Havana, Cuba. October 2017 (18 photos)

This is part 14 of my Cuba 2017 photo series.

When possible, I like to take photos from a high vantage point. Previously, I’ve flown in a helicopter with the doors removed over Uluru in Australia, and also over The Remarkables in Queenstown New Zealand but with the doors on. I’ve photographed from the Top of the Rock in NYC. I had wanted to do a doorless helicopter photography flight over NYC but decided against it as there is now a no fly zone over Manhattan because of Trump tower. I did intend to take a helicopter flight over San Francisco but cancelled that when there was a forced change in my schedule.

If you were to fly over Cuba on google maps, you will see the satellite view is blurred. GPS devices are banned and drones are illegal in Cuba, and will be confiscated if you take one into Cuba. A helicopter ride was clearly impossible. So the only other option was to find some high vantage points.

These photos were taken from a private apartment in a building along El Malecon. Not the typical place for a tourist from Australia to get access to.

One can really appreciate the prolific extent of the decay in Havana from this height.

El Capitolio, or the National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, was the organization of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. El Capitolio has a size of 681 by 300 ft. Its design is compared to that of the United States Capitol, but is not a replica of it. It was completed in 1929.

That’s Habana Libre on the left. To the right you can see parkland in front of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. And behind the Nacional is Edificio FOCSA.

One warm evening in October, I visited the Habana Libre, to have dinner, on the 25th floor as I recall. Of course, I took my tripod…

That’s Hotel Nacional de Cuba on the left. And the bright lights on the far right are along El Malecon. Florida is north of us, approximately 300km in the distance.

Another evening I visited the rooftop of the Parque Central Hotel to get some sunset photos.

This is part 14 of my rather prolific Cuba photography series. Well, I do have more than 4000 photos from my trip. But all things must come to an end. One more post about Cuba and this series will end for now. Of course, I may return to it one day but for now a change of topic is coming.

These final photos were taken from the viewing area at the top of the JosΓ© MartΓ­ Memorial, located on the northern side of the Plaza de la RevoluciΓ³n in the Vedado area of Havana. Fidel Castro gave many of his speeches from the podium at the base of this memorial, and the plaza would be jam-packed with people.

This is part 14 of my Cuba 2017 photo series.

This is part 21 of my photo series of my 2017 trip to the USA, Mexico, Cuba, and Canada.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Above Havana


95 thoughts on “Above Havana

  1. Amazing from the top shots. Each one so different, and there must have been a lot of planning to get a variety of shots – on top of the same buildings from different angles, on different buildings. Lots of up and downs and stairs perhaps πŸ™‚

    Was there a particular reason why drones are banned? Very interesting to read that satellite imagery of the place is blurred.

    • Thanks. The owner of the apartment which I photographed from was incredibly generous to grant me unlimited access to the apartment for photography. Great 360 degree views. Fortunately there was a lift. πŸ™‚

      I presume the Cuban Government would explain it all as National interest and security. No satellite imagery, aerial views or GPS. Also internet access for the populace is still restricted and monitored. I was careful what I did when I had my own limited internet access.

      • That is one amazing apartment owner and it looks like there were many vantage points to shoot from.

        If there is no GPS and limited access I suppose you had to look at maps to get around or let the locals show you the way around πŸ™‚

        • I use the maps.me app and downloaded all relevant maps for offline viewing before I arrived there. I also dowloaded and printed specific maps off websites as appropriate. Mostly my phone was on aeroplane mode for most of the time I was in Cuba.

          Yes, it was one of those apartments/buildings where the lift opens directly into the apartment. Choose the wrong floor, and you walk right into the wrong apartment.

        • Offline is probably one of the best ways to travel – you do your research beforehand and get to focus on observing and in your case, taking the shots πŸ™‚

          Hehe, walking in someone’s apartment would be intruding on privacy but always lovely to have a look at someone’s home and see what makes it a home.

  2. Amazing pics. I love the night ones and the park. As for the rest, they are beautiful too. Havana is really something special. You mentioned decay and that’s the first word I thought of too. Are you acquainted with the photos of urban decay of the photographer Seph Lawless? I love his abandoned churches, hotels, houses and amusement parks. The only difference is that nobody lives there any more.

        • The first lot from the private apartment were all handheld, some with the camera poking out the window. The Habana Libre Hotel shots were long exposures through glass on a tripod. The Parque Central Hotel photos were taken on a tripod in open air. I used my rangefinder Leica camera – manual focus. 28mm and 50mm prime lenses. I cropped a few of the photos. I didn’t have a zoom lens.
          Havana rum is very addictive! πŸ™‚

        • Thanks. I’m trying to figure out what to pack for an upcoming trip and I know I will come across things requiring wide and zoom. Just need to be efficient and light as possible…

        • That’s the eternal struggle – how much gear to take? It all depends on what you think you’ll mostly be shooting. If I were shooting wildlife in Africa, a 200mm + lens would probably be essential, whereas it would have been an expensive paperweight to me in Cuba.

