This is my 14th & final…for now…posting about Cuba.

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The one word that I would use to describe my experience traveling in Cuba is compelling. As I hoped, the opportunities for photography were everything I expected. My plan was to immerse myself, albeit briefly, with people to gain a perspective & document their way of life. The narrow glance I observed was insightful & rewarding. Somewhat unexpectedly I opened a window to personal introspection that will resonate with me for a long time.

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My decision to avoid Havana was helpful in minimizing cliché images & experiences. The smaller cities were more open to personal interaction. With few exceptions I easily engaged people with just a smile. In conversations thru my interpreter, politics was seldom a topic. My curiosity eclipsed any preconceived ideas I had about their day-to-day lives.

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I saw typical differences between young & old, city & rural, men & women even professional vs blue collar. What surprised me was a disparity of standards of living. Communism in Cuba is far from the theory Marx had advocated. I didn’t witness anything I would describe as poverty or affluence. However, I saw a comfortable cohabitation between those with more opportunities & a more comfortable way of life than others. I also recognized a discrepancy with access to & use of technology. Most of the digital divide coincided with age.

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Cuba has the natural resources of climate, beaches & tropical waters that attract tourists. Since the mid 90’s non-US tourism has provided a significant percentage of hard currency to the economy. The Cuban government owns most hotels. There are a few International chains but uncertainty has stalled investment. I find it difficult to believe that trinkets, restaurants & service jobs to the tourist industry can provide both a long term & broad based impact on the overall economic well being of the people. This is especially true if the government continues to keep restrictive oversight on commerce.

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The topography of the Cuba is diverse. Their are 9 UNESCO sites, 8 National Parks & 7 Biosphere reserves in this nation roughly the size of PA. I only took time to briefly explore 1 Bio reserve, which was impressive. There are numerous examples or environmental programs including organic & self-sustain farming. I got the impression many of these were out of necessity rather than altruism. However, the one dominant fact is that surrounded by water, it is easy for the government to control access on & off the island.

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The majority of people I interacted with have only known life under Communism. Some challenges they face have roots that go further back than 3 generations since the revolution. The Cuban people are far from illiterate or in ill health. Education & health care have been priorities of the Castro brothers & now economic reform has become a goal of Raul. Change is happening. However, over the past 5-10 years the pace is faster than it has been the precious 4 decades.

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For many Cubans on meager pensions & low paying government jobs their lives are Spartan. Food is rationed at Bodegas at subsidized prices with proportions determined by age & gender. I visited Orlando Zayas, my guides’ grandfather, in his 400 sq foot apartment. The space fronts a busy street & he rents a few square feet to enterprising merchants. He is content & fortunate that family lives close & visit frequently. He enjoys watching baseball & complained that boxers today were nowhere near as good as Joe Louis or Kid Chocolate. Talking about his life he said, “Communism does not work”.

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My primary goal was to photograph individuals & document their lifestyles. Generalizations can be dangerous but I can confidently say I was warmly greeted buy a population that is easygoing, resilient & enjoys life. Lacking commodities we take for granted Cubans make the best out of the situation they are in…even if they have to bend a few rules. Daily life is simpler & slower. Personal interaction is routine. No doubt there are problems but the people I met were upbeat. When I asked what made people so happy I was told, “We laugh at our problems so we have lots to laugh about”.

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I believe an individual’s work ethic is a reflection on their character. I saw many examples of confidence, problem solving, & a resourcefulness to work with what they have without complaining. Although the tempo of work isn’t equivalent to our expectations, Cubans have few distractions & a persistence to get the job done. They are proud of the work they do with their hands & find happiness in their accomplishments not their possessions. I have deep respect for what Cubans have archived with only the basic resources.

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The elements of culture are common. Art, music, literature, religion, food, architecture & fashion are things I observe when I travel. The details of these expressions make people & places unique. I have had very little exposure to Latin American. The rich culture of Cuba was a wonderful new vista. I observed a flair for painting that was cultivated after the revolution when national schools of art were created. In contrast to the many examples of architectural decay, the diverse art was a peak into the bright light of the soul of the people. In a society with few outlets for expression I sensed a passion in their demeanor for artistic freedom.

