooting in the country, even with a large camera. Everyone was very receptive to having their pictures taken. I was advised though to not take pictures of soldiers. You could be in for an interrogation or have your SD cards taken from you. But, I never actually saw this happen. Just be respectful and you shouldn’t have any issues.

PRO TIP: Have a roll of Cuban quarters with you if you plan to take pictures of the locals. The kids especially are willing to pose for a shot but expect some sort of compensation. No one was overly pushy though.

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As with any Caribbean country expect rain and Humidity. Take precautions with your camera going from from cold to hot as your lens will fog up. I kept my camera in a backpack for the firsts 20 minutes of the day to allow it to warm up slowly.

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Pay $35 to ride around the city in an old convertible. Just walk up to one you like, the owner will come up and offer you a tour. The guides are knowledgeable, you get to see places otherwise off limits and plus it’s just fun. Trust me cruising down the Malecón will be the highlight of your trip.

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If you have any desire to travel to Cuba I recommend you do it sooner than later. The charm of the country I fear will be lost over the coming years once full trade opens with the US. The old cars may be sold off and instead of getting a local Cuban coffee, Starbucks will be the more likely choice.

Check here to see the list of approved reasons of travel. It does take some homework to organize your trip and you do have to follow certain guidelines, but the rewards and photos are worth it.