It’s about time to continue my little series of practical tips – tips that can be used to enhance your photos. In the last instalment of this series I wrote about using a long exposure time on freehand to create a more energetic and somewhat abstract expression (Time Elongated – A Practical Tip). Today I want to talk about light.
Light is one of the most important factors that influence the quality of a photo. Light can make or destroy an otherwise excellent photo. In traditional photo literature and how-to-books we often learn that midday sunshine is bad. It creates harsh and unforgiven light with dark and ugly shadows. Certainly, that can sometimes be the case, but I disagree with the notion that it’s bad light in general. There is no such thing as bad light, only suitable or not suitable light for whatever you are trying to express. If you use the harsh light creatively, it can generate some wonderful photos.
Here is a way to turn that harsh midday light into a more subtle, soft and glowing illumination. Simply go inside and leave the door open behind you. The sunshine coming directly from above reflects on the ground and showers softly through the open door and into the room behind. Use the indirect light from the sun to create and almost unearthly setting for you photography.
The result does depend on the ground, though. If the outside of the door is covered with newly laid and black asphalt, the amount of reflections may be close to none. Then this tip doesn’t work. But with a lighter ground outside, it’s a delightful (excuse the pun) to illuminate persons or a still life in an interior setting.
This works particularly well in areas closer to equator, be it Mediterranean countries, the Caribbean, the Tropics or Subtropical areas where midday light is particularly harsh. Like in Cuba, from where I have just returned. The photo following this post is all illuminated by harsh midday sunshine coming through an open door to the left (and yes some light is streaming through the open window behind, but not illuminating anything facing the camera). It shows the celebration of quinceañera or a girl’s 15th birthday in Cuba.
Once a week I will show one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week (except this week the photo shown dates back a little more. Since I have hardly had internet access the last couple of weeks I have not been able to post any Instagrams while travelling in Peru or Cuba. This is my latest Instagram). It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.
As much as I wrote that Cuba is changing in my last post, this doesn’t occur for people in the countryside, that is, the majority of Cubans. So it is for the family of farmers I have followed closely over 20 years, the family of Nuñez who lives in the beautiful valley of Viñales. Here life stands still, with only few changes happening over the decades – mostly changes that follow the life cycle, such as people been born and dying.
Paradoxically the town of Viñales itself is maybe one of the areas in Cuba that is changing the most. A few years ago, it was a little, sleepy town, a serene secret that only a few outsiders knew about. Today it’s definitely no longer a secret; every tourist coming to Cuba seems to want to go to Viñales, to experience its irresistible beauty and laid-back atmosphere. Where only one restaurant existed a few years ago, today the main street running through the town is lined up with restaurants, cafes and pubs catering to every taste. When I first visited Viñales there were only three hotels on the outskirt of the town. Today supposedly more than a thousand private rooms run as bed and breakfasts are available for tourist seeking to Viñales.
Nevertheless, tourists stay within the beaten tracks; what the guidebooks recommend or what the tourists have picked up by their fellow peers. Outside of the beaten tracks, not much is felt by their influence. As is the case with «my» family. The Nuñez’ live only 15 minutes drive outside the town, but they have not experienced any of the major changes happening there. Yes, once in a while a tourist stumble by their farm, but mostly they live their down-to-earth life and don’t feel much of the developing boom happening only a few stone throws away.
As always I feel almost unbelievable welcomed by the family. As I have written in posts in the past, they have almost become a second family for myself. Whenever I go to Cuba, I try to visit them. The pictures here are but a few I took when visiting my family this year.
Cuba is in a state of change. Not so much politically, but economically some big changes are happening, albeit only in some areas of the country – most noticeably in Havana. The changes are above all evident in the industries related to tourism. Every day a new private restaurant or a new private bed and breakfast is opening somewhere. Every day new offers of excursions or activities pop up in town. There is almost a feeling of frenzy in the private tourist businesses these days. Everybody wants to take part in what right now is a booming money machine. Moreover, everybody in the tourism industry is waiting for the massive incursion of US tourists as soon as the political connections between and are fully normalized. In the meantime, tourists from the rest of the world flock to the country, wanting to experience the «other» Cuba before it’s all gone and turned into McDonalds-culture and taken over by the corporate mass-industries.
