Cuba (March 2009).
Starting to get the photo bug again now that I've made plans to go to Cuba next month. I honestly haven't picked up a camera and done any "real" shooting in about 9 years, which is a real shame because looking back I remember how much fun I had completing it.
But I digress.
As I said, I'm planning a 10 day trip to Cuba in March. I plan on bringing a newly purchased Bronica SQ-A with a 40mm lens as my main body, and a small digital point and shoot for the "couples stuff". I saw my friends small portfolio from Cuba shot on 35mm about 10 years ago and was blown away at some of her shots.. And the questions begin..
- Should I be worried carring around a largish camera like the Bronica? My girlfriend is paranoid that I will be mugged. Are her concerns warranted? My friend (a very tall yet skinny woman) had no issues, but she was there about 10 years ago. I'm not very up to date on culture, so I'm not sure if the acceptance of tourists has changed in the past decade.
- When I went to Asia a few years ago I took along some 800 ISO colour neg film for 35mm. The stuff was fogged horribly by all of the x-ray scanning (Toronto, USA, Japan, Philippines, two ways). I plan on shooting B&W 120 film this time, most likely a mix of FP4+ from my fridge, and some HP5+ and/or Delta 400 if I can find it (HP5+ preferred). Should I be worried about fogging?
- I'd prefer to take the Bronica because of shooting style ("top down" with a waste level/90 degree prism vs "pointing straight ahead" with a 35mm). My particular style is more street scene / architecture-documentary-ish, not a big focus on pj-type people shots (biggest influences being Paul Strand's Italy portfolio and Minor White's work). Is a single 40mm lens going to be enough, or would I be safer taking my 35mm gear instead (24-70 zoom lens and a single 35mm body).
Thanks for any comments / suggestions!
I was in Cuba this time last year. I was carrying around a Shen Hao 4x5, with tripod, along with a small digital P&S. No problems, and I was walking about the back alleys of Havana (near the Malecon).
Cuban people are absolutely first-rate - funny, warm, and generous. Don't be stupid -- like waving stuff around, acting like an arrogant arse, walking in bad areas after dark, etc. But, it's a remarkably safe place.
You won't have fogging issues with film that slow. I took film up to HP5 and had no problems at all.
As to lens choice, only you know your personal style, motivations, etc. I have an SQ-Ai and a 50mm (along with 80mm) for that system -- I think 40mm is very wide but if that suits your style then great. If you're truly worried about it, you'd take that AND the 35mm gear!
But...Cuba is a great place to let go of worries and fly by the seat of your pants a bit. I happen to think that sort of thing is pretty healthy anytime, but that's another thread.
I was in Cuba in 2006 for two weeks. Had two cameras with me: Leica M6 and Bronica RF645. No problem at all. While walking around some backstreet in Havana with the M6 around my shoulder I was warned by a couple of chaps to keep my camera close to my body, so I guess things had happened. Nevertheless, I felt very safe and comfortable.
Despite all the economic deprivation, it's the Cuban people that make Cuba so special. Also, I suggest you get out of Havana for a while if you can.
Yes, I agree with both of the above. Cuba is not a particularly dangerous place and you are not more likely to get robbed there than anywhere else. Just take the usual sorts of precautions and all should be fine. Having said that, the second time I was there my wife had a camera robbed in Havana one night. We were walking home from a baseball game (!), at night, lost, with no idea where we were. We were actually chatting with two American friends we had met about how, in almost any other city in the world, one would tend to be slightly concerned and on edge in such a situation, but not in Havana. Next thing, this young lad appears, grabs my wife's bag off her shoulder, leaps onto the back carrier of his accomplice's bicycle, and tears off down the road.
We were a bit stunned obviously, but it was followed by the people who lived on the street coming out to see what the commotion was, insisting on bringing us into their house, phoning the police, giving us tea, organising a taxi to get us back to our hotel and so on.
So, I suppose the moral of the story is ... don't wander completely aimlessly at night, in darkened parts of the city, where you don't know where you are, with a handbag hanging over your shoulder. But you knew that already, right ;-)
I am envious ... both of my trips to Cuba happened before I got seriously interested in photography. I'm itching to go back!
There's another thread about Cuba by the way somewhere in this forum ...
Been twice, both times with substantial Bronica outfits, all of which I still have. Cuba can feel kind of strange. Don't confuse that strangeness for undue risk. The strangeness is why you go. I'm back there next month myself. Cuba is a very textural place. I felt that I got good value from the extra size and detail from MF as against 35mm. I'd want more than one lens though.
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