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Learn Photography Master Thread
Amazing pics!
I wish I knew how to take better pics.
Umm...can I get a photography class from you?

I've been getting the impression around here lately that there are a great many people here (not just Dan ;)) who would love to get more into photography. In every trip report, half the comments on the pictures is someone wishing that they could take pictures like that, that they could maximize their camera's potential.

For a long time I've wanted to start a thread on learning photography, starting from the very basics and progressing to more and more advanced topics. I've made a rough outline (see below) of what I would like to cover.

I'm thinking this could even be more than just a simple how-to. Have a question about a certain technique? Always wanted to get a certain 'look' in a photograph and don't know how? Want to know why all your indoor pictures are blurry :)? I'd be more then happy to give you my $.02. Hopefully other DDF'ers who are knowledgeable about photography could chime in as well..

This is probably gonna be a lot of work from my end, so I don't want to do it if there's not much interest. If you think this is something you'd enjoy please let me know by posting here.

Here's a rough outline of what I'd like to cover. If anyone has any ideas/recommendations/requests please let me know.


Choosing a camera
Point and shoot vs. mirrorless vs. DSLR
Camera specs and what they mean
Which specs to focus on and which to ignore
Balance between needs/price/convenience

Lenses 101 - technology, terminology, and specs, zooms vs. primes, basic/advanced/unique lenses

Lighting 101 - focusing specifically on easy to afford and easy to use setups
Small flash - on camera, off camera, modifiers and accessories
Studio strobes
Continuous lighting - fluorescent, LED, and halogen
Basic light modifiers - umbrellas, softboxes, gels, reflectors
Basic supports - lightstands, umbrella brackets, backgrounds, etc.

All about accessories - memory cards, tripods, bags, filters, remotes, adapters, grips, geotaggers, and more)

So I bought all my stuff - now what?

What makes a compelling photograph?
Exposure basics - the shutter speed/aperture/ISO triangle
Depth of field
Composition basics - rule of thirds, perspective, framing
Advanced composition - negative space, inclusion and exclusion, compression
Light - natural, golden hour, basic flash usage.

Let's start shooting...

In the park
Playing sports
At home

Landscapes and wildlife:
"Grand" landscapes
"Intimate" landscapes
Birds in flight
Shooting in bad weather

Babies and newborns
Single person - indoors
Single person - outdoors
Natural light
Artificial light - simple
Artificial light - complex
Mixed light

Close up and macro
Product photography

How do I...? (Some specific scenarios/techniques - Basic)
Shoot out of a plane window?
Shoot underwater?
Shoot compelling black-and-white?

How do I...? (Some specific scenarios/techniques - Advanced)
Long exposures
Light painting
Twilight landscapes
Milky Way
Star trails

Basic editing concepts:
Layers and masking

So... what do you think?

(A quick note on my photographic "record" and where I'm coming from:: I was a salesperson and later trainer in one of the biggest photo stores in the US, and trained salespeople in all topics I hope to cover. I currently work as a product developer for a large manufacturer, where I design and develop photo and lighting equipment and accessories. You could see a small selection of my photography on my Flickr page - click the little globe under my user name to get there.)

April 29, 2013, 01:24:23 AM
National Free Day Coupons Master Thread Comes as a coupon code From the 1-2-Free promo.

Up to full size, and works for one ways.

Expires 6/16.

$25 each, $45 for both, OBO.

June 08, 2014, 10:07:23 AM
Writing a trip report? Here's how to add pictures. I can't even count the amount of times I've answered this question in one form or another, both on the forums and by PM. I figured I'll write up some detailed instructions and hope people will find this useful.

This tutorial has five sections:
  • Understanding the basics
  • Adding pictures
  • Sharing private pictures
  • Additional methods
  • Summary

Note that nothing in this post will show up properly in Tapatalk; use a regular browser to follow along.