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Children give us examples of how we can enjoy life & accomplish more when we cooperate with each other. When I observed children I thought about my friend Mark Zinnoni. His mother fled Cuba’s oppression & he wasn’t happy I was going there because he felt it diminished the possibility of freeing Cubans from oppressive Communist rule. I respected his opinion & looked forward to sharing what I saw & experienced when I returned. Unfortunately he passed away before I departed. I like to think he would have enjoyed my perspective of the Cuban people. Amid the hardships there is a joy for life & hope for the future…emotion & optimism that were part of Mark’s character.

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Like most people when I read or hear about a place it is impossible have a deep understanding. Our perspectives, no matter how broad, lack the important element of a personal connection. Although many individuals I only met briefly, they will be a touchstone to my understanding of our neighbors. During my trip I was formed a deeper relationship with my guide Lidear. On my last night there he invited me to his “humble home with his family for a simple dinner.” For me it was an honor & a wonderful epilogue to my trip. As hurricane Irma was striking Cuba it was him and his family that were in my thoughts. I wish nothing but the best for him, his family & the people of Cuba whom I now know just a little bit better. I hope that my blog postings have opened the curtain just a bit to allow you to see the Humans of Cuba.

I would greatly appreciate any feedback or comments on this or any of my postings about Cuba.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

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Cuba by the Sea

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In planning my trip to Cuba I had a wish list of subjects I wanted to photograph. As anybody that knows me will attest, boating is an activity I love. I wanted to experience some time on the water, preferably a sailboat, with a fisherman. In emails with my tour company & guide prior to departure, I realized this was not going to happen because of strict regulations on boats on this tropical island. Even before I departed I got a sense of the governments strict authority on peoples lives. I felt a sense of shear disappointment for Cubans because they couldn’t experience the pleasure of the water as I did.

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I was able to visit a fishing village near Trinidad along the Rio Guaurabo where it flows into the Caribbean. The marina, where I estimate about 35 boats were moored, was as primitive as any I’ve seen. The long narrow design of all the boats was similar. Those that had motors had small inboard engines. While some had a fresh coat of paint, all of the boats had the rugged & rough appearance of a craft designed for work not pleasure.

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The pallet of vibrant colors could be seen in various stages of faded repair. A few of the larger boats had a permanent top to provide shade but most had no protection from the harsh tropical sun. The still clear waters of the river provided reflections that surrounded the marina.

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As anyone who has owned a boat can verify there is always maintenance that needs to be done. In Cuba, with only basic hand tools to work with, building or repairing is a slow process. My access to the marina was tenuous & I didn’t try to engage with anyone for fear of getting them in trouble. I easily could have spent the day with the men in this harbor. However, I was told “jefe” was coming. It was an inspector from the government checking the status of a boat being repaired. It was time for me to depart.

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In almost every marina I’ve ever seen there is at least one boat that makes me curious about the failed hopes of the owner. Even still serene waters can consume a person’s dreams. It appears the name of the boat is Fortia, which translates into Strong. Look closely at the reflection on the starboard chain. You can see a link has separated. Soon the persistent power of water will overpower the craft. Water always wins.

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Dervis Lopez Abram has fished in the Bay of Guaurabo for the past 15 years. In that time he learned many tricks from a mentor who fished these waters his entire life. Trolling with artificial lures on lines, not nets, his catch is Red Snapper, Salt Fish & Tuna. He told me over the past 5 years fewer fish are being caught & he believes it might be due to climate change. The government buys 90% of his catch at prices they determine. He is able to sell or consume the reaming 10%. When his son is not in school Dervis is passing on to him the lessons about fishing he has learned. He is proud of how quickly his only son has learned to catch different kinds of fish.

