ICELAND+CUBA (14 DAYS OF DISCOVERY)
By Michael Chinnici
A unique and amazing 14-day Photo Adventure to Iceland and Cuba.
Two island nations, each with their own unique personalities. Polar opposites, with extreme differences related to their history, culture, natural beauty, politics, gender, race, wealth, energy, environmental sustainability, climate change and more. And from a photographic perspective, the two countries couldn’t be more different, each delivering a potpourri of opportunities.
ICELAND, a mecca for pristine and breathtaking landscape photography. It’s almost impossible to take a bad photograph considering the natural beauty of Iceland’s glaciers, waterfalls, volcanos, black sand beaches, icebergs, hot springs, northern lights, ice caves, jagged rock formations and moon-like lava fields. Want to create magic? Come to Iceland.
CUBA on the other hand is just as photogenic. We often say that a photographer in Cuba is like a kid in a candy store. The warmth and generosity of the Cuban people combined with the crumbling elegant architecture, the “lost in time” vintage automobiles, the distress and decay, the soft caribbean colors, the chaos, noise and energy, and the unfortunate poverty, all make for equally interesting and stunning storytelling images that will pull at your heartstrings.
Wow! Can you imagine experiencing these two polar opposite environments, back to back in 14 days time? BTW, we’ve conveniently included an overnight stay on the island of Manhattan while traveling between Iceland and Cuba. So technically that’s three islands in 14 days.
But here’s where it gets really exciting (and different)… this adventure is not just about photography. We’ve invited the Founding Director and Faculty Member at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability at Virginia Tech, to join us on this amazing journey. Best of all, our accompanying professor is an accomplished photographer in his own right, and makes it a point to always have his camera with him while traveling the globe for business.
Now let’s turn the focus to global sustainability, how it is affecting humanity, and how it may even affect the photos we will take over the next hundred years.
Islands in the Anthropocene.
In the early 21st century, whether we knew it or not, the world entered the Anthropocene—a new epoch where human presence is felt in every system on the planet, and where nothing on the planet is free from the influence of humanity. The Anthropocene forces us to recognize that the environmental problems we now face are our own doing, and the solutions are likewise ours to craft. Island nations such as Iceland and Cuba are unique in this rapidly changing world. They are struggling with threats to biodiversity, sea level rise, food security, and water supplies. ICELAND+CUBA“ Islands in the Anthropocene” is a unique, one-time travel offering for comparing two fascinating island nations from a photographic perspective. We will be exploring together the risks and possibilities these two places face in the decades to come.
The land of the Northern Lights and harsh but spectacular landscapes. But what of its environment? Or its future? Is everything as it seems?
❖ Iceland has been ranked one of the ‘greenest’ countries in the world, yet the little island produces more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than most of the countries in Europe, and other island nations like Japan and the United Kingdom.
❖ What will the effects of global climate change be on Iceland’s dramatic but surprisingly fragile landscape? Since when are more trees a problem?
❖ Are Iceland’s iconic glaciers disappearing? Are its seas rising?
❖ Are Iceland’s geothermal power and hydropower the clean, green alternatives they’re cracked up to be? Are they a solution or part of the problem?
A tropical paradise with a storied past, Cuba offers us a unique view of a world few have been able to see. Is it the world’s most sustainable country? Is this island a model for sustainable development in the Anthropocene?
❖ Cuba has recently been ranked by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the world’s most sustainable places due to its high score on the human development index compared to its relatively low economic output and rates of material production and consumption.
❖ How has Cuba managed to protect tropical rainforests and coral reefs, build sustainable food and agriculture systems, and provide universal healthcare and education despite economic sanctions and geopolitical marginalization?
❖ How are climate change and the rise of international tourism threatening Cuba’s rich natural and cultural heritage, from mangrove forests and untouched beaches to colonial architecture and historic farm communities?
❖ Is Cuba a model of self-reliance? Is the island a shining example of sustainable luxury? What lessons does Cuba have to teach us about living the good life in the Anthropocene?
We invite you to explore these issues with us through the lens of your camera. Join our two hosts, a university professor and our professional photographer, as we travel to Iceland and Cuba for a unique learning experience. Come along if you love photography, are concerned about the planet’s future, and want to learn more about both.
This adventure is designed not only to guide you to the most photogenic locations carefully planned for the best light, but to aid you in mentally visualizing a scene before capturing the decisive moment. Our aim is to raise your awareness and spark your creativity so that you not only go home with images to be proud of, but use your new found skills to improve and expand your photographic technique in general. You will learn how to turn an ordinary image into an extraordinary image by using your own creativity.