Understanding the basics:

Hosting: The pictures have to live somewhere. They are not stored on DDF; the forum system follows a couple of codes which tells it where the picture is stored, and it "pulls" the picture from there and displays it in your post. What this means is that for any picture to be displayed on DDF it first has to be uploaded to an image hosting service.

There are many hosting services out there, including Photobucket, ImageShack, tinypic, and imgur. All work on the same principle: you upload your pictures, the site provides the necessary code and links, and will display your picture when called upon to do so by DDF.

My personal host of preference is Flickr, for a multitude of reasons:
  • They're part of Yahoo, so I know that it's not going anywhere soon. Many hosts have come and gone, and with it, your pictures and links. That's not something I'm worried about with Flickr.
  • They give you an entire terabyte of space for free, with no limits on the amount of uploads or views per day (like some others do).
  • You could organize your pictures in many different ways, such as by type, trip, etc.
  • You could name and describe your pictures (and have that show up on DDF too, should you choose to), and people could leave comments, etc.
  • You could keep your pictures private, making them only accessible if it's clicked through from DDF, should you choose to.
  • If someone wants to know more about the picture they could click on it and see the exposure info, tags, even a map of where the picture was taken from (considering the file has location information included).

The examples we'll examine below will all be from Flickr, but the steps generally apply to all other hosting sites.

BBCode: The forum runs on something called BBCode (BBC for short). Without this code all that could be displayed is plain text; adding BBC tags however will let you format your post in many different ways. You do not have to know any coding to use this; generally you could click on one of the icons while posting and the code will automatically be entered for you. However, understanding how the codes in question work, what each part means, and so on are all very useful to know and will be explained here.

Once your pictures are online on a hosting site, you will use the [img] tag to tell the forum where your picture is stored, what size to display it at, and what happens if the picture is clicked on.

Adding pictures:

Let's have a look at the different options and controls, and how they would show up on the forum.

Step 1: Uploaded your pictures. Sign in or create an account on your hosting site of choice, and follow the prompts to upload your pictures. 

Step 2: From your host, navigate to the picture in question and choose to "share", "get link", or whatever that particular website calls it. On Flickr this is designated by an arrow:

Step 3: There may be many different sharing options. Here the choices are Link, HTML, and BBCode. Click on BBCode (top box), and the correct code will be generated (bottom box):

Note that BBC can also be referred to as "Forum" or "Forum Code" on different sites.

This will generate the required [img] code needed, but don't copy and paste just yet.

Step 4: Choose a size. This will determine how large the picture shows up on DDF:

I find that Large 1024 seems to work best for me; it displays at a pretty decent size in the thread, while not slowing everything down. For comparison, here's what the picture would look appear like in Large 1024, Small 240, and Original, in that order:

Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr

Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr

Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr

I think it's obvious that 1024 seems to work best here. 240 doesn't really show anything, while Original is simply bonkers.

Note that the size options you get will vary slightly depending on the particular picture in question; however it'll be close enough to the options here.

Step 5: Copy and paste. Once you've chosen a size, copy and paste the resulting code into your post. While editing it'll look like so...

[url=][img][/img][/url][url=]Haleakala Sunrise[/url] by [url=]Morris Hersko[/url], on Flickr

...and display like so once previewed or posted:

Haleakala Sunrise by Morris Hersko, on Flickr

Let's take a detailed look at what we have, and how it happened:
  • We have the picture displayed at the size we chose.
  • If you click on the picture it takes you to flickr where you could see more details, different sizes, and move around my pages to see other pictures.
  • We have the image name as a caption, which itself is also a clickable link to the above-mentioned page.
  • We have a photo credit, which links to my flickr profile page.

How did all this happen, and how could we manipulate the code to change which of these actually happen?

Let's break the code down piece by piece:

[url=][img][/img][/url][url=]Haleakala Sunrise[/url] by [url=]Morris Hersko[/url], on Flickr

Red is the most important part - the [img] and [/img] tags notify the system that a picture should be inserted here, while the URL in between tells the system where to find said picture. This is static: all it does is show the picture - no links, credits, etc. If this is what you want, keep only this part of the code and erase the rest (see example 1 below).

