A few months ago, I had an amazing visit to Havana, Cuba. While there, I met some awesome photographers including Ramsés Batista. Ramsés is not only a talented photographer, but a seriously cool dude. He's one of those photographers that pushes his photography to the limit for his craft. His work is amazing, however don't be fooled by his rudimentary website. He's Cuban and doesn't have the same easy access to internet. I got to see giant prints of his work while in Cuba, and was blown away.
Ramsés was so helpful to our group and knows everyone and all the great spots around Havana. A few of us decided we wanted to do a model shoot on location. Ramsés organized a couple ballerinas from the National Ballet and hired an old mansion. We set out in the early morning and arrived at an amazing spanish colonial mansion much like Josie's house. Hard to believe that modest people were living there - in the States, this type of home would be for very posh folks! We met our models who brought their ballet costumes as well as street clothes. The strobist in me had some speedlites and light modifiers, however the natural light in the house was so special, we ditched the lights for available.
I had my trusty Nikon D3s, a few primes and Fuji X100s. Since there were a bunch of photographers, we knew we had to be economical with the models and our time, so it was important to have a strategy. We scoped the house and grounds and came up with a few scenarios we wanted to shoot. We ended up sharing locations and assisting each other. The spirit of camaraderie was unique in that most of the time, photographers are lone-gunmen and not looking to shoot around their peers. Like most of our trip in Havana, there were many exceptions to the rules.
I shoot with Lili. She was very comfortable in front of the camera especially for someone who isn't a professional model. Interestingly, Lili didn't speak English and my Spanish was pretty poor, but it didn't affect the flow of the shoot. My favorite moments were when she was not posing, not "smiling for camera", but more relaxed, natural and contemplative.
We all had a great time with the shoot and I'm really happy with the images. I didn't plan for an organized photo shoot when I left for Cuba, and this was a huge bonus. Not only to have had the opportunity to do an actual photo shot, but to utilize this amazing location was such a treat.
So many things to take away from this. 1) Keep it simple. Sure we had speedlites, triggers, modifiers and the like, but the natural light was spectacular and I was quickly able to let-go of the extra gear. 2) Be a team player. Of course I would have liked to have shot the model without sharing, but in the spirit of things, assisting my fellow photographers was great, and I got the bonus of watching them work and observing their process. 3) Always be prepared. Just because we didn't plan to do a formal shoot, didn't mean that I wasn't prepared for one. 4) Know your gear. Having just a few primes for the Nikon and the X100s was great and made for a nice uncomplicated shoot. 5) It's just a camera. One of my most favorite shots was taken with the X100s (the image at the lace table on the top of this page). The Nikon D3s did a fantastic job, but that little X100s really impressed me.