My wife and I recently returned from a quick one-week vacation in Cuba at an all-inclusive resort in the Rafael Freyre area that we’ve been to a number of times in the past. While we enjoy vastly different things while on holiday, memories for both of us are found in the photographs captured. I certainly take the obligatory resort photographs that most of us take, but resorts look pretty much the same – buildings, palm trees, pools and beach. This article shares some of our recent memories of Cuba that are from other types of images.
While my wife was relaxing by the pool or beach reading one of the books she brought with her, I would spend my days wandering around the resort creating some images, or visiting the marsh area adjacent to the resort with my camera with the hopes of capturing some images of birds. I recently purchased a Nikon 1 J4 kit and a Nikon 1 WP-N3 waterproof housing and spent a bit of time with my first ever attempts at underwater photography and video.
The weather was unbelievable with us enjoying seven straight days of hot temperatures and cloudless skies. This, of course, made the light very harsh and I looked for flowers in at least partial shade or chose to shoot these types of images in the late afternoon to temper the lighting conditions. Here are a few of the flower and foliage images I captured during the week.
The area had received quite a bit of rain prior to our arrival and the water level in the marsh area was quite a bit higher than normal. As a consequence the volume of birds was significantly reduced from the number we had experienced in previous visits to the resort. This was especially true of the egrets with only a few individual birds in the area.
Some of the smaller access trails leading to the shores of the marsh were far too wet to use so I ended up shooting from the causeway for all of my bird photographs captured in this area.
Patience was certainly needed as I often had to wait for 10-15 minutes or more for a perched or standing bird to take flight. My Nikon 1 V2 along with the 1 Nikon CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 performed extremely well and I was able to capture a number of nice AF-C runs at 15fps using subject tracking. Being a lot more familiar with the lens than I was last year, and having a better understanding on how to use it effectively, was certainly helpful.
The image above is one of my favourite captures during this recent trip. The Great Blue Heron had been standing motionless for an inordinately long time, then suddenly decided to take flight straight across the marsh area. The first image in my AF-C run at 15fps captured the bird just as it launched into flight, water still streaming off its feet and legs. My Nikon 1 V2 held AF-C focus for the entire run of over 20 images. The image above is a full frame capture without any cropping.
While more difficult to spot, there were a few Green Heron in the marsh and with some patience I was able to capture a few usable images of them in flight as well as some AF-C runs of one of them fishing from a low hanging branch.
Unfortunately it was late in the afternoon and the bird was in dark shade so I inadvertently underexposed the image. On the positive side I was able to capture some images of this species’ very unique fishing style. My apologies for the quality of the above image.
No trip to a tropical destination would be complete without trying to capture some images of lizards and I had some success in this regard. The image above was taken with the 1 Nikon 30-110mm lens with my set of 3 MOVO extension tubes attached. This was actually a very small lizard but I was able to get my lens about 12-14 inches (30.5-35.5cm) away from it. By shooting one-handed with my arm extended I was able to capture the image above.
Trying my hand at underwater photography was like being in a brave, new world. I had never used the WP-N3 housing with the J4 yet so the entire experience was uncharted waters. I didn’t use any underwater lighting at all so I needed to do some work with the images in post. Overall, I think I captured some useable images which you can see below. All are full frame captures without crops.
As regular readers know, I’m often attracted to unusual shapes and from time to time I enjoy capturing more abstract images and photographs of single items. During my wanderings around the resort I was able to find a few interesting image opportunities as you can see below.
We certainly had an enjoyable time during our recent visit to Cuba. My wife finished reading a number of books and the back of my shutter hand was noticeably more tanned than my left hand so I know we both got what we came for in terms of a holiday experience.
Article and all images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.
Memories of cuba = flowers, foliage, nature, a pool shot (this shouldn’t be here…) and some abstract close ups.
I’m not questioning the photos, your equipment or your technique.
I think that anyone who knows Cuba, instantly thinks about its historic places…that’s why this article should be entitled different. I was expecting to see other kind of images.
Thanks for sharing your perspectives on Cuba. I suppose it really comes down to the priorities that one has when going on vacation. We’ve visited Cuba 8 times and have never had any interest to visit any of the cities or historic sites at all. To us, and many of our friends Cuba is viewed as an affordable destination for a beach holiday. Different strokes for different folks.