Green is a [url] tag. This is what makes the picture clickable. Since this tag surrounds the [img] tag, it means that the entire picture is clickable, not text, as is typical. This is how I personally post my pictures, since I'm not a fan of the caption and credit parts. By only using the red and green parts of the code, it shows the picture only, but clickable. See example 2 below.

Blue Is the caption; the [url] tag makes the "Haleakala Sunrise" clickable. Likewise, purple is the link and text to my profile page. You could eliminate either by deleting the applicable parts of the code (personally I delete both, like I said above). See example 3 below where I kept the caption but got rid of my profile link.

Brown is pure text and is there to turn the caption into a coherent sentence.

Example 1 - Static, non-clickable picture. The code used shown first, then the result:


Example 2 - my personal preference. Clickable picture, no caption:


Example 3 - As above, but with the caption and no profile link:

[url=][img][/img][/url][url=]Haleakala Sunrise[/url]

Haleakala Sunrise

Sharing private pictures:

The above steps only works if the picture is public. What if you want them private, but viewable (and clickable) only through DDF? For this we use something Flickr calls a Guest Pass. It generates a special link for your private photos, and only someone with that link (and in this case, DDF) could view the picture.

This process adds three more steps to the process:

Step 6: After step 5 above, jump back to Flickr's sharing menu, and choose Link:

Step 7: Since this is a private picture, the standard link will hit a blocked page. But when you click on the "Get Link" button, the special Guest Pass link will be generated:

Step 8: Copy the resulting link, and use it to replace the original link. Replace the red part or the original code below with your new link and everything will work as if it was a public photo:

[url=][img][/img][url=]Haleakala Sunrise[/url] by [url=]Morris Hersko[/url], on Flickr

Flickr has a couple of options for the Guest Passes, such as setting expiration dates. See this page for more info.

Additional methods:

DDF hosted: The forum actually does have a built-in image hosting feature, but that is only for extremely small file sizes (meaning the pictures will be very low quality). Additionally, the pictures only show up at the bottom of the post, and as thumbnails only. All this means that it's is generally not a good option for trip reports. To use this feature, click the "Attachments and other options" link below the text field.

Tapatalk hosted: If you have your pictures on your phone you could click on the camera icon to upload a picture. This works in a similar way to Flickr - the picture will be uploaded to Tapatalk's servers, and it will automatically generate the code and insert into your post. The disadvantage of this method is that you have no control on the size of the picture - it will be displayed like the Original sample above.

Other website: If the picture is hosted on any other website, you could copy the image link (generally this will not be the page link) and paste the address between [img] and [/img] tags. As with Tapatalk, you will have no control on the size of the image.

  • Upload your pictures to an image hosting site.
  • From their "share" or "link" dialog choose BBCode or Forum, and select a size.
  • Paste the resulting code into your DDF thread.
  • Tweak the code if desired to change some settings
  • If your picture is private, use a Flickr Guest Pass

October 25, 2014, 11:11:43 PM
Something Fishy's Maui and Lanai Trip Report, Courtesy of Delta Trip Report
Planning and booking


