CUBA : MALECÓN series no.3

Photo © Steven Lee 2011

The Malecon intrigued me somewhat, after seeing many photographs by well-known photographers in the past, and now that I was finally arriving on this ‘hallowed’ stretch of concrete I was excitedly keen to make some images that, for a first visit, meant something greater for me than mere snaps.

It was during a drive-by the previous Saturday evening in a Cubataxi, one of the yellow Lada-state taxis, that I noticed the amazing night scenes along the  seawall, with literally thousands of Cubanos mingling, chatting and perching on the walls late at night. I saw young teens, older locals, families with their kids, people swigging and sipping rum from bottles, playing guitars, stalls selling snacks and of course the ever watchful Havana policemen and women, who do such a great job in keeping the peace, thus there are hardly any reported thefts, robberies or crime.

This Saturday night, we cruised the Malecon in a clapped out faded pink 1950’s Ford. Our driver, a huge beefcake of a man, found a convenient spot to drop us off as we promised to return in 30 minutes or face long walk back to the hotel.

The 6 of us headed off and along the Malecon, split up into ones and twos shooting our own series. I shot with a compact Fujifilm X100, which I had been using practically the entire trip, with the ISO cranked up to 400 and using the built-in flash. I also shot stealthily in available light at ISO3600 in a few instances, when I needed to preserve the moment.

Here’s my take..

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CUBA : MALECÓN series no.2

Photo © Keng Fun Loh 2011

Another take of the Malecon series by Keng Fun Loh sees a totally different and rather voyeuristic approach. Fun simply decided to shoot in available light (which in some parts wasn’t available at all!) composing a shot every 6 paces along, at a fixed distance away from the sea wall, with a 50mm lens, and making full use of the Canon 5DM2’s high ISO capability of 6,400. Focusing was pretty touch and go in complete darkness whilst, some frames were lit by the headlights from passing cars.

These photographs capture the honesty of the moment, candid and unobtrusively depicting the locals hanging out, unperturbed by a sniping visitor.

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Take Six on the Malecon © Keng Fun Loh 2011

CUBA : The MALECÓN series no.1

Photo © Ivy Tan 2011

The Habaneros love the Malecon, which is an 8km walkway, promenade, esplanade, seawall (call it what you want) on Havana Bay, stretching from Old Havana and its rickety port, along New Havana with its belle-epoque buildings, and 60’s style iconic beach hotels right up to the Vedado area, where souless Russian-style construction is evident. There is no stretch of concrete in Havana, or perhaps, Cuba better than the Malecon, for the young and old of the city to relax, chill, hang out, fish, dive, and make-out. We were fortunate enough to pop along after our last Saturday evening farewell meal at the famous La Guarida (which is another story) to meet and photograph the locals and tourists doing what they do on the Malecon.

Here are a series of images from the group (starting with Ivy Tan) showing how different interpretations of the same shoot can result in equally spectacular photographs.

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The Malecon Divers  © Ivy Tan 2011

Ivy’s approach to photographing the divers was more specific and focused. She only had a limited time to make these pictures on the Saturday, having just returned on a 6 hour bus ride from the the coast, whilst the rest of the group were either exhausted by the 33C heat, or busy buying cigars. Nonetheless, what she achieved was a tight and close-up view of these hunky boy divers doing their thing. Her naturally amicable approach to people is an asset she uses to get real close to her subjects. Shooting with a compact Leica also helps in this case, where the looming silhouette of a typical DSLR-toting tourist is lessened.



Literally having just got back from a 12-day photography tour to Cuba, I am posting this teaser to what is promised to be, a series of simply amazing and stunning photography posts that will come from our workshop participants over the next few days and weeks. I can sense computers whirring, frantic downloading, editing, and editing,  and final presentation going on right now as I type this. Shooting selectively and editing tightly is the name of the game. Cuba, and especially Havana is a ‘must visit’ city, in a state of transition. The Americans have been, the Russians came and now the Chinese are stepping in to invest heavily. Heck, there’s even a China town, so called. Chinese immigrants have been in Cuba for centuries.

As we met out friendly guide Hoji on board a spanking new Chinese Yutong coach some 12 days ago after landing at the Jose Marti International, little did our group know what was to be presented before us and our trigger-ready cameras.  We met and photographed many leather skinned elderly men and women, kids on the side streets, colourful scantily clad women, danced Salsa with retirees in a small town, ate tons of fresh lobster, downed obscene amounts of rum and mojitos, caught land crabs and tarantulas, watched vultures circle overhead, hustled by pimps and jineteros offering cheap cigars and chicas, listened to the fabulous Buena Vista Social Club, photographed stunning sunsets and sailed the clear blue waters of the Florida sea.

And more.