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The Fara is Dervises boat where he routinely sets out on the sea in early evening and returns at dawn. At 6.4 meters by 2.4 meters it is one of the larger boats I saw in the crude moorings. It is powered by a 12 hp Soviet diesel. He hopes after his son graduates & does his mandatory 2 years in the army he will follow in the tradition of his father. If he does, he will pass the boat on to him giving him a head start in life.

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In hindsight I couldn’t help but to reflect on Hemingway’s Pulitzer Prize wining novel The Old Man & The Sea. While Santiago struggled with a big fish, the fishermen in this village contend with much more. Making a living on the water may have a romantic appeal to some. However, for Cubans, the effort to survive as fisherman is a way of life filled with endless challenges beyond those that mother nature presents. In spite of the hardships they hope for a better catch tomorrow.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

What I did This Summer

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Do teachers still use this prompt for students to write about? Summer 2017 had a variety of motivations where I explored new challenges & improved on some go-to subjects & techniques. I took a Master Photography Class & spent a few days with the Chautauqua Ballet. The original shot of Sarah Lapointe was completely over exposed. However, I loved her candid form so I decided to try & salvage it via B&W. Previous attempts at creating a dynamic monochrome image were frustrating & I was unhappy with the results. Their was a high learning curve & numerous hours spent on this image but I’ve developed a better understanding of how to get to where I want in the realm of B&W.

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One of my favorite subjects is our daughter because she does so many visually interesting things. Always challenging herself, she competed in a decathlon in Burlington VT.  I’ve become comfortable working with Photoshop & using it to alter the reality of the moment. I have come to concede that with the exception of photojournalism or documentary, PS is a tool that allows the image to be enhanced & improved. Prior to desaturation & blurring I considered the background distracting of the primary subject.

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At the 2 day competition I was successful at being in positions to capturing solid images of all 10 events. I got some good shots of women pole-vaulting & was moving onto another event when I looked at the sky. As an exhibition jumper was attempting a new personal best I realized the clouds might provide an opportunity to capture an image similar to ones that inspired me back in 1971. He achieved a new personal best & I captured the image that was in my minds eye.

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Since I believe you never have really visited a place unless you have been in or on the water, we went sailing on Lake Champlain. While it is impossible to show the grace & beauty of this 35 foot Friendship Sloop while on-board I did see this CU of the clew of the mainsail as the boom strained against the main-sheet & wooden block.

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Back on the waters of Lake Chautauqua I captured the elegant contours of sailboats racing near Chautauqua Institute. Always looking to improve the image I would love to have been higher so as to eliminate the horizon line of the trees going thru the sails.

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During my photography class the instructor, Marta Rial, in critiquing some of my images suggested I shoot a bit wider. Normally I would have zoomed in to include just the dog and the walker. But her advice proved to be valuable as the leading space of the woman gives weight to the small dog,

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At an exhibit of birds of prey where hawks were tethered to posts I had the opportunity to get within a few feet of these beautiful birds. The advice of shooting wider was completely ignored. The details and the colors revealed in this CU make it one of my favorite images of a bird even though it is in captivity.

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I have a folder of images I have shot called “people taking pictures”. When I saw this person moving in to get a close shot of the owl I wondered if she had any idea she was well within striking range of the hawk behind her. I’m glad her dress didn’t have any patterns that resembled a mouse. Again, the wider shot showing the relativity of the hawk behind her gave a stronger story.

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My dominant motivation in taking a photograph is the subject. I realize that form, line, texture & color are also important elements of an image but I struggle to get inspiration from them. Here it was impossible to ignore the forms created by the lines of the shadows & the windows. I like the juxtaposition & the position of the graffiti infused with the hard lines of the structure.

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Flowers are subjects that provide opportunities to capture color & form. Usually I am less than satisfied with my attempts. But, I shot about 2 dozen images of Day Lilies after a morning rain & I found 1 shot I liked. I’m not sure if the accents of the raindrops were missing if I would like this as well.

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The staggered flower boxes on my shed/wood-shop are wonderful accents to see in person. A photo of them is less appealing. I’m not a fan of collage but I decided to give it a shot. I think the concept may work better if each image was in a separate frame & hung on a wall. Making the frame out of similar color wood as the shed would also be helpful. That might be a project for the wood-shop next season.