In November of 2012 I went to Kauai and the Big Island for the first time, and was promptly bitten by the Hawaii bug. I have been to many beautiful and interesting places, but none have smitten me like Hawaii. No other place made me want to return so bad that it hurt.
So when I got a DDMS text one cold and dreary December morning that Delta was having a major pricing glitch, I know exactly where I'm going. After half a nail-biting hour of browsers hanging and Priceline misbehaving, I had my prize in hand: three ticketed reservations, flying JFK-LAX-LIH on 8/10, and returning OGG-HNL-SEA-JFK on the 18th. Total cost? $582.90. Within a few minutes of booking the deal was dead; prices were back up to normal.
Of course I know that this being a glitch, it's very likely that the tickets won't be honored. However, after just a few minutes, another text arrived: Delta announced that they're honoring any and all tickets! Thinking this can't get any better, I settled back down to work. But what do you know - another text: the glitch had worked for first class as well! I hadn't even thought of searching for F and J, and now I was kicking myself for it. On a whim, I figured I'd check my tickets again - if Delta was so broken, who knows, maybe they put me in first class too. Sure enough, there it was - all but one leg in either First or Business Elite! The only leg that was not - LAX-LIH - had booked into B class, which would entitle me to free Economy Comfort.
The original plan was to spend half the time on Kauai and the other half on Maui, but we later decided to skip Kauai this time and just focus on Maui. Delta was more than happy to let us change our flights – so long as we paid the difference in the fare. No, thank you :P...
Since this was more than six months out, I knew that it’s almost inevitable that there won’t be a schedule change, so I decided to wait for that and change the tickets then. Sure enough, in early March, I got an email that the LAX-LIH flight had been pushed off by two hours. A quick phone call later and I was confirmed on a new itinerary: JFK-LAX-HNL-LIH. This was perfect since I would now be flying to LA lie-flat on the B767 instead of recliners on the B757, but more importantly, I could now drop the HNL-LIH leg and jump on a HNL-OGG plane instead.

A week before leaving I suddenly get an email notifying me of a completely new itinerary: JFK-ATL in F on an MD-88 (>:( >:( >:(), and ATL-HNL on the A330 in Economy Comfort. The really annoying part was that my original flights were still scheduled as normal - but for some reason they had bumped me off those flights! I called Delta right away and expressed my disappointment on flying 2 hours in "first" and then 9+ hours in economy, vs. 5.5 hours in a lie-flat bed. The rep was extremely helpful (and annoyed at the change as well, since she could not see any reason for it), and asked me how she could make things right.

Make things right? Hmmmm... difficult question... "Well, ma'am, I think if you could put me in J on the ATL-HNL leg that would make the itinerary change easier to handle..." She put me on hold and came back a minute later: "Well Mr. Fishy, I'm happy to let you know that you're confirmed into the last three remaining Business Elite seats for your flight to Honolulu". Woo Hoo  ;D ;D ;D! Not only was I in F/J all the way through, but this was on the internationally configured, brand-new, A330! Not a bad way to get to Hawaii...

On our return flights we also had a couple of minor schedule changes, which ended up in switching the original OGG-HNL-SEA-JFK to OGG-LAX-JFK. The advantages were a later flight out, so more time in Hawaii, plus lie-flat on the 767 on the LAX-JFK leg.

All in all I found Delta absolutely amazing the deal with. From the very beginning when they announced that they're honoring the glitch tickets, through the multitude of schedule changes (there were 11 of them in total, each of which worked to my advantage), to the flights themselves. Pity their FFP is so lousy.

Final tally per passenger:

Out of pocket: $196.33.
F/J throughout.
Mileage earned:
- 630 UR (booked using CSP)
- 14,716 AS (@1.5x actual mileage)
- 14,716 DL (yes, they credited both my AS and DL accounts ;D)

Assuming 1.5cpm, total cost p/p: $-254.60.

Not a bad deal... Not bad at all.

November 16, 2014, 10:37:17 PM
Re: Paradise Found: A "Holiday" to New Zealand in the Chariots of Kings

 ;D ;D ;D

February 07, 2015, 09:26:19 PM
Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l
August 01, 2015, 11:57:21 PM
Re: A Glimpse of Patagonia: Joe's El Calafate Trip Report Awesome so far, looking forward to the rest. Patagonia has been on my bucket list for a long time.

My favorite part so far - around 1.5 seconds in, I see that you were planning this trip report already ;D ;D ;D:

December 22, 2015, 11:58:23 PM
Re: What Do You Do For Kosher Food While Traveling?
That's it? Has no one taken these on a road trip in a cooler box in the back of the car?
I'm planning a 3 week road trip and I'm hoping that I can use these for the first week.

As long as you keep on changing the ice in the cooler it should stay cold and fresh.