        • Good luck with the decision making. Towards the end of my trip, I couldn’t be bothered changing lenses repeatedly. I mostly shot with a 28mm prime lens then cropped. Modern sensors are great for that. πŸ™‚

  3. J.D. Riso says:

    That dingy decay mixed with color reminds me a little of Pyongyang, North Korea. The buildings in Havana have a lot more character, though. 4000 photos. I can’t even imagine. What treasure for you.

    • Both Communist regimes, but the tropical Caribbean and Spanish/African influence is definitely palpable.
      Actually, I thought I was rather restrained with my photography. Plenty of camera downtime to soak it in and drink it up. That’s how photogenic Cuba is! πŸ™‚

  4. Another extraordinary series, Draco. Enjoyed the photos from elevated spots, and hearing how you accessed them. You did a wonderful job of highlighting the beauty that is Havana. With this perspective, the bright colors really stand out, and yes, the decay. Your artistry is absolutely delightful. It is really difficult to pick out my favorites, because they are all masterful. But my two favorites are: the twilight photo taken from the restaurant with El Malecon and the waterfront; and the penultimate photo of the Plaza de la Revolucion. I have never seen this site, in person or in photographs, and you sparked my interest. I saw on Wiki that it is their seat of government with two heroes in steel memorials, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. Thanks for finding so many ways to get up above and share the view.

    • Thank you very much for your lovely comment, Jet. There’s something to appreciate everywhere you look in Havana. The colour palette is incredible.
      Plaza de la Revolution is a very important place in Havana and I’m happy to have brought it to you. Fidel’s speeches to the masses there were legendary. The portraits on the buildings means this can only be one place in the world. I wonder if Fidel Castro will be similarly immortalised on a building there.

  5. Beautiful. I’d forgotten that from a high point you can see which roofs have collapsed. Some of your photos reminded me of views of Porto from its bridges. I haven’t heard of building collapses there, though.

  6. These are awesome shots. Really enjoy your tours from the ground and now up to the above. What a treat for viewers!!
    Did you fly with the helicopter on your back, Dragon? πŸ™‚

  7. Heide says:

    Your images are outstanding! But you’re right that the aerial viewpoint does show the extent of decay β€” I had no idea the run-down conditions went on for miles like that! We can only hope that the increase in tourism and capital helps to revitalize these beautiful old buildings and raise the standard of living for the average Cuban.

    • Thank you. The extent of the dilapidation is immense. I truly hope for an improvement in conditions for the people, although that will mean changing the uniqueness of Havana as it is today.

      • Heide says:

        I’ve thought the same thing about the efforts to “restore” Venice: Part of the charm lies in the general state of disrepair. But when building collapses occur routinely, it literally becomes a life-and-death situation for the residents. Better to give up a bit of character in that case than to risk lives. Of course, this is just an academic musing because I can’t imagine the amount of money it would take to fix up the entire city …

  8. Great perspectives, Draco. Made me feel like some UFO exploring concrete coral reefs on a new planet. Cool! Are those blue water tanks on the roofs? Meg

  9. What a different perspective you have given us. Some parts look almost like a war zone. And those night shots and sunset are outstanding. I’ll be sad when you finish this series it has been so enjoyable. But I’m looking forward to whatever else you have in store for us.

    • It’s definitely “other-worldly” from above. The decay and erosion does give it a war zone look.
      Thanks. But it’s time for a change. I may return to this series sporadically. πŸ˜‰

  10. Such a fantastic perspective of a beautiful city, Lignum!
    I especially love the night photographs and the first photograph of the rooftops.
    Truly very beautiful.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. LB says:

    I was struck by the colors in that very first image, and yes, the decay in the one that you mentioned. Very much enjoyed this series

  12. Hey Mr Draco … I nearly missed this post! Wonderful images as always .. I have to get to Cuba! The shots taken from high vantage points are amazing. Sad to see the decay though ..

    • Cuba is very enchanting, regardless of the viewpoint but the high shots really bring home the message about the conditions. Mojitos, mango juice, lobster, photography. Cuba awaits you. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed this view. Sorry for the late reply but I’ve been overseas for 2 months and wasn’t monitoring my emails. I’m now recovering from the jet lag and trying to catch up with emails.

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