Instructor: David Hobby
Dates: January 11 – 18, 2019
Location: Havana and Matanzas
There may never be a better or more interesting time to photograph Cuba than now. Historic change is happening on the island and you don’t want to miss your chance to document life in the wake of the Fidel Castro era.
Our photo workshop, led by photographer/instructor David Hobby, focuses on the all-important, yet often ignored, need to balance your role as a traveler and photographer. Cuba is a fantastic place for photography, but also offers a unique cultural experience that few Americans get to see. It’s tempting—and easy—to slip into full-blown photo mode. But to do so is to shortchange your personal experience of spending a week in Havana.
* Trip pricing includes, round-trip airfare between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, Cuban entry visa, nightly single-occupancy accomodations, daily breakfast, airport transfers, three group dinners, venue and modeling fees and 7 days of hands-on instruction with workshop leader David Hobby.
Travel to Cuba Legally
This is not a vacation tour but a legitimate people-to-people educational experience, as allowed under U.S. laws governing travel to Cuba. You’ll get a chance to talk to Cubans about their struggles to survive in a city where the average worker makes $24 a month. You’ll talk to them about their hopes for a brighter future and you’ll photograph them in a country on the brink of monumental change.
David completed more than 10,000 assignments in his two decades as a staff photojournalist before leaving The Baltimore Sun to found Strobist.com. Over the past 10 years, he has led workshops all around the world —including teaching for Santa Fe Workshops in Cuba and launching the X-Pedition travel workshop series in Havana in January 2018.
In 2014, David created the video series The Traveling Photographer, for Lynda.com. Shot on location in Hong Kong, Dubai, London, Paris and New York City, The Traveling Photographer teaches photo enthusiasts how to travel with the heart of a vagabond and the eye of a photojournalist.
- Our trip itineraries are crafted to give you the most complete photographic experience possible, with a mix of street, portraits, landscape and architectural photography opportunities.
- This is no cookie-cutter tour. Each of our workshops has a unique itinerary, which is built as much as possible with the interests and skill levels of participants in mind.
- This trip will be limited to 10 to 12 participants. We want you to get to know your fellow travelers — this is a shared experience, not a tour group.
- We strive to provide you an authentic experience by avoiding state-run venues. Whenever possible, we’ll stay in private B&Bs and eat at private paladars.
Traveling Light With Fujifilm
Under David’s guidance, you’ll learn how to adjust your priorities with the rhythm of the day (and night) to maximize both your personal and photographic experiences. We’ll always be out shooting around the edges of the day — and especially at blue hour — when Havana is at its visual best. Through our local contacts, we’ll get close-up access to some of Havana’s best experiences.
When the midday sun lowers your photographic odds (well, unless you are Alex Webb) we’ll shift more into instructional mode, with daily talks and editing sessions. At night, we’ll turn our attention to the experiences for which Havana is famous: mojitos, cigars and the vibrant live music that permeates the city. Sure, this might include the occasional high-ISO shot or two but a big part of coexisting with your camera is knowing when to put it down.
Speaking of cameras, this Havana trip is unique for another reason. It is part of Focus on the Story’s X-Peditions, the name being a nod to Fuijfilm’s X Series cameras. Small and lightweight, but with fantastic image quality, Fujis are ideally suited for travel photography.
Do you have to shoot Fuji to come along? No, you don’t. But no matter what your camera brand, we will stress the benefits of traveling light. It is said that every possession is a burden. And nowhere is that more true than when you are traveling. Working with less gear in Havana is a blessing. And it’s also more culturally respectful.
This workshop is coordinated by Joe Newman, a veteran journalist, visual storyteller and executive director of Focus on the Story. He is making his eighth trip to Cuba.
We guarantee you will leave Cuba with a much deeper understanding and appreciation of Cuban people and culture.
All images, except where otherwise noted, © David Hobby.
We will be posting a detailed itinerary here in the coming weeks but you can expect a very immersive experience, both culturally and photographically, speaking. Of course, you’ll have plenty of time to wander the iconic Malecón and the vibrant Old Havana streets, as well as visit one of the city’s world-famous boxing gyms, but you’ll also get access to some venues that you would likely never see if you traveled to Cuba on your own. In past trips, we’ve visited a local farm to see how it has adapted to the explosion of private restaurants in Havana, spent time with local artists in their studios and photographed up-and-coming dancers at the national ballet school.
