Like many photographers who have visited Cuba, I have developed a love affair with this unique island in the Caribbean. I recently made my 6th visit in February and I never want to stop visiting.

After two workshops in Cuba with the Raw Society, my photography has evolved. To look back at my images from my first trip to Cuba (a photo tour with a different organization), you would see some nice travel shots, shots of “what I saw in Cuba”, and maybe a few images that would almost qualify as a good street photo. I was happy with them then, and they still bring back fond memories of my first visit to Cuba.

On my most recent solo trip I set off with several assignments Jorge gave me to complete on my own. Not having my mentors with me was going to be a challenge, but I was up for it. I had faith that everything I learned from them would result in some successful images and that I would see growth in my skill. And although they weren’t there to hold my hand along the way, there wasn’t a minute where I didn’t hear Jorge in my head reminding me, “clean background” or “rule of odds.”

So, in my two days visiting Viñales, I did my best to work on my assignments. One assignment in particular was to use my new camera (Fuji x100f) to see the images in black and white to really notice the light and shadows before I pressed the shutter. I wasn’t sure about this because one of the great things about Cuba is its vibrant color. But I trusted that Jorge knew what he was talking about.

Getting used to a new camera with buttons in new places and new features was difficult. There were many moments of frustration over missed shots, missed focus, or battery problems and I was sure I was failing this assignment and worse, I would let Jorge down. When I returned to Havana, I went about the rest of my days staying in my color comfort zone and sometimes even resorted to my beloved SLR camera.

When I returned home and took a look at the images captured in Viñales I wasn’t expecting much, but was surprised to see some shots I liked. I never thought about photographing Cuba in black and white, but as I looked at them collectively, although I didn’t see any one stand out image, I felt that they all worked together and that the black and white gave them a timeless quality that I liked. I think Jorge was on to something! I’m happy that Jorge pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and look at things in a different light. I hope I didn’t let Jorge down but I want to know, do I get an A on the assignment?

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