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Having nothing connected to photography, I have been watching the Bemus Point Stow Ferry cross Chautauqua Lake my entire life. At the end of last summer I got my Joint Pilot & Engineers license, which allows me to pilot the Ferry. This summer I volunteered to be part of a tradition that has been going on since 1811. Life is good.

Cuban Farm to Table Restaurant

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I wasn’t motivated to do any kind of Foodie or Traveling Gourmet stories during my trip to Cuba. In my opinion, photographs of food are best done in a studio with controlled lighting & props. When you set the food down in front of me it becomes a meal not a subject. However, El Paraiso was as unique a restaurant as I have ever eaten at. It had a great location on top of a hill overlooking Vinales, good food with great service. What motivated me to take a trip back in daylight to photograph was the self-sustainability of this thriving organic restaurant.

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My guide/translator, Lidear, had taken me there for dinner. The overwhelming quantity of the food they served their guests was something I had never seen. Their were no menus to choose from. Our waiter just started to bring food & it seems like he never stopped. Vegetables, rice, potatoes, salads, chicken, pork & fish. At one point I counted 17 different plates of food on our table. Initially I was upset by the waste until I found out that leftovers were an integral part of the composting. I began to see a bigger picture of how this thriving restaurant was self-sustaining.

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We returned the next afternoon so I could interview one of the managers & take some photos. On the surrounding hillsides of the open & simple structure are terraced gardens. They are designed, maintained & organically farmed with the objective of growing everything the restaurant needs.  I learned not all the waste from the previous meals gets composed. Some is used to feed the livestock.

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Greeting guests & answering questions is Mardin Luis. In his 70’s he has seen the value of how the family owning El Paraiso has influenced & benefited the community. Wilfredo, the father who began the restaurant, told him the best garden to grow is your conscious. On a trip to the United States Mardin learned about Kale & has recommended they explore it as a crop. His dreams for the future are to to continue to work, study & be an example to young people.

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At our dinner, the previous evening, the valley below had few lights. The mountains blended into the dark February night sky so the view offered nothing special. In the late morning of the next day the full picture of this family run enterprise was revealed. The vista of the valley & the unique mogotes was an excellent accent to well kept plots.

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Lunchtime guests are invited to wander the hillside gardens on a mini hike around the grounds. Alongside the vegetable gardens are flowers & bushes attracting insects that help to pollinate. I was tempted to chase after the iconic hummingbird shot or stalk butterflies with my camera. The translation of El Parisio in English is paradise.

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In the tropics, the growing season is basically year round. Seeing plants ready for harvest in a raised garden right beside young sprouting crops was something you don’t seeing living near the 40th parallel. As “farm to table” dining experiences as well as organic food becomes more popular in the US I think the self-sustainability of El Parisio is a noteworthy example.

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Rachel Garcia, one of Wilfords daughters, told me when El Parisio opened they had 6 customers a day. It has grown to serve 300.  To keep things running, 20 family members work in the restaurant or on the farm. Her dream for her daughter is to learn the ability to work hard because that makes everything possible. To make a restaurant successful is one of the most challenging businesses to operate. It is almost as demanding as being a farmer. Combining the operation of a farm & a restaurant while serving primarily tourists in a communist country is not a business plan I would think would succeed.

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She is rightfully proud of her family’s success. She also recognizes El Pariso demonstrates how an ecological focus can bring visitors to other community entrepreneurs. Beyond the success of the thriving restaurant she realizes the work her family has done can inspire others in Cuba as they navigate the new opportunities the government is allowing. If you visit this tropical island don’t miss Vinales. And while you are there visit El Paraiso for lunch so you can enjoy strolling the garden before you dine.