Between morning and evening photography sessions, we’ll have daily discussions about our goals for the day and a review of work from the day before.
We’ve found in previous workshops that people prefer a mix of group sessions, along with time to explore on their own. There will be plenty of opportunities to do that — and if there is something you want to see that is not on our itinerary, we’ll do our best to help make it happen. Our goal is to do everything we can to help you make a meaningful connection with the Cuban people and culture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is this a legal trip?
Yes, you will be making this trip under the “people-to-people” exception to the current U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba. It’s an authentic experience that will give you a chance to talk to Cubans of all walks of life about their lives under the communist regime and their hopes for the future.
Is airfare covered?
Roundtrip air fare to Havana from Fort Lauderdale will be part of the package. You will be responsible for getting to the departure city in time to make your connections, including the cost of any necessary overnight accomodations there.
What are the accomodations like?
This is not a five-star junket. You won’t be trapped in a tourist bubble. U.S. citizens are prohibited (by our govenment, not theirs) from staying in most of the government-owned hotels. But that’s fine, because as photographers we usually prefer to be in more genuine surroundings, anyway.
We’ll be staying in a residential neighborhood in private b&bs that we have vetted. They are clean, safe and friendly. However, it’s Cuba and things aren’t always perfect. The water pressure won’t always be the best. Mattresses might not be what you’re used to.
But fear not; you will sleep well. Because every day you’ll be out walking with your cameras. A lot.
What's the food like?
Breakfast at the b&bs is almost always fresh fruit, eggs and bread. Sometimes there’s meat. Sometimes not because of cost and supply issues. Otherwise, food served at most private restaurants will be pork, chicken, fish, lobster, shrimp and beef. We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the food, though if you maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet, you might find your choices more limited as green vegetables are not a staple at most meals. However, in our experiences, most paladars (private restaurants) do very well in accommodating our clients with dietary restrictions.
What photography skill level is required?
This is a great trip for photographers of all levels. For intermediate and advanced photographers, our role is to help you take your skills to the next level and to open new, unexplored directions for your photography. For beginners, we’ll go slow and there will be plenty of time to talk about process — how to compose your shots, what the best camera settings are for the situation and how to get over any nervousness of doing street photography.
Can I bring a non-photographer +1?
Unfortunately, we don’t allow +1s who are not participating in the workshop. Even under the best circumstances, the spouse/significant other/friend will alter the group dynamic for everyone involved.
What kind of gear should I bring?
Gear is a very personal decision and really depends on your personal style and what you hope to get out of the trip. We’re shooting and teaching with Fuji cameras. But the most important thing is to learn to travel light and shoot unencumbered by excess gear no matter what your chosen brand.
A fixed-lens Fujifilm X100-series camera, for example, would be fine by itself. Or you might be more comfortable with an interchangeable lens camera and one or two prime lenses. The bottom line is that this is your trip and the ultimate decision on how much gear to bring is entirely up to you. And don’t worry, we’ll help you figure out what to bring and what to leave at home.
While this is not a lighting workshop, you are free to bring a speedlight with an extra long synch chord if you like. (Note: Travelers are prohibited from bringing radio transmitters into Cuba.)
Is it safe?
Cuba is very safe, especially when its crime rate is compared to other Caribbean and Latin American countries. However, like all places, you need to use common sense and have situational awareness. Don’t flash a lot of cash and be aware that most people who approach you with the question “Where are you from?” are angling for some sort of cash donation from you. Also, we encourage you to travel in pairs whenever you’re not with the group.
Payment and Cancellation Policy
The total cost for this workshop is $3,999. Participants can reserve their place in the workshop with a $500 deposit. The balance must be paid in full before October 1, 2018. Focus on the Story reserves the right to cancel workshop reservations that are not paid in full by the due date.
If for any reason you must cancel your trip, you must do so in writing via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The following is our schedule of partial refunds:
- Cancellation by Close of Business (COB) September 28: Refund of amount paid, minus 5 percent administrative fee and $500 cancellation fee. (i.e., if you have paid the full $3,999 balance, you would receive a $3,299 partial refund)
- Cancellation by COB October 31: Refund of amount paid, minus 15 percent administrative fee and $500 cancellation fee.
- No refund available for cancellations on or after November 1.
Please note in the event of a cancellation, you are responsible for contacting the airline to receive any potential refund or transfer of unused flights for tickets purchased in your name.
There are no exceptions to our cancellation policy.