August 10, 2016, 07:43:16 AM
Viva La Revolución! Time-traveling to Cuba with Something Fishy, whYME, and CITH This trip report will be in a similar format as the recent Icelandic one, with me doing the bulk of the writing and whYME and Cat In The Hat adding their thoughts, pictures, and commentary. As with Iceland, color coding will help maintain an easy flow.

So without further ado, here it goes.

Photo by Something Fishy:

Photo by whYME:

Photo by Cat In The Hat:

August 15, 2016, 02:04:50 AM
Re: Viva La Revolución! Time-traveling to Cuba with Something Fishy, whYME, and CITH [Something Fishy] Like many, I've always had a powerful urge to document and photograph that forbidden and mysterious island, Cuba. So close, yet so far. A mere 90 miles from the United States, Cuba has been off-limits to US citizens since President Kennedy imposed a complete trade embargo in 1960. While non-Americans have always been able to visit, for U.S. citizens it's always been an out of reach dream. Technically, the issue is not traveling; that's allowed. The problem is spending money there. The Treasury Department - whose responsibility it is to enforce the embargo - (rightfully) claims that it's impossible to go to Cuba and not spend money, ergo you may not travel there.

For many years now there has been a list of 12 allowed categories, which allowed you to visit Cuba if you fit into one of them. For example, visiting immediate family in Cuba, doing research, humanitarian, or journalistic work, and so on. The loophole that allowed ultra-expensive group tours to go was the "People-to-People" cultural exchange category. In such a case, you must remain with the tour group at all times, and you were only allowed to do "approved cultural activities" - take a salsa class, meet schoolchildren, and so on. For decades, this was the only legal way to visit Cuba as a tourist.

But by early 2015, big changes were afoot. In January, it was announced that travel restrictions will be somewhat eased; in July, President Obama would announce the renewal of diplomatic relationships with Cuba and the imminent mutual opening of embassies. The important part - for me - was the news that going forward, U.S. citizens could self-certify an affidavit that they belong to one of the 12 categories, throwing the journalistic window wide open. In the past you needed to have a legitimate press card, assignment, and Treasury Department approval to get the waiver. Now, you could sign a piece of paper and be good to go.

I instantly bestowed upon myself the title of DDF Travel Writer, declared that I'll be writing a trip report, and began planning this trip ;D.

With restrictions easing, I know it was just a matter of time before direct flights from the U.S. were announced, and business opportunities opened. It wouldn't take long before there was a McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner, and the last vestiges of the Cuban time capsule were erased. Unquestionably, the time to go was now.

Not all was smooth sailing, though. I discovered a more formidable foe than the U.S. Government, in the form of my wife ;D. She absolutely, flat-out, refused to go to Cuba. It didn't interest her as a destination, it was kinda dangerous (Alan Gross had just been released after being held for five years in a Cuban prison), and the fact that the trip was only quasi-legal didn't help either.

That Shabbos, we were invited for a meal by Cat In The Hat. CITH is a good friend of mine, who has come with me on multiple photography trips (see my Wyoming and Maine TRs for example). I convinced him to create an account before this trip, but he's not very active here on DDF. Like me, he'd harbored a long burning Cuba bug, and was mightily excited about the recent news. During this Shabbos meal, we were discussing the fact that neither of our wives are remotely interested in going, when the ladies exchanged an exasperated look and said in unison, "If you two want to go so badly then go together! Just leave us out of this."

And just like that, the trip was on ;D.

I can neither confirm nor deny that this Shabbos meal was all collusion between CITH and I :-X.

As soon as Shabbos was over, I called whYME - who I knew was itching to go to Cuba as well - with the good news that the trip is likely a reality. It didn't take ten seconds and I had him - once again - hooked on a Photo DO :D.