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I asked Rachel if she would pose for a portrait. She agreed but only if I include her soon to be delivered child. Before I departed she shared a photograph of her with of Dr. Jill Biden at the White house. As I glanced up from the photograph & looked at her with surprise in my eyes and a big smile on my face, the pride of her families achievements was written all over her face. All of the people I interviewed while I traveled thru Cuba had overflowing self-confidence. With Rachel her self-assurance filled the restaurant.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

Cuban Casa

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Throughout my travels I stayed in Casa Particulars, which are similar to B&B’s in the US. Staying in private homes gave me a glimpse into lives of Cuban families that could be considered middle class. Villa: Tres Hermanas is the house of 3 sisters near Las Terrazas.

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Anabel & Mario & multiple generations of  family live under 1 roof. He built the home on land owned by his father & not seized after the revolution. He added an apartment on the roof for one daughter. When the room I stayed in wasn’t rented various family members sleep there. His parents cook many of the meals, do laundry & maintaining the chicken & pigs. While sharing small living spaces has challenges it reinforces a common history, provides a support group & creates esprit de corps within families.

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In urban areas those that don’t own a home live in government owned apartments void of character. Many live on meager wages & pensions that can pay the state controlled rent & expenses. Due to a shortage of public housing there are waiting lists to get into these buildings. Although they provide people basic shelter at an affordable price, these buildings exemplify a basic flaw of Communism.

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Just outside the center of Vinales is a street lined with tropical colored Casa Particulars which are licensed by the state. It leads to the Valley of Silence & has quite a bit of local & tourist traffic. The region has many natural attractions making it a popular destination for visitors to Cuba. This influx of travelers allows homeowners in this community to participate in the growing opportunities for small businesses.

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The Caribbean weather has a significant influence on the design of courtyards & terraces as a part of the living space in old & new buildings. Windows & doors are large to allow daylight in. Timber is scarce so concrete is the common building material. Beautiful mosaics are abundant. The architectural style & detail of Spanish plantation homes, which are now mostly museums, are spectacular. However, understanding the inequities of the wealthy owners compared to the slaves/workers dampened my appreciation.

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An initial reaction to some living conditions might resonate poverty. However, the needs of people are simple & often the places they live in reflect that. The humble furnishings are a source of pride for this man whose son & grandson are putting a roof on a home he & his wife own. The most common deficiency I saw in these neighborhoods was inadequate infrastructure. The living conditions are far below the standards we expect. However, Cubans have pride in ownership of their Spartan dwellings.

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The overall consumption of electricity for average Cubans is low. Per capita they use 5% compared to the US. A few homes I stayed in had AC for guests but beyond that & refrigerators they had few electrical appliances. On many levels the services supplied by the government is lacking. But as with many problems, the people innovate a way to get it done. I am not an electrical engineer however; I do believe the tropical sun & low demand could be an opportunity for powering the entire nation with solar power.

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This is the kitchen of my driver Ricardo where he lives with his parents, wife & son. His father is a doctor & his mother is a nurse at the local hospital. His father recently returned after working 2 years in a remote village in Brazil. Volunteering for that position the Cuban government raised his salary. Ricardo’s routine job is a programmer for the government. He works on the side as a driver earning .5 CUC per km. Their home is not luxurious but as a family they earn money outside the structured regulations to raise their standard of living. I asked why refrigerators were a few inches above the floor. Since most Cubans are meticulous about cleaning. The platform keeps the refrigerator dry during the daily moping of the floor.

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In the Valley of Sugar Mills outside of of Trinidad a farmer has a small cozy 4 room home tucked into a shaded grove of trees. It sits a few hundred yards from the former plantation home of wealthy landowners from the 1800’s that is now a museum. The inhumane artifacts of slavery the farmer has uncovered while plowing the fields are displayed on the side of his home including leg irons, metal collars & handcuffs.

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In the urban center of Camagüey, & other cities, the centuries old narrow cobblestone streets have no room for parking. The entry room of many homes also serves as a garage for two wheeled vehicles.

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The openness & light throughout the homes enhanced soft tropical colors. I discovered wooden accents like the corner wall mounts. Those will be added to my wood shop projects.

