American Graffiti in Cuba

A quick guide to Havana.

By: Garrett Graham

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Havana is a vibrant and beautiful place. Live music wafts through the cobbled squares, vintage cars cruise the streets, and the old buildings bring you back to a different time. Needless to say the city and people photograph beautifully.

With the country having a foot in both the present and the past, I decided to shoot on film. Call me hipster or whatever you’d like, but I felt the right camera to bring was my medium format Bronica ETRS. I left my SD cards and Canon at home and this is what I brought back.

Equipment-wise, I used a Bronica ETRS shooting 120mm Kodak Portra 400 with a SEIKO Zenzanon E-II 75MM F/2.8 PE lens.

I never ran into any issues shooting in the country, even with a large camera. Everyone was very receptive to having their picture taken. I was advised though to not take pictures of soldiers. You could be in for an interrogation or have your SD cards taken from you. I never actually saw this happen. Just be respectful and you shouldn’t have any issues.

PRO TIP: Have a roll of "Cuban quarters" (AKA: CUC$) with you if you plan to take pictures of the locals. The kids especially are willing to pose for a shot but expect some sort of compensation. No one was overly pushy though.

As with any Caribbean country expect rain and humidity. Take precautions with your camera going from from cold to hot as your lens will fog up. I kept my camera in a backpack for the firsts 20 minutes of the day to allow it to warm up slowly.

Live out a dream and pay $35 to ride around the city in an old convertible. Just walk up to one you like, the owner will come up and offer you a tour. The guides are knowledgeable, you get to see places otherwise off limits and plus it’s just fun. Trust me, cruising down the Malecón will be the highlight of your trip.

If you have any desire to travel to Cuba I recommend you do it sooner than later. The charm of the country I fear will be lost over the coming years once full trade opens with the US. The old cars may be sold off and instead of getting a local Cuban coffee, Starbucks will be the more likely choice.

The romanticism of the country is still alive today. The smell of tobacco and the sea fills the air. Grand baroque and neoclassical buildings dominate the architecture. It's easy to imagine what life in Havana was like 200 years ago. Grab your bag and hit the street in a country that is prime for adventure.

Check here to see the government list of approved reasons of travel. It does take some homework to organize your trip and you do have to follow certain guidelines, but the rewards and photos are worth it.

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.