The Visual Palette: a book review

VP_250A few weeks back, the publishing company Rocky Nook sent me a copy of a recently released title by Brian Matiash — it’s called The Visual Palette: Defining Your Photographic Style.  Now that I’ve had time to read through the book and digest it, I thought a review / critique would be helpful to this blog’s readers.

At its core, The Visual Palette is about the process of developing / uncovering / growing your own personal photographic style, and learning to apply it in your work. About being personal and intimate in your photography, rather than distant and formulaic. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: housing

Of the many challenges of life in today’s Cuba, housing must rank among the greatest.  There’s not enough of it, much of the available housing stock is in terrible shape, and the Cuban legal code makes it hard to legally transfer ownership — so moving households is a big challenge.

Looking down on Havana

In this shot from above (courtesy of a hotel upper-floor window), you can see how some units were turned into small yards after their roofs collapsed. Continue reading

Holiday colors

One of the privileges of photographic life near Denver, Colorado is that you get some uniquely colorful holiday lights to play with.  In particular, the Denver City and County building traditionally is bathed in a very… unrestrained choice of colored lights at night for the season.  Call it gaudy, call it exuberant, call it tacky, the bottom line is that it’s a photographer magnet (we just can’t help ourselves).

Best of all, the folks running the building now turn off the street lights on Bannock Street in front of it every Sunday night when the building’s lit up — this makes it so much easier to capture the building in all its highly-saturated glory.  So last Sunday, I got bundled up to handle our recent frigid night temperatures (clear sky, 17 degrees Fahrenheit) and went to town on the place.

Festive colors

The above photo was taken from near the end of the building’s south wing, if you were curious.  This is definitely my favorite photo of the set, I really like how the snow in the foreground brings some of the chill to the viewer. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: getting around

So given that only about 2% of Cubans own a car, and that there is no dedicated city-to-city transit system (a la Greyhound busses or Amtrak in the U.S.), how do Cubans get from place to place?

Well, basically, it’s not easy.

Two-seater

In rural areas, people can make do with more-traditional approaches — you’ll see a lot of semi-modern carriages drawn by horses out here.  I’m guessing this works pretty well for trips into town from farms in the hinterlands. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: taking license

When people find out you’ve been to Cuba, they always seem to want to talk about the cars (at least in the U.S.).

So, just to get our footing, let’s start by talking about license plates. It didn’t used to be this simple, but relatively-modern Cuban license plates make it easy to tell whether a vehicle belongs to the government, or to a private citizen. Government vehicles have license plates with a blue strip on their left end:

Government / Regular plate (taxi) Government / Tourist plate

Since most cars and trucks in Cuba are owned by the government, you’ll see a lot of license plates like the one above / left. I’m not sure what the “B” stands for, but it’s nearly the only letter you’ll see on Cuban government plates. One prominent exception is the “T” plate (above / right) — these are for government vehicles reserved for tourists, namely rental cars.

License plates for privately-owned vehicles lack the blue strip, and always start with a “P” for good measure:

Private plate 1 Private plate 2

A minor detail, perhaps, but you’ll see where this comes into play in subsequent posts.

Cuba travelogue: rush hour, Cuban style

From what I’m told, this is about as bad as traffic gets on Cuba’s Autopista Nacional (National Highway):

Rush hour, Cuban style

But this makes sense, when you consider that only about 2% of Cubans own a car. The Autopista was planned to span the length of Cuba, from Pinar del Rio on the west to Guantanamo on the East. Construction started in the 1970’s, but halted in 1990 when the Soviet bloc collapsed, and Cuba could not continue highway construction using only its own resources. As a result, the western end of the highway is largely complete, while its eastern end has two completed segments, and the central part consists of only plans.

In this view, we’re travelling west, toward Havana.