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Win­ner of the N-Photo com­pe­ti­tion in as­so­ci­a­tion with Light & Land, Paul Richards shares the story be­hind his Cuban pho­to­graphic ad­ven­ture

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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 [1]. 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 [2]. 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 [3] 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 [4], 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

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