Archive for Sunday, October 24, 2004

Cuba a whole different world for photographer

Behind the lens

October 24, 2004


Cuba is a place a lot of people can't visit, but as a journalist, I've had several opportunities to go.

My first trip in the early 1990s was like going back in time. Visual reminders of the United States and Russian occupations were everywhere.

As you travel the country from tip to tip, most things are OK to shoot, but you have to be careful about photographing people. I've learned to use the Spanish word for "permission," especially with older folks. Other subjects, such as the narrow-gauge trains used to haul sugar cane, require a special permit from the government to shoot.

Still other things are strictly off limits. That's certainly true for military people and locations. I remember being near Baracoa in 1995. A large mining operation had caused a lot of land damage. I shot some pictures; no problem. But when I returned three years later, big signs warned "No photographia."

Nude photographs are frowned upon as well.

Anyway, I've always shot film during past trips. But this year -- I'll be in Cuba for a month in late October and early November -- I'm going totally digital. I've bought a new Nikon D2H, several 512 megabyte flash cards and a few new lenses. My plan is to download photos to CD every day so I don't lose any images.

There are several advantages to going digital, the most obvious being that I can see what I'm shooting, and if I want to make it better, I can do it instantaneously instead of waiting a year or two for my next trip to the island. Also, I worry about film being damaged by X-rays during security scans.

While I'm away, I'll cover an election in a small town in Cuba and get Cuban reactions to the U.S. presidential election. I also plan to photograph narrow-gauge trains and shadow a veterinarian who works with animals at cattle and horse ranches in Trinidad.

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