Do You Use A Workshop As A Springboard?

This past December, I went on a dream photographic workshop – eight days in Cuba through ICP (International Center for Photography.) Before I even plunked down the precious thousands of dollars for the workshop, my mind swirled – am I doing the right thing? Should I just go visit my cousins in England and Switzerland and take photos along the way, by myself? If I pay this much money for a workshop, will it be worth it? A week with a bunch of strangers in a notoriously restrictive country – can I do it? And if I do it – well, what can I do with the photos? How can I justify the expense other than fulfilling a dream and needing a vacation? It didn’t take long to answer these questions. While it would be great to see family, Europe will always be there; Cuba is changing rapidly. A week with a bunch of strangers? I do this all the time on press jaunts. So what can I do with the photos to justify the expense?

Oh, so much.

So I sent in my money, and promptly took a walk down Ditmars Boulevard in my Astoria neighborhood. Not unexpectedly, I ran into the owner of my group of friend’s favorite local restaurant – Fatty’s – owned by a Cuban-American, and started to chat. I told him that I’m going to Cuba in December on a photo workshop, and immediately he offered, “Cool, so do you want to put up a show of the work?” Yes. Yes I do. We shook hands for a show in early 2013. It’s going to happen, and I’ll post the details here.

In November, an email popped into my inbox from John, the editor over at I’ve covered some camera launches and been on a few press trips for him, and he was asking if I would be interested in testing a new Olympus PEN camera. Yes I would, and I’m going to Cuba next month, can I test it there? Perfect timing. I was able to take a powerful, compact micro four thirds camera with me to test. I wrote the review over the holidays, and here it is with a full gallery of photos.

The workshop itself was great. Cuba has so much beauty, warm and friendly people, and sadly, a crumbling infrastructure which is so very photogenic.

At times, I was very conflicted photographing. It wasn’t always easy. I generally have too much respect for people to take pictures of them in bad circumstances, so it was a lesson for me to stretch a bit, get over my guilt, and learn how to respect them while photographing them. As a friend said to me years ago when I lived in Brazil, “If you feel sorry for someone, you’re looking down on them, so stop.” Workshops are, after all, for learning and stretching your wings a bit. And this 101 year old man that follows looks happy as a clam, and was quite proud of his age!

The workshop included visiting working photographers, one of which was Roberto Salas, who photographed the revolution starting when he was 18 years old. It was incredible to talk with him and see his work, past and present.

Cuba is also full of classic American cars, so I was able to gorge on taking car photos to my heart’s content. I’m doing a car photo a day for 2013 over on my Facebook page. (The better photographs are available for sale on RedBubble, and you can see a bunch here on my site in my Gallery of the Week.)

Another one of my loves is boxing, and a morning at an amateur boxing gym yielded a batch of photos that I can be proud of, in addition to going a round on the focus mitts with the trainer!

What are your plans for spreading your photographic wings this year? And where can the results take you?

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