Also people and customs are changing, most visibly among the younger generation who are attracted to a more international flair of living. Cuban youth these days looks like youth in any part of the world. They are seeking the same goals and the same living standards as any other youth. You see them on the streets with their smart phones, taking selfies, texting and playing, as if they could be in New York, Paris or Singapore. Today they even got internet access. This has not been the case up until quite recently. Cubans in general have not had access to the world by proxy of internet. However, during the last year the Cuban authorities have established a number of wifi hotpots around the country to which anybody can connect. Only a couple of years ago this would have been completely unthinkable. Now you find particularly young people flocking around the wifi hotspots with their cell phones.
However, as massive as the changes appear to be, they still only affect a minority of the Cubans, the once lucky enough to be able to build for instance a restaurant or a bed and breakfast. For most of the 11 million Cubans, life still goes unchanged as it has for the last 20 or so years. There is probably a general improvement compared to the special period in ’91, ’92 and ’93, but it will still be a long time before the majority of the Cubans are able to benefit from the present economic development.
The pictures in this post are all taken in Havana over the last week or so – and are of course only a few of the many thousands I have taken so far. It’s going to take some time before I will have them all edited, but I hope to be able to get back with more images from Cuba not so long in the future. Talking about posting, I appreciate all the likes and comments you have given on my previous posts. Internet is still a slow disaster here in , so I don’t have any way of responding properly as of yet. But I promise, as soon as I am back to high speed internet access again I will respond to your all.
The jungle experience is over. A couple of days ago I came back from almost two weeks in the Peruvian rain forest – away from anything resembling modern, urban life. I was about to write civilisation, but I really don’t think the traditional life in balance with Mother Nature which is found in the Amazonian rain forest is less civilized than the life most of us regard as normal and even more advanced. On the contrary I would actually say. I found a way of living that was simple on an external level but so informed and intelligent on other levels.
What the indigenous know about the complex ecosystem in the jungle, what they know about plants that can cure and help in profound ways and how they are good for us nutritionally, in addition to their knowledge of animals and how to live in balance with the surroundings, is nothing less than impressive. I really enjoyed the taste of this life – almost felt as if I was at home. Yes, I did. Instead of electricity, internet or smart phones, I had to accept sharing my hut with a tarantula as big as my hand, allow for the fact that I could come across two yards long snakes on my path, but then also discover all kinds of beautiful and colourful butterflies and birds, enjoy the cacophony of the hundred different sounds of the jungle, enjoy living next to a river heated by volcanic activity and so hot that I could boil an egg simply by sticking it into the water flowing by. Best of all I could leave all stress and worries behind me and just live this balanced and informed life the indigenous taught me – or at least as much as I could learn in two weeks.
The pictures here are only a few of the first edit from the trip.
Now my travel continuous. Two days ago I returned to the country I have followed the development of for 25 years. For the two next weeks I will enjoy the warmth, colours and friendly people of Cuba. Naturally, I will get back with photos along the way in the next couple of my posts.
On a different note, I want to thank you for your patience with my blog silence the last couple of weeks I was disconnected from the world in the jungle. Naturally, without internet access, I have not been able to return your comments and visits to my blog, but I promise I will get back to you. Just give me a little time. Further more while here in Cuba, I will still have problems to respond, simply because internet access here generally is extremely slow and quite unpredictable. So, please have a little further patience with me. I will indeed get back to you all as soon as I have returned to Norway again.
I am off to Peru for a couple of weeks. This time it’s a trip out of the ordinary, to the upper Amazonian valley. From the town of Pucallpa we will go by car, boat and then hike in to what is suppose to be a lovely sanctuary run by Indians. When I stay there, I will have no access to electricity, internet (of course when there is no electricity) or cell phone connection. This means, I will not be able to stay in contact with you dear readers for the next 10 days. However, I will be back – as the actor famously said long time ago (and he is doing a comeback these days, by the way). When I am done here in Peru, I will go straight to Cuba to teach my next photo workshop. So for now, I will leave you with a photo from Cuba. See you again over there.
Once a week I will show one of my photos captured and/or processed with Instagram over the last week. It’s a way for me to show photography that usually is quite different from my regular work. The pictures are displayed without any comments, hoping they will stand on their own. But I still very much appreciate any comments you may have.