I have never seen the likes of that green heron defying gravity (with some amazing core strength!) Thank you.
You’re welcome Gary! What really amazed me watching the Green Heron was how long they could stay in these types of gravity-defying positions. It gave new meaning to ‘abs of steel’.
As always your pictures are stunning and your narrative engaging and instructive….never condescending….I like your delivery a lot! Always have….
These heron pictures are amazing!
You comment on beginning a run at 15 fps, yet the D5 and D500 will soon be released at 12 fps and 10 fps respectively and some are speaking of the “second coming” (rightfully so in some respects as they both look very exciting).
Nikon should market the Nikon 1 series with that Nikon 1 70-300 as THE dream camera for birders…..and they should probably showcase your pictures and hire you as their spokesman!
You consistently make that little’ole Nikon 1 look very, very good! I like seeing a real photographer relying on what works for them, rather than always having to get the latest and greatest next big thing.
Looking forward to the V4!
Thank you for your very kind words Keith – they are most appreciated!
I’m also looking forward to a potential Nikon 1 V4, hopefully with the new (or even better) 20.8MP BSI sensor. I’m also hoping for an integrated EVF and grip with the V4…and a return to standard SD cards! I didn’t buy the V3 as I couldn’t justify the price to get similar image quality compared with my V2’s (I have three of these little gems). I would have increased my AF-C fps from 15 to 20 though.
This spring I have some plans to do more testing and shooting with my Nikon 1 gear at 30fps and 60fps. It is a bit more tricky as the first frame determines focusing for all subsequent images. I’ve done a bit of work capturing birds landing on a nest or at the end of the dock and the choice of wing positions in the image run (assuming sharp focus of course) can be quite amazing.
From what I’ve heard the D5 and D500 sound like they will be amazing cameras and I imagine many folks are salivating profusely over them! I certainly agree with you that regardless of our individual choice of gear, the key point is to find what works for us!
I bought 2 J4 + WP-N3 as well. I had the AW1 but leaked and the replacement leaked as well even if I was careful. Poorly designed seals. Happy with J4 + WP-N3, although it is hard to see the LCD underwater or in bright light. 2 J4 and housings were cheaper than one AW1. I was lucky my CC warranty covered the cost of the leaked AW1. the combo may not be as compact but it feels way more waterproof.
I like your photo of the fish at eyes level. Nice clarity.
Did teh housing work well? no leaks at all? BHphoto sells some packets that look like silica gel packs that you put in the camera housing and would absorb water leaks giving you time to get out of the water and save the camera in case of a O ring leak.
I was very pleased with my first attempt at underwater photography with the J4 and WP-N3 housing. I totally agree with you that the LCD is very hard to view underwater or in bright sunlight, but other than that the set-up performed wonderfully. I really liked the ability to use the zoom lens underwater. I still have so much to learn about underwater photography and not many opportunities to actually do it! My main purpose in buying the J4 and WP-N3 was actually as a wet weather still image shooting solution.
I bought my WP-N3 from B&H at a really crazy price which made the set-up very affordable! The J4 is a discontinued model in Canada but I was able to find a new kit in Western Canada and bought that at a good price as well. Like you, I could have bought the WP-N3 and two J4 kits for about the same price as an AW-1.
As you know, while much larger than an AW-1, the WP-N3 is really solidly built and all of the camera controls work very well when using it. I’m more than happy with my purchase and I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to use it.
your results are pretty good. The camera flash anyway is useless underwater as being on axis it just lights up suspended particles, it is like flashin snowflakes during snowfall. I had bought an Olympus TG-4 to replace the AW1, but the quality was not as near. I sold it as i felt it was not worth 300+. bought the 2 J4 and housings because tho price was so good. Initially I got the S2, but swapped for a J4. I just wish the J4 had a EVF, but after all lately I am shooting with the Sony A6000, which is great, although it has some quirks and the tabbed menus are a mess compared to Nikon’s rational grouping of settings.
I see the AW1 as a camera that is great shooting in the rain, snow etc. But do not take it underwater with those crappy seals.
I wonder if you greased the o-ring of the WP-N3 or used it as it was.