[whYME] Well I was hooked in seconds, but let's just say my discussion about it with my wife didn't go quite as planned. "CUBA?! No, not Cuba. Anywhere but Cuba!" Apparently she had also been reading about Alan Gross and was convinced that if I went to Cuba I would be spending the next ten years in a Gulag. And thus began a convince-my-wife-that-Cuba-is-safe campaign. One morning during this time my wife showed me a news story, that there had been a stabbing not 200 feet from our front door during the night.She looked at me strangely when I burst out laughing at this news, so I showed her a Whatsapp Something Fishy had sent me the night before that I needed to tell her that Cuba is safer than Crown Heights . Eventually she was convinced that Cuba is safe enough (well, as long as you're not smuggling in illegal telecommunication devices) and I was given the OK to go.

To this day I wonder if maybe instead of pushing Cuba I should've taken advantage of "anywhere but cuba" and leveraged it for something bigger. Like maybe Antarctica? .

[Something Fishy] With the group finalized, it was time to find flights. At the time there were no flights between the U.S. and Cuba, save for a few uber-expensive charters. We needed to find a roundabout routing, preferably using miles. After a ton of research, it seemed that the best available options were on Aeromexico via MEX or CUN using DL miles, AC via YYZ in rev (AC does not allow point redemptions on that flight), or Copa (CM) via PTY using *A miles. With DL wanting around a trillion miles plus one (1) firstborn son, and AC wanting real, actual money (horrors!), CM was looking the most attractive.

Right away though we began hitting roadblocks. United.poop wasn't showing a single flight to Havana - even on partners -, likely because they themselves weren't allowed to fly there. On the phone, every agent insisted that even though they can see the availability, they cannot book it. Trying United's Mexican office, they were able to book it, but not on points. After a whole lot of trial and error, we discovered that if you manually select to show only Copa flights on Avianca's Lifemiles site, you could force it to show availability. Once we found the flights we wanted, we discovered that SQ will be more than happy to issue the tickets for us.

So after a week of headaches, CITH and I had the following in hand for 60K SQ + $86.48 in J:

Sun., 8/16: CM831 JFK-PTY, 3:05p – 7:37p
--- 1:58 connection ---
Sun., 8/16: CM230 PTY-HAV, 9:35p – 1:10a, +1
Thu., 8/20: CM321 HAV-PTY, 8:47a – 10:26a
--- 11:08 connection ---
Thu., 8/20: CM808 PTY-JFK, 9:34p – 3:45a, +1

[whYME] I had a bit more trouble here. I was unsure whether I would want to fly from BOS or JFK, so I wasn't quite ready to book yet when they were booking. Ultimately I decided I would fly from BOS and return to JFK. But by the time I was ready to book, the PTY-JFK that the other guys were on was no longer available, so I booked one for the following morning hoping that the other flight would open up.

My booking looked like this, for 60K SQ + $91.63 in J:

Sun., 8/16: CM312 BOS-PTY, 9:26a – 2:18p
--- 7:17 connection ---
Sun., 8/16: CM230 PTY-HAV, 9:35p – 1:10a, +1
Thu., 8/20: CM321 HAV-PTY, 8:47a – 10:26a
--- 23:06 connection ---
Fri., 8/21: CM830 PTY-JFK, 7:41a – 1:50p

Wed., 4/20/16: UA631 EWR-SFO (threw in the free stopover)

I would be arriving in PTY 5+ hours before the other guys, and if I couldn't get on their flight for the return, spending an extra night there.

[Something Fishy] The final routing (yellow) was slightly bonkers, as we would be going nearly 2.5x the distance as JFK-HAV direct (blue). But if this was the price to pay, so be it. On the upside, this routing gave us a full day to explore Panama on the way home.

With flights sorted and out of the way, it was time to find a place to sleep.

There are two main lodging options in Cuba: hotels or what's called a casa particular. Up until around ten years ago, no Cuban was allowed to engage in any sort of private enterprise; everyone worked in government factories, government groceries, and so on. But the Castros have slowly been opening up limited economic opportunities for citizens, and among the first reforms was that people were now able to rent out their houses or rooms to others. This created a market where private people were able to put up tourists in their homes, which got dubbed casa particulars (Hipster Cuba did vacation rentals before it was cool, apparently).

