I had been to Cuba about five times since 2014 before my most recent trip last year to Viñales, in the far western province of Pinar del Río. Cuba is a big country, with varied landscapes and cityscapes, and a range of economic regionalization. The one commonality I’ve found is people who are outgoing and eager to engage you in conversation, especially away from tourist areas – in a city park or while hiking through farmland or to a hidden beach. It is the best Spanish language immersive experience!
On previous trips, I shot cross-processed EKTACHROME in a Mamiya 6 to create street panorama montages. And I always have my phone with the Vignette app set to its toy camera setting (that does a great job of emulating a Diana toy camera). This time I decided to bring my Rollei 35S, generously gifted to me by a good friend a few years ago.
It’s a zone focus camera and to get maximum depth of field, I decided to shoot 400-speed film. I love Portra 400 from other projects with my Mamiya, so the choice was easy. The first three shots are from Pinar del Río, and the last two are from the Malecón in Havana. For the most part, I shot at f/16 and 1/500.
I’m happy with the results. The lens is sharp but not clinically so. And the colors…I love Portra.
The one drawback with zone focus is nailing focus when you need or want to shoot a close subject at f/4 or f/2.8. But I recently discovered external coldshoe-mounted rangefinders. My circa 1950s Watameter rangefinder is on the way and I can’t wait to use it to shoot more Portra 400 in my Rollei 35S.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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