In addition, you will become knowledgeable on how to survey the landscape, utilize and approach your environment, photograph people indigenous to the region and the cultural considerations and challenges of photographing in a foreign country. Our time together will include individual and group discussions, inspiring ideas and great fun. Our unique ICELAND+CUBA “Islands in the Anthropocene” photo adventure is not to be missed!
May 5-19, 2019
This opportunity will be offered May 6-18, 2019 and again in 2020. Perfect weather in both Iceland and Cuba. It’s spring in Iceland and flowers are beginning to bloom, the glaciers are melting and the daytime temps are flirting with 50º F / 10º C. The contrast to Cuba couldn’t be better wth spring temps high as 85º F / 30º C.
Photographer | Leader: Michael Chinnici, Founder & CEO, Photo Workshop Adventures
Professor | Leader: Michael Mortimer, Founding Director and Faculty Member at the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability at Virginia Tech
- Professional photographer | guide and university professor
- Photo walks & discussions
- Group size (12 guests max)
- Photo walks & discussions
- Local transportation
- 2 International flights – Reykjavík to New York (one way), New York to Havana (round-trip)
- Travel, landscape, seascape, nature, wildlife and people photography
- Focus on “long exposure” photography
- 4 and 5-star hotels and lodges
- Breakfasts, 4 Lunches and 3 dinners
- Zodiac Boat Tour of Ice Lagoon (Weather permitting)
- Blue Lagoon
- Domestic flight
- Travel, landscape, seascape, architecture, urban and people photography
- Meet with Cuban photographers, students, musicians, artists and entrepreneurs
- Cuban guide and driver
- 5-star hotel and casas (b&b) in rural locations
- Breakfasts, 3 lunches and 3 dinners
- Vintage American Car excursion
- People-to-People activities
- Visa (U.S. Citizens) and OFAC travel documents
Sunday (1) Reykjavík
We meet on Sunday morning at our hotel in Reykjavik, where we will welcome you to this unique and exciting adventure. Two island nations, each with their own personalities and differences in their history, culture, politics, cuisine, natural beauty, energy and more. During a group lunch, we will have informal discussions on what our guests are trying to achieve in their photography, subject matters, styles and techniques, as well as discuss the “Islands in the Anthropocene”. From here we will set out for a wonderful day of photography throughout this quaint and simple city. Reykjavik’s sidewalks and streets are heated using the natural geothermal water, also used to heat everyone’s homes and businesses. So no snow plows needed in this city. In the evening we celebrate with our “Welcome Dinner” at one of our favorite restaurants in Reykjavik. (D)
Monday (2) Reykjavík – (flight to) Höfn – Vatnajökull Glacier
We take an early morning one-hour flight to Iceland’s southeast hub, Höfn, a small fishing village in the southeast of Iceland. Interestingly, Höfn has seen the water level in its harbor rise dramatically in recent years, due in part to the melting of Vatnajökull Glacier and its proximity to the warm waters of the gulf stream.
The contrast in the nature of the Southeast is breathtaking, with spectacular black beaches and a dominating white glacier, Vatnajökull. Serenity, energy and forces of nature combine to make the region of Vatnajökull a never-to-be-forgotten experience. We will spend the day exploring the region and if we are fortunate, we will see the Northern lights dancing above the glacier. We return in the evening to our guesthouse for a wonderful Icelandic dinner. (B) (D)
Tuesday (3) Vatnajökull Glacier – Jökulsárlón Lagoon – Skaftafell
On Tuesday we visit many of Vatnajökull’s outlets and outwash areas and the Jökulsárlón, a famous glacial lagoon full of icebergs, where we can take a boat tour and sail among the huge icebergs, an unforgettable experience. The glacial scenery continues with a visit to the stunning Skaftafell, Iceland’s second largest national park where the landscape has been formed over thousands of years by different influences of fire and water (volcanic eruptions and the glaciers). After checking into our hotel we gather later in the evening for dinner. (B) (L)
Wednesday (4) Vík – Geysir – Gullfoss
We leave Klaustur and drive towards the coast to the basalt caves of Reynisfjara were we take a small walk on the black beach and have a view towards Dyrhólaey. We drive to the small but high waterfall Seljalandsfoss and walk the path behind it. On we drive to the world famous Geysir region, where hot springs are in abundance, such as the famous great Geysir which has given name to hot springs all over the world. We will see one of the most active geysers in the area, Strokkur, spouting up to 30 meters. From Geysir we drive to Gullfoss, the Golden waterfall, one of the most impressive waterfalls in Europe. Here you can see thousands of tons of icy water thunder majestically down in a double-fall into a deep gorge. As we near closer to Reykjavik, we checkin to our hotel, review some of our photos, and then enjoy another wonderful Icelandic dinner. (B) (L)