Looking at hotels, we found an incredibly limited selection, split pretty evenly between $150/night hole-in-the-walls and $500/night ultra-fancy places. With neither option being very appealing, we decided to take a casa. Luckily for us, Airbnb had just announced that they're beginning operations in Cuba, with over 1000 casas available from the get-go.

It didn't take long and we found an ideal place: it was in the heart of Old Havana, all of 100 feet from the national capitol building ("El Capitolio"), it looked nice and clean, and most importantly, it had AC. The listing even claimed that there was Wi-Fi, a true rarity in Cuba. It cost $39/night, which worked out to the princely sum of $13 per person. The booking process was a little different than usual, as Airbnb would not confirm the stay until everyone in the party filled out the affidavit through a special link they sent us. Other than that, the booking was perfectly painless; it was just like booking a place in the U.S.

The food situation was more complicated. Officially, the only food allowed in (other than dry goods, like bread, crackers, and the like) was "canned tuna from a recognized national brand". We never did figure out who decides what's well known and what isn't, but we did know that we're not taking any chances smuggling forbidden items into a totalitarian communist dictatorship...

The big question was what - if anything - could be bought locally. Obviously, there would be zero kosher food, but we were hoping to be able to drink something other than water and maybe get some local produce as well. The problem was that when searching online, half the internet claimed that there were fruit and vegetable carts all over town, while the other half insisted that they weren't able to find a single piece of produce.

Turns out a colleague of mine had gone to Cuba a year before on a cultural exchange program, so I want downstairs to find out what I could expect to buy locally. According to him, there was produce easily available, as well as Coke products. Two bits of good news - I just hoped that he was right.

In the end, we brought along rolls and wraps, PB&J, Tradition soups, granola bars, and tons of snacks (rugalech, chocolate, nosh, things like that). For protein, we took a mountain of tuna from Chicken of the Sea, hoping against hope that it was "national brand" enough for Cuban customs :(.
[whYME] I personally was willing to take the risk that the heimishe tuna was"national brand" enough for Cuban customs so I went with that. Supplemented with local fruits and veggies, it wasn't looking too bad after all.

The visa situation was unclear as well. In the U.S., plenty of tour companies are happy to sell you a visa for $85, but only if you fly with them. Flying on our own, it was unclear how and when to obtain it. After much research, it appeared that they sell it at the airport in Panama for all of ten bucks.

Transportation-wise, we would be using taxis. Renting a car is possible, but the cost is exorbitant, the roads in pathetic condition, and the cars garbage. Most importantly, by Cuban law, if you're involved on a motor vehicle accident, you are not allowed to leave the country until the case is settled, which could take months. The fact that the bulk of the taxis are lovely classic American cars didn't hurt that decision either.

Our itinerary for the trip was purposely left very fluid. Even though Cuba is a fairly popular spot for Canadian and European tourists, there was a surprising dearth of practical info available online. Being that the goal of this trip was to photograph and document everyday life in Cuba, our plan consisted of basically wandering around Old Havana, observing, shooting, and interacting with the locals.

Many visitors to Cuba go to more than just Havana. The beaches of Varedero are legendary, but being that we were on a journalistic licence we weren't allowed to go to beaches (and as it turned out, we could've gotten into serious trouble upon return had we taken bathing suits along. But that story will have to wait ;D). Another popular option is to fly to Trinidad de Cuba, but it was too similar to Havana to interest us much, plus the timing simply didn't work out.

In the end I discovered Vinales. Supposedly a two-hour drive from Havana, this is real, rural Cuba. This is prime tobacco-growing country, and of astounding natural beauty. Hopefully, we'll find a taxi driver who could take us there for the day for a change of pace and scenery.

Finally, the plans were made, the paperwork filled out in triplicate, and I promised my wife - again - to try and stay out of trouble and out of jail.

We were ready to travel back in time.

August 15, 2016, 02:05:39 AM