I like that the WP-N3 is neutrally buoyant, easy to take underwater, but does not sink like a brick like the AW1
I did not grease the o-ring and used the WP-N3 as is after I tested it for water tightness as directed in the manual. I also liked the buoyancy of the WP-N3. As far as the AW-1 goes, I think it is an interesting concept but Nikon has some work to do with the water sealing on the camera and lenses. I’ve heard of a number of people who have had water infiltration issues even when using the AW-1 in the rain. That is one of the reasons I went for the J4/WP-N3 combo instead.
Beautiful photos as usual. The way you have shot birds in flight is exceptional. I am just a novice to photography and can see the vast experience of yours in your beautiful compositions and in your choice of gear. Should circumstances permit, I will be more than happy to learn taking photos from you and the wonderful team that puts up the ever so beautiful pics in the site… I have been following this site since I decided to buy a DSLR and bought my D3200 …I make it a point to browse through all photos from you, Nasim and Alpha Whiskey :-) …. As always, I enjoyed browsing through these beautiful photos… keep it coming…cheers…
Your comment is most generous and much appreciated – thank you!
Tom, if we get to go again to Cuba, we’ll be in touch. Thanks!
Those old cars in Havana were original, not even reliable enough (14 years ago) to venture from city. Even saw a car with 3 automobile wheels and one farm tractor wheel welded to the brake drum! And in a store I saw pneumatic wheelbarrow tires for sale at 400 USD ea.!!
You were lucky to get to an outlying area. I hope to return to Cuba.
You will certainly see a lot of changes from 14 years ago. We noticed an interesting change even since last year at the resort we visited. The number of hotel staff that had a very good command of English (and also French) was quite remarkable. There seems to be a concerted effort to expand the use and understanding of English in Cuba.
Tom, I always look forward to your photos. Now where are your photos of the old cars?
I was in Cuba 2002, with a 4 mp Olympus point and shoot, AA batteries. In Havana got lightly hit by a motorcyclist while standing in a boulevard framing a photo of a 1950-ish Pontiac with glistening chrome.
We actually never left the resort for the entire week so I didn’t see that many ‘oldies’. Going to Havana would certainly be a different story though. I did take a couple of images of some older cars that were in the parking lot but they were quite beat up and I wasn’t inspired by them. I’m not sure if its true or not, but one of the folks from the tour company told us that many of the seemingly ‘older’ cars are actually reproductions. Again, I have no idea if that’s true or not.
Cool – I shoot Canon – My friends shoot Nikon and/or Canon. At the end of the day…………………….???????
We just want to be good at what we do.
I agree 100% with you Larry! What each of us chooses for camera gear is simply what we choose. In the big scheme of things I don’t think it makes that much difference what gear we use…the trick is to find what works for us and what we enjoy using.
Wonderful photos as usual Thomas. You do such a good job of capturing birds in flight. I’m still practicing. I’m also pleased that you stick-up for your equipment choices. To paraphrase the great nature photographer John Shaw, it’s not the equipment it’s the person who sees the scene and takes the photo. We all need to get over our egos when it comes to photography gear. If I have to make a choice on where to spend my hard-earned money I would always choose going to an interesting place over buying more camera gear!
Thank you for the positive comment – much appreciated. My wife and I would both agree with you – let’s use disposable dollars to fund more travel – not buy more gear! Camera gear is an very personal choice and each of us simply needs to find what works best for our individual needs. I happen to love shooting with my Nikon 1 gear, but I’d also be the first person to say that it may not be the best choice for everyone.
I totally agree with your freedom of choice on where you spend your dollars. Personally, my previous comment was meant as a compliment and encouragement – a bit like saying to some one that is playing beautifully on a cheap violin, that a better instrument would give them greater quality and achievement. However we all suffer from limited cash resources and need to choose wisely.
Keep up you good work, sharing of pictures and enjoying your past times.
I took no offence at your comment – everyone is entitled to their viewpoint on gear! I’ve spent many thousands of dollars on camera gear over the years and I simply found that the Nikon 1 system is best for my particular needs. Just because a particular camera may have better specifications technically does not mean it is the best choice for the needs of a specific photographer.
A few months ago I went to an imaging show with my brother-in-law who is in the market for a camera. We went to all of the various manufacturer booths and I looked at dozens of cameras with him. There was absolutely nothing at the show that tempted me in the slightest.
Could I afford to buy FX, DX or M4/3 gear again? Sure, I could…but I don’t need it or want it.