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All the places I stayed were comfortable, clean & used attractive outdoor areas & rooftops as part of the living space. The aesthetics varied in each city & my experience was unique to each owner’s casa. The breakfasts were enough to get me to dinner although I think the start of my day was a bit early for most hosts. As I had hoped, Casa Particulars provided a memorable glimpse into a segment of Cuban society.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

More Ballet

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I recently took a Master Photography class with Martha Rial at Chautauqua Institution. The class was an inspiring motivation which concentrated on a photojournalism approach to telling a story. I did my assignment with the resident Chautauqua Summer Ballet, which is the Charlotte Ballet. Martha reviewed some of my images & suggested I shoot wider to tell more of the story & zoom with my feet. My interpretation was to work with 85,40 & 26 prime lenses. I knew the background & lighting were going to be far from pristine but I accepted that as part of photojournalism guidelines.

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In Cuba I had a few hours to shoot ballet.  At The Chautauqua School of Dance I had 3 days of opportunities & everybody spoke English. However, listening to dancers learning a new work in class, their jargon was as foreign as Spanish. They rehearsed with Chautauqua Orchestra & performed a tribute to the retiring artistic director on the newly rebuilt stage/amphitheater. I had GREAT collaboration with the staff & the dancers. The “story” for my assignment evolved into an understated look at change & how the show goes on.

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I had some satisfaction/success in Cuba with low shots & I explored that perspective even further by being closer & wider. Including the background dancers mirroring the primary subject adds another layer to the image I find absorbing. Instead of fighting a losing battle with lights I tried to be “in the moment” as Martha suggested & ignored the florescent lights. For me, the best part of the 5 day class was the interactive critique.

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I was impressed with Mark Diamonds style of choreographing the routines. He spoke in a soft voice forcing quiet with students & capturing their attention. The pace the dancers were taught & coached was faster than I expected. During the condensed summer season the turn-around between performances is sometimes less than a week. Collaboration within the company was reflective of their professionalism & attempts of perfection.

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For dancers it is all about the form & the purity of the line. As a photographer I want to capture those elements but I also want lighting & background to enhance them. Since I had no control of either of those elements I needed to react to the activity as it was happening. In this shot I captured the dancer with an interesting positioning of students in the background. At least the fluorescent lamps were close in color & relatively even.

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Sarah Hayes Harkins is a principle dancer in the Charlotte Ballet. She has been with the company for over 9 years.  When I saw her massaging her quads with a roller I immediately recognized the similarities to the way other athletes train & condition their muscles. Dancers have a remarkable harmony between the power & tone in their legs, shoulders back, arms & even their neck. If you think ballerinas are delicate think again. They are superbly conditioned athletes.

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I’m not sure if he would agree but I think I captured the moment of his leap. I even had some better lighting as they rehearsed on the stage. For my class we were to do minimal cropping & for most of the images in my presentation I did as I was told. However, for my blog & other presentations I find cropping to emphasize the subject is a very powerful technique. During class we discussed where the line is photojournalism shouldn’t cross with respect to editing. I got a better perspective of when I would enhance an image with Photoshop. I now need to work on better use of PS tools.

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Although wider shots fit the adage of showing the whole dancer, every now & then I’d see a frame that wasn’t head to toe.  I never thought just one extended arm in the frame would be a good shot until I saw this. Sarah Lapointe has her focus on the mirror as she examines her form. Capturing an expression in relationship to a pose can be dramatic. Her concentration & expression are clues to her personality. For my blog posting of this shot I stepped over the line of photojournalism by eliminating background distractions and inserting a gradient. I recognize my PS skills need improvement. However, this is closer to the style of image that motives me to shoot dancers.

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I spent time further exploring the added dimension of the mirror. This shot was a major improvement from the mirror shot in my last blog post from Cuba. One of the great things about photographing the dancers is that they almost never made eye contact with me. I was as close to being a fly on the wall as I have ever experienced.

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The low angle adds emphasis to the height of the dancers. The symmetry of their form & line fills the frame. Given the results of shooting low & wide, if I get the opportunity to shoot more dance I will search for methods to be low on the ground that don’t aggravate my old knees.

