On a recent trip with Intrepid Travel, Australian photographer Jillian Mitchell documented the country's vibrant culture and beautiful landscape. As one of Intrepid Travel's most in-demand trips, Hola Cuba - People to People for US Citizens offers a lens into local life, creating a connection between travelers and Cubans. With expert commentary from Mitchell herself, discover why Cuba is the perfect trip for photographers wishing to document the country's Caribbean culture.
Photograph While In Transit
Some of the best travel images are captured while in transit. Keeping your camera on the ready while you're in a car, train or bike taxi is the perfect opportunity to capture the local culture in an unobtrusive way. In Cuba, you'll find horse-drawn carriages still in use.
"The clip-clopping sound of horse and cart taxis seems to echo in the sleepy streets of Santa Clara," Mitchell says.
Focus on Contrast
Cuba's brightly colored façades offer the perfect natural contrast for vibrant photographs. Adding a person into the mix creates more depth, while granting the photograph more charm and character.
"Trinidad's beautiful World Heritage old town is brimming with stunning architecture and sights," Mitchell says.
During walks through town, keep an eye out for cultural context. In Cuba, locals often congregate in the streets, sharing precious moments and time with their neighbors and friends. Mitchell did just this when she captured men playing dominoes in Trinidad, a popular past time in Cuba.
View from the Top
Climbing high to get an aerial view is well worth the work. Mitchell found this view in Trinidad, which shows the vast scale of the town center against the surrounding mountains.
"This is the view of the rooftops from the watchtower in the Natural History Museum in Trinidad," Mitchell says.
Get Every Perspective
Aerial views often have many different perspectives. When photographing from a rooftop, make sure to explore the different landscapes at your disposal.
"This is another view, looking across the rooftops of World Heritage area of Trinidad to the San Francisco Convent," Mitchell says.
Shoot from the Back Seat
It doesn't matter what seat you have in a vehicle, you can always capture some of your best images while in transit. Mitchell had a backseat in a taxi in Cienfuegos, but still managed to capture the surrounding vehicles amidst her fellow travelers.
Food and drink tell a unique story of a destination, offering another medium to get below the surface of a place. Culinary customs are often passed down through generations, with each recipe and dish holding a certain significance. A great way to capture cocktails is through the bartender making the drink. Try to the bartender in their element as they pour the drink's ingredients.
"La Bodeguita del Medio is one of the world's most famous bars. It was once Hemingway's favorite bar in Old Havana and is considered the birthplace of the mojito," Mitchell says.
Keep the Windows Down
If you have the opportunity to ride in a car with no roof, always choose this option, as the panoramic photography options offer a limitless way to document your travels while in transit. While in Havana, Mitchell rode in a convertible along the city's famed Malecon, where she documented other drivers along the road.
Don't Forget To Look Up
While cultural exchanges usually happen at eye level, don't forget to look up, as some of the most beautiful architecture in Cuba requires a different perspective. Shoot from a lower angle to document the beautiful plazas and cathedrals in Old Havana.
Before photographing a local in any country, make sure to ask for permission. This step is seen as a sign of respect and consideration for their culture. Mitchell followed this practice before documenting a local in Havana, creating a lasting connection as a result.