Monday August 26th - Hello Cuba!
You know what’s crazy - the fact that Cuba is technically only 90 miles from the tip of Florida, but being here feels like we’re in a different world entirely. Colorful 1950’s era taxis line the street in front of the airport - I’m hoping we get to ride in one to our hotel and sure enough, our pink Chevy chariot arrives!
A quick stop at our hotel for breakfast and we’re on our way to meet up with the first arrivals of our creator crew. We travel to one of the highest lookout points in Havana, commonly known as The Christ of Havana lookout due to the giant statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. From there we head to the central square, surrounded by beautiful architecture and 1950’s Chevy’s - the creators want to scope out shooting locations for the upcoming days.
Our first days of tour(s) are commonly used to scout, get a feel for the terrain, and of course eat all the foods before we’re too busy to do so - so that’s exactly what we do! Cuba, you are hot, humid, and oh so beautiful - we can’t wait to explore!
Tuesday August 27th - a Donde Esta la Wifi?
Let me tell you something - when people say getting Wifi in Cuba is difficult (don’t know when this would ever come up in normal conversation..), they aren’t kidding around! Day two and the creator team is beginning to feel the Wifi/Data itch.. withdrawals have begun to kick in and we’re bracing ourselves as we head into our first day of early morning shooting. Everyone meets in the hotel lobby at 7am to hop in, yes you guessed it, more 1950’s era, Cuban taxis. Our next stop, an empty Cathedral Plaza at sunrise.
Cathedral Plaza’s are fairly common in Cuba, but finding one that’s completely restored and functioning, is not. We head into the general direction of Plaza de la Catedral and are greeted with the buzzing and waking streets of Havana. Coffee and fruit vendors begin opening shop around us and it’s hard to ignore the bustling energy we’re now a part of.
Arriving at the plaza and finding it *nearly* empty (a few stray cats and pigeons beat us to it), the girls were able to shoot their hearts out. After, we headed straight to Parque Central, notorious for it’s France-esque architecture that lines the square and the swarms of restored 1950’s taxis that hang out in the middle waiting for tourists to snap pics in front of. Hi we’re said tourists and we definitely snapped ALL of the pics.
Instasize Insider Tip: You can “rent” the car to take pics in for generally 1 CUC (Cuban money, basically $1 US).
Wednesday August 28th - Vamos a Vanales!
Today began with a delicious breakfast spread, prepared by our house host. In traditional Cuba manner, breakfast was simple - scrambled eggs, some toast, fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice, we’re being spoiled.
With an early start to the day and a 2 hour drive to Vanales ahead of us, the crew packed into taxis and headed onward, excited to shoot the days itinerary. We knew open country side and rich Cuban culture awaited us, but we weren’t ready for the VIEWS! The Cuban countryside is hard to imagine without seeing firsthand. The mountains in the distance, covered in seas of green, looked something straight out of a Jurassic Park movie.
We had lucked out and made friends with the owners of a nearby hotel and were granted exclusive access to shoot around the property (*yeet*). It was safe to say that we were all pretty in awe…of everything. The majestic views, the hospitality of the hotel staff, it was a daydream brought to life, and we have the images to prove it.
From the hotel we headed straight for lunch - another dose of traditional Cuban cuisine - and after that to our next shooting destination. When thinking of Cuba, what’s one thing that comes to mind (that isn’t a 1950’s car)… if you said CIGARS, then bingo, you guessed our next shooting designation… a tobacco wrapping farm in the hills of Vanales. It doesn’t sound like a prime photo taking spot, but you’d be mistaken in thinking so. Surrounded by the lush greens of the Cuban mountains and the painfully perfect aesthetic of rustic Cuban life, the tobacco farm made for the perfect backdrop for todays photos.
Thursday August 29th - Adapt, Adapt, Adapt
Buenos Dias Cuba! Today was another “wake up and go straight to shooting” kind of mornings - we all met at the lobby at 7am and split up into various shooting groups. One group was venturing to the iconic Malecon roadway, known for it’s sea view to the left and city views to the right. And the other was headed to Casas Particulares, with it’s colorful buildings facing the sea, notorious within the Instagram realm as a popular shooting backdrop whilst being in Cuba. The trick with both of these locations was getting there before the sunlight became too harsh.
Instasize Insider Tip: Harsh sunlight will ruin ALL photos, try and shoot in shade, overcast, or early morning / dusk lighting.
After the morning shoots we all met for breakfast and then split up again, half of us heading to the beach, the other half heading back to edit / export images. With our base in Havana, the nearest beach was the Santa Maria del Mar beach, with it’s white sand beaches and warm water, the 30 minute drive was well worth it.
We’ve learned that shooting in super humid / hot places like Cuba, require a shift in timing. Most mornings we’re up and moving by 7am, back by 2pm, and then back out shooting by 6pm, giving the creators ample time to create content, but also relax, recharge, and begin their creative editing process. Excited to see what tomorrow brings, as it’s our last full day of shooting in Cuba!
Friday August 30th - Hasta Luego Havana
Today marks our last day of shooting in Havana, we can’t believe an entire week has come and gone! The day started off a bit later than most, the night before we all ventured to the iconic Fabrica de Arte Cubano exhibit, located in the heart of downtown Havana. Notorious for its modern art displays and underground salsa scene, the Fabrica de Arte Cubano is a must see for anyone visiting the Havana area.
After breakfast we depart to the famous Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a hotel known for its impressive history of famous guests who have stayed there over the last 87 years. Located in the middle of Vedado, the center of Havana, it stands on a hill just a few meters from the sea, and offers a great view of the Havana Harbor. We encourage anyone visiting to not only check out the views from behind the hotel, but to also venture down into the hotels basement, where you can find a full service cigar bar.
With the day coming to an end, the creators joining us wanted to visit the Parque Central one last time, to capture last minute shots, b-roll footage, etc. We were greeted with a sudden rainstorm (pretty common in Cuba), and the girls decided to take advantage of the cool down and dance in the rain.
Havana you’ve been a treat, looking forward to dancing in your streets the next time we come and visit.