Thursday (5) Þingvellir – Reykjanes Peninsula – Blue Lagoon
We leave the Geysir area and drive to Þingvellir national park. Þingvellir is a remarkable geological site, and the most historic place on the island, where the world’s oldest democratic parliament was founded in 930. We continue to the Nesjavellir geothermal area and on to the lava fields of Reykjanes peninsula. More then half of the peninsula is covered with lava flows and you will see lava cones and craters of different sizes and shapes. We will walk where the mid Atlantic ridge rises from the ocean and head for the lighthouse on the westernmost tip of the peninsula. We continue to the small fishing village Grindavík and end in the Blue Lagoon, for a relaxing dip in 38°C therapeutic geothermal water. The Blue Lagoon is surrounded by a moss-covered lava field dating back to 1226. Upon our return to Reykjavík we check back into our hotel and settle in to enjoy our “Iceland Farewell Dinner”. (B) (D)
Friday (6) Reykjavík – (flight to) New York
After breakfast we are off to the airport for our flight to New York. In New York we’ll checkin to our beautiful Manhattan hotel. In the evening we’ll enjoy a wonderful group dinner at one of Michael’s favorite New York restaurants celebrating the conclusion of our Iceland journey and the start of our Cuba adventure. (B) (D)
Flight Reykjavik to New York (overnight in New York) NYC to Havana
Saturday (7) New York – (flight to) Havana
We depart New York for our early morning flight to Havana, Cuba where we will embark on part two of our unique and amazing ICELAND + CUBA “Islands in the Anthropocene” photo adventure. Once in Cuba we will enjoy lunch at one of Havana’s best restaurants, the award winning Paladar San Cristobal, located in the heart of Central Havana. A taste of colonial Cuba, San Cristobal offers wonderful entrees on 19th century china, surrounded by stacks of books, old antiques and nostalgic black and white photographs. You can ask owner Carlos Cristóbal Márquez Valdés all about it.
After lunch we will visit the home of Magia López and Alexey Rodriguez of the hip-hop/jazz duo Obsesión and discuss their experiences and views on race and gender equality in Cuba. Next we are treated to a “lost in time” photographic experience at an untouched centuries old Cuban mansion followed by a socio-economic discussion with urban planner Pedro Mayda, who’s presentation will touch on Havana’s housing, infrastructure, investment and restoration programs. It’s bound to leave you with a better understanding of why Havana looks the way it does today and the possibilities moving forward.
In the evening we enjoy dinner at El Cocinero. This lovely restaurant is housed in a former Power Plant and Factory. Home to Havana’s hip, you might think you are in Soho or Madrid. Following dinner we walk next door for live music, art and photography at La Fabrica de Arte Cubana. Rock star X Alfonso has turned this into a meeting place for young and eclectic Cubans and foreigners. (B) (L) (D)
Sunday (8) Old Havana – Havana – Hemingway’s
We begin our day with an early morning bicycle taxi ride through Old Havana to capture the beautiful Plaza de la Cathedral, Plaza San Francisco, Plaza Vieja and Plaza de Armas. Next we’ll view a private boxing session at the famous “Rafael Trejo” open-air boxing gym in Old Havana. Here we will have the opportunity to photograph boxers as they train.
Next we’re off to our friends American Classic Car restoration garage. Owners Nidialys Acosta and Julio Alvarez have taken advantage of the recent economic opening and put together a fleet of 20 plus pristine “Clasicos” (as Cuban’s refer to them), to provide professional service to their clientele. Learn first hand how they restore these classic American beauties from the 1950’s. This setting makes for some amazing photography. When we’re finished we’ll hop into these “Clasicos” and go for a drive along the Havana’s famous Malecón seawall, visit the mansions in the Miramar neighborhood and experience the bustle of Neptuno and San Lazaro streets in the city center. Then we’re off to La Finca Vigía, formerly the home of Ernest Hemingway. Today La Finca Vigía still houses his expansive collection of Hemingway’s books. It was here where he wrote two of his most celebrated novels: For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. The beautiful grounds and bizarre tales from Hemingway’s many years in Cuba are captivating. Next we are off to Playas del este for a peek at Cuba’s stunning turquoise blue ocean waters before returning to Havana.
