It’s a place I’d never thought I’d actually get to go, but when a good friend invited Kalebra and I to join of group of their friends (14 of us in all) for a Cultural Exchange trip to Havana, we were all over it.

I always just thought it was all but impossible for an American to visit Cuba without skirting all sorts of official rules (going through mexico or Costa Rica first, and then kind of slinking in without the US State Dept. knowing), but there were Americans EVERYWHERE down there. I even ran into a National Geographic Photo Tour down there, and once we were there we learned that our tour guide had taken our friend Laurie Excell’s photo workshop there earlier this year. Small world, and getting smaller every day.

Havana is such an amazing place!
Absolutely beautiful and very different in so many ways than we have always been led to believe. Havana is one of the most beautiful, vibrant, happy cities I’ve ever visited. The music, the food, and the warm Cuban people make it hands-down my all-time favorite island (well, not including huge islands like the UK). Truly authentic. Often breathtaking. Definitely enchanting. Charming, romantic and hopeful all at the same time in the same place.

I have so much to share about the trip that I’m going to try and arrange a live Broadcast just to share more photos and stories and just  talk about the experience, the place, and its people (and how you can get to Cuba now before there’s a Starbucks on every corner). If I’m able to arrange it later today, or tomorrow (more likely), I’ll post it here and invite you to join me online to hear about this incredible place which in many ways has one foot stuck in the 1950s and one in 2012. I’ve got some great Cuba travel tips for you, too!

A peek at my Photo Book from the trip
Until then, here’s a peek the photo book I always make from my trips (our flight home was delayed by more than eight hours so I had plenty of time to put it together). You know, Jay Maisel always says “Shoot what turns you on” and the thousands of 1950s classic cars on every street really turned me on so you’l see plenty of them throughout the book, just like you see them all over Havana. I have so much more to share (including more photos), and I hope I get the change to share Cuba with you soon! (click the images to see larger versions).

P.S. All shot with a Nikon D800 with just one lens: a Nikon 28-300 f/3.5 to f/5.6 VR lens. No HDR at all  (though I did shoot a bunch of bracketed shots so I will tone map a few soon).  — the post processing was done in Lightroom 4, except for Panos, I added extra contrast to a few shots, and I removed a couple of spots and a distracting sign here or there, but 98% was done in Lightroom 4 itself.

More to come during my photo talk. Gracias mis amigos!