Winner of the N-Photo competition in association with Light & Land, Paul Richards shares the story behind his Cuban photographic adventure
Winner of a trip to Cuba through Light & Land Tours and N-Photo, Paul Richards shares a show ’n tell about his Caribbean adventure
Having been lucky enough to have won the competition featured in issue 62 of
N-Photo in association with Light & Land, to go on a photo tour of Cuba, I nearly didn’t make the trip. I had been waiting for some major surgery for over a year, and guess when I found out the surgery was pencilled in for? Yep. Right in the middle of the tour. So I cancelled the operation and went to Cuba instead. My only problem was that I could hardly eat or drink anything (imagine being in a five-star hotel in Havana and not been able to drink!). However, this was an opportunity I was determined not to miss. I’m happy to say that the operation went ahead in December, on Christmas day 2016, and I’m now 100% okay.
A group of 14 of us headed to Cuba. They were all great people; we’ve since stayed in touch and are even having a reunion at the end of this year. The Light & Land photography guides were Peter Hendrie and Paul Sanders. They are both very experienced professional photographers and their eagerness to help the group at any time was limitless.
Cuba offers a diverse range of subjects for the budding photographer, from the opulence of affluent five-star hotels like the Hotel Parque Central in Havana (where we stayed at both the start of our trip and the end) to the sights and sounds of day-to-day Cuban life, where the locals get by on a handful of dollars a day.
Our man in Havana
Cycle rickshaws are one of the cheapest and most popular forms of transport for locals, tourists and goods alike, and this is a typical backstreet scene in Havana . The drivers battle with all forms of traffic,
and at night they never turned their lights on, instead relying only on their bells. I shot this wide on my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 to capture the expansive scene in front of me. I like the balance of the composition, and the way the elements interlock.
Light & Land organized a special trip to see the Ballet Español de Cuba, based in Havana. It was a very special honour to be able to take images while the dancers were being instructed on their intricate steps . On this occasion one of the dancers got something wrong but her group just laughed, and I was elated to have captured this unscripted moment that really encapsulates their spirit and camaraderie. There were many technical challenges here; we were not allowed to use flash even though the light was poor, and mirrors were absolutely everywhere, so we had to be careful about our reflections not creeping into frame.
To catch the sunrise coming up over Havana’s harbour  we had to make a 6am start. The statue is of Máximo Gómez, a war hero from the Dominican Republic who fought tirelessly for Cuban independence in the 1868 and 1895 conflicts against the Spanish. It was created by Italian artist Aldo Gamba in 1935. I shot this from about half-a-mile away with a Nikon Coolpix P900 at 2000mm.
All good things come to an end, and on our last day we visited the old town of Havana. This led to the famous Malecón, a stretch of sea wall about five miles long , where young people meet at night. It is the centre of Havana’s nightlife, where there are parties and music until the early hours.
Mission: To shoot the culture of Cuba with Light & Land Photographer: Paul Richards Age: 70 Location: Leeds, UK
Kit: Nikon D810, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon Coolpix P900 1
3 3 Máximo Gómez Nikon Coolpix P900, 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO200
2 1 Rickshaw Nikon D810, 14-24mm f/2.8, 1/800 sec, f/2.8, ISO250 2 Ballet Nikon D810, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO2000
4 4 Malecón Nikon D810, 24-70mm f/2.8, 1/60 sec, f/22, ISO64