In the evening we are treated to a musical performance with Frank Delgado, renowned singer and songwriter, for a discussion about the nueva trova movement in Cuba, followed by dinner at the world famous La Guarida Paladar, the set to the movie “Strawberry and Chocolate,” and known for it’s spectacular ambiance and delicious desserts. (B)
Monday (9) Pinar del Rio – Vinales
We depart early for Cuba’s western-most province – Pinar del Rio, famous for its rich soil, tobacco production and spectacular scenery. Here we will visit the charming village of Viñales nestled in the Sierra de los Organos mountains. Viñales Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and settlement dating back to the Spanish colonial era.
We start off by visiting one of Cuba’s most renowned tobacco farmers, who produces tobacco used in world famous Cohiba cigars. For lunch we visit a local organic farm to learn about Cuban agriculture and tobacco production, where we will have a tasty meal. Great photo opportunities while exploring local farms. After lunch we explore downtown Viñales, where we will take a short photo walk to meet with small business owners, average citizens and others out and about; taking photos throughout.
After we visit a small country town where Mario Pelegrin, a community activist, has created a charming neighborhood project dedicated to local children. In this tranquil setting, a collection of rustic cabins provide a home for amateur art programs. This wonderful program gives local kids the opportunity to have fun while learning new skills in the areas of music, dance, theatre and art. After we return to Havana. (B) (L)
Tuesday (10) Havana – Trinidad
Today we depart Havana for Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for it’s cobble stoned streets, pastel colored homes and small-town feel. Here we will visit the Plaza Mayor and the famous Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima church, as well as the many other restored architectural gems in this charming village. Upon our arrival we will enjoy a hearty lunch at a favorite paladar, a recently opened restaurant with a diverse menu featuring everything from lobster to pizza. Trinidad will be filled with tourists at this time, so we will spend the mid-day hours away from the crowds. After lunch we will have a discussion and walking tour with the city historian and preservationist, who will provide an overview of the history and architecture of the city. By mid-afternoon we check into our hotel located in the heart of the old city of Trinidad. After a relaxing break for set out to photograph people and architecture of Trinidad, ending with a sunset photo shoot from the famous bell tower. (B) (L)
Wednesday (11) Trinidad
Sunrise photo walk through Trinidad is a must. Here we will witness the city come to life, well before the tourists arrive. Not only is the light at it’s best, but the photographic opportunities are seemingly endless. After a morning exploring rural Trinidad we take a break to stay out of the midday sun. In the evening we will do another sunset photo walk through Trinidad. After we have a conversation with artist Yami Martínez at her gallery, La Casa de los Conspiradores. Yami has achieved international recognition for her art depicting the strains of life on Cuban women. Followed by dinner at Yami’s Los Conspiradores Paladar (B, D)
Thursday (12) Trinidad – Cienfuegos – Havana
On day eight we depart early for Cienfuegos, referred to as the “Pearl of the South”. Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s only cities to display French and Spanish architecture. Housed on one of the country’s largest Bays, the city offers beautiful ocean front landscapes, and is deeply rich in culture. We will meet with internationally recognized photographer “Omar Garcia Valenti” from Cienfuegos, who will show us some of his work and then lead a photo shoot in the downtown area. After lunch we enjoy some Music and discussion with the local chapter of UNEAC, the National Union of Artists and Writers of Cuba, featuring an opportunity to meet local photographers, musicians and other locals. After a beautiful day in Cienfuegos we return to Havana. (B)
Friday (13) Havana
Our return to Havana is meant to be a more relaxing day with a lighter schedule after 3 countries, 3 islands and 13 days together. In the morning we will offer an optional bicycle tour through several unique neighborhoods. After lunch we will visit the “Antonio Núñez Jiménez” Foundation for Nature and Humanity, a non-governmental civil organization, non-profit, continuing the legacy of Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez through research and development programs and activities that promote values towards a culture of nature at the local, national and international levels. After we will visit the Revolution Museum and Morro Castle at sunset. In the evening, and on our final full day in Havana, we enjoy our FINAL “Farewell Dinner” at one of our favorite Cuban restaurants, complete with Cohiba cigars and Cuban rum. (B, D)
Saturday (14) Havana – New York
Our final day includes an optional early morning photo walk of Havana (one can never get enough of this city) followed by breakfast, hotel check-out and departure for the airport. Here we will sadly bid you farewell upon our arrival back in New York (JFK). (B)
Note: Those looking to fly from Havana to a different destination, our guest services team will be happy to help organize this.
Photo Workshop Adventures provides 100% legal Cuba trip under US Treasury Department’s OFAC People-to-People Travel Program. CT-2016-327909 / C.F.R. 515.567. This allows individuals to travel to Cuba for educational and cultural purposes.