Cuba with the GFX 50S – Part 2

· 10.April.2018

Trinidad (Cuba) is a 320km, 5 hour journey by road from Havana. We took the route via Santa Clara and returned via Cienfuegos. The journey took us past rice paddy fields and grazing land before taking the mountain roads south of Santa Clara to Trinidad. I expected to see tobacco fields but those are further to the east. 

Part 2: Trinidad

(part 1: Havana is here).

Cuba is a long island with about the same land area as Florida. Havana to Trinidad takes about 5 hours by road. Incidentaly Key West in Florida is 170Km from Havana by boat. (map source Google)

Photography and words: Damien Lovegrove
Camera: Fujifilm GFX50s
Lenses: Fujifilm GF32-64mm, GF110mm
Lighting: Natural light
Tripod: Novo T20, Benro G2 ball head and RRS lever lock plate
Monopod: Gitzo GM3551 with RRS ball head

01. Top left: Hotel Central Santa Clara. Top right: When I visited a palace in Cienfuegos I came across a quinceanera shoot and snuck this shot. The quinceanera is a special ceremony when a Latina girl turns 15. The name quinceanera is derived from the Spanish words for “fifteen years,” Bottom right: The colonial past is very evident in the town centres in Cuba.

The cleanliness of the streets hit home to me on this trip. There were no discarded fast food cartons or items of random plastic packaging littering the place. I do hope they maintain the freedom from corporate commercialism that has blighted so many countries. Only time will tell.

02. The history of Cuba is written on the walls, embedded into the streets and lives on in the architecture.

The tourist coaches arrive in droves when the cruise liners are in. The tourists bring in much needed money and they are welcomed with open arms.

03. I loved this beautiful theatre in Santa Clara. Entry was 1 CUC (about 1 USD). We stopped off in Santa Clara for spot of lunch and some free time to explore the town.

The idyllic simple lifestyle led by many won’t last but at least the nation is rapidly rising from being poverty stricken. The use of colour paint and natural materials in the fabric of the buildings is wonderful. There’s a distinct lack of uPVC too.

04. Trinidad in Cuba was inaugurated into the Unesco World Heritage list in 1988. The laid back lifestyle in Trinidad made a great contrast to the relative bustle of Havana.  Top right: Javier (Pronounced Havier) was our guide throughout this trip. He grew up in Trinidad and his connections helped us secure a couple of dancers for a fun afternoon light shoot. See below.


05. Trinidad is a town where horses outnumber cars in the oldest areas.

The single story dwellings and cobbled streets let the sun in and kept cars out in equal measure.

06. Daily life.

So much of the world around me is bland right now with neutrals dominating clothing and house paint. The cars in mainland Europe seem to only be available in white, grey, silver or black too and this has been going on for nearly 10 years. I do hope the trend will switch back to vibrant colour again soon.

07. Locals wear spurs and wide brimmed cowboy hats. Bottom left: The horses are having a natter at their official meeting place.

I was charmed by the friendliness of the locals and the beauty of Trinidad.

08. Top left: Top dog. Middle left: That Fiat 126 will be as good as new when the paint dries 🙂 Top right: Overtones of New Orleans are in this original balcony. Bottom right: Pineapples on sale in the corner shop. I used the GF32-64mm lens at f/4 for this shot to utilise the lovely bokeh.


09. A red car with a Canadian maple leaf on the drivers door passed us then a few minutes later it was a red tractor. Bottom right: The colour of the wall in the foreground matched the colour of the sky. The shadow of the royal palm tree completes the look.


10. Top: Timing the shutter release to capture a precise moment comes with practice. Knowing when the moment is right is something you can learn from a book. I’ve always gone for the rear heal to be lifting as my moment to capture a person walking but I have never learned the best moment for a horse. I was watching the men in the cart and I’m delighted with the timing here. Bottom: These guys were sort of aware I was beside them but they were too engrossed in their game of dominoes to care.

I used my monopod for all the candid street shooting above and a tripod for all the directed shoots like the dancers below.

11. It helps to know a few dance moves when directing dancers. I went for a tango Argentino line for the shot on the left. Some bemused tourists watched from behind our cameras as we took over the main square. I doubt this has been done before so I wanted to give it a go.


12. Yulienni Jiménez Ramirez and Andy Michel Alvarez were are dance couple and although they weren’t a ‘couple’ when we started the shoot they had quite a bit of chemistry by the time we finished shooting.

I love working with crisp afternoon sunlight. It’s a dream to create shadows with and I nearly always shoot into the light until about ten minutes before sunset.

13. I hired this beautiful Cadilac for ten minutes while we did a fun shoot.


14. Top: Andy building rapport with a horse. Bottom: This green taxi has seen better days but wow what colours were here. It was red, green and blue, the primaries of light at almost maximum saturation.


15. Shooting with the light as the strength in the sun fades. I left my GFX on sunny day white balance to allow the natural colours to be rendered. The Velvia film simulation added to the contrast and saturation.


16. Top left. The ladder placed against the wall made a perfectly simple shot more striking. That bottom rung looks a bit dodgy.


My pictures were inspired by the colour palette of Jack Vetriano’s paintings.

A girl in a red dress and a guy in dark attire was my request to Javier when he booked our dancers and he delivered.

17. The blue is striking and almost surreal. I think these remind me of my paintings with poster colour paint when I was a lad. I was taken by the saturation that could be achieved so easily.


18. I cajoled a couple of local onlookers to pose for our cameras. An Instax printer is useful for times like these.


19. I got a peaceful easy feelin’ in Trinidad.


20. Our last excursion of the trip was to the beach. We were the only people there at 8am. The bikini was one I bought on Amazon for my Route 66 workshop and I thought it would work well here too.


21. I attached a fallen palm leaf/ branch to my lighting stand using my boom arm clamp and hoisted it into place to cast the shadows on the car and Rocio. When a gobo is made of a branch of leaves it is called a dingle. It’s a term I learned when I trained as a lighting director at the BBC.


22. I bought the sunglasses on Ebay  and I left them with Rocio. People in Cuba can’t buy things online and that’s why I filled one of my cases with styling items to make our shoots more vibrant.


23. I love the rendering of these files in black and white and I wanted to share a couple with you. These have the Acros G film simulation.

If you would like to join me in Cuba in 2019 let my team know here. Feel free to comment on these pictures below.