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I anticipated this classic pose during afternoon rehearsal. As they were rehearsing with a live orchestra I found myself guided by the music as to when to expect moments like this. I have become more comfortable with square framing in post-production. When I snapped the shutter I knew I would crop it into a square. I also found off angle positions to be more interesting than straight on from the center of the stage.

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This is definitely not part of the dancers routine. However, this shot makes the dancers more human & adds depth to the story. Even as they leave the stage after a grueling rehearsal they are still in step. I was satisfied with the presentation I did for my class. I felt improvement in my ability to capture “the moment” of the dancers. I would highly recommend a workshop to photogs that want to expand their skills. This class was not as intensive as most & it was also far less expensive.

Camaguey Cuba Ballet

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The most exciting photographic opportunity I had in Cuba was at a rehearsal for the Camagüey Ballet. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to capture dance, which like music, is a linear art form. Unlike musical performances, dancers provide numerous moments for powerful still images. Considering it was my first attempt I did OK. My instincts of where to be & when to snap were solid. The challenges of background & lighting were a distraction. A photo my daughter took inspired this shot.
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As I have mentioned before, odd numbers for me are more visually interesting. I find that 3 or 5 primary subjects can create unbalanced symmetry I find intriguing. Maybe it has something to do with the rules of thirds. I found this tighter shot, which cropped the full form of the dancers, engaged my eye more with the individuals. I enjoy the personal outfits of rehearsal instead of more formal costumes during performance.
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As I was transitioning from the horizontal of video into stills I discussed the challenges I had with vertical framing. A single ballerina in a spinning pointe erased whatever traces I  have of reluctance to turn the camera 90 degrees. I also explored personal post-production boundaries on this image. I justify the enhancement with the fact that the subject is “art”.
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A square cropping also pushes my comfort zone. Shortly after I started working on this image in PS I was drawn to this perspective. In some respects, because it lacks the entire pose of the dancer, this shot is a failure. However the expression on her face justifies to me showing only 3 of her 4 appendages. This led me to explore square cropping with other images.
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When photographing in a room with mirrors it can be either a nightmare or an entry to another dimension. Fortunately the mirror was on the south side of the room where I kept my back most of the time. I would however like to explore coordinating the perspective of this shot. Standing there trying to make something out of this angle I remembered a workshop where I learned where you stand with a camera is a lot like shooting pool. A few degrees difference can make a big change.

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Although shot has an even number of subjects I like this image a lot. The missing form of the ballerina in the foreground is partially revealed in the background dancer. This combines the power of a close-up with a hint of the pose. I also like the green leaf earrings, which are a personal touch you could easily miss in a wider shot. along with the informal wisp of her hair. If only the bar in the background had not been there. I was thrilled & thankful to be a guest at this rehearsal. However, the photographer in me wanted control.

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OK, I’m back to odd numbers. In an effort to eliminate the bar that encircled the room I tried getting a lower angle. However my old knees had an opinion as to how much I should do this. Again, I justify the failure of not having the complete form with the more dramatic facial features. The receding focus & the position of the dancers arms in conjunction with the direction of the their gaze create both tension & harmony.

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This shot demonstrates all of the visual distractions I was trying to overcome. If I had to choose only one distraction I could eliminate I would have the bar removed. In my minds eye the strong horizontal lines is a visual speed bump. Ignoring the distractions and the noise from a high ISO I love the form captured in this moment as well as the dancers concentration. In hindsight, I could have lowered the shutter to 350 speed & reduced the ISO.

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As somewhat of a bookend to the beginning image of feet in the 3rd position I choose this CU of pointe to end my images from the rehearsal studio. A ballerina in pointe is an iconic image of the art. In my minds eye the subtle strength & precise form of the dancer are captured in this detail.

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I must thank Esmeralda Pimental Rodriguez a representative for Paridiso Tourismo Cultural for the connection and insight into Cuban Art. She helped coordinate my trip to the ballet rehearsal at Casa Quinta. If I ever return to Cuba I will look for her assistance in coordinating  my visit around a performance of the Camaguey Ballet.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.