Take me to Havana

January 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in the 1960s, the first airplane hijackings started. Havana was a popular hijacking destination because there were no regular flights from the U.S. and because some people sought asylum in Cuba.

As a result, the phrase “Take me to Havana” entered popular language.

The irony is there were other hijackers in Cuba trying to go the other way, especially in later years. There was even an unsuccessful attempt to hijack a Havana harbour ferry to Miami. It never made it out of Cuban waters.

The U.S. embargo of Cuba has made travel between the two countries inconvenient at best, and at times almost impossible. Fortunately, for Canadians wanting to travel to Cuba, there have always existed other safter options.

Cuba is a popular vacation destination for Canadians (and Europeans), many of whom travel to Varadero or Cayo Coco for all-expenses included resort vacations on the beach and in the sun. Even many Americans vacation in Cuba illegally by going through Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.

At times the U.S. hatred of Cuba has been visceral — especially among Miami’s Cuban expatriate community for whom Castro is worse than the devil. I’ve never quite understood why the U.S. was so rabidly anti-Cuba when it has been willing since the 1970s to make peace with the repressive regime in Communist China. I understand that many American properties — many controlled by the mafia — were confiscated by the Cubans after the revolution, but that was more than 50 years ago! Probably it has more to do with Cuba’s proximity to the U.S., and remnants of the Monroe Doctrine than with the nature of the Cuban regime itself.

While the embargo has hurt Cuba, and has only succeeded (ironically) in keeping the Castro brothers in power longer than ever, it has also kept Cuba from being globally homogenized like so many other parts of the world. The only McDonald’s in Cuba is at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay.

I have long wanted to see Cuba for myself, though I find the idea of a resort vacation incredibly boring. The 1990s film Buena Vista Social Club, and other glimpses of Cuba have made me want to visit Havana — to see all the old 1950s classic cars, the Afro-Latin culture and music, and the relatively unspoiled colonial architecture.

And so, tomorrow I set out from Montreal on a chartered flight to Havana. I will be very careful though not to make any hijacking jokes.

Take me to Havana.

Blakeney Rapids in winter

January 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Parliament buildings in winter

January 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Changing seasons, changing perspectives

January 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

One of the things I especially like about the Ottawa area is the changing seasons. They offer lots of opportunities to photograph the same subject with sharply different seasonal moods.

I admit though that Ottawa has far too much winter, and not enough of the other seasons. Spring is short, and the tulips bloom for a week or two, and then you’re into the hot, humid summer. Autumn colours are spectacular, but they disappear as quickly as they appear, leaving the trees bare. And then there are months on end of cold, bleak, snowy winter.

This year there was little snow in November and December, and as I write this on January 2, the snow is almost gone after a bit of a warm spell. Still, there are several more months of winter, and if history is any guide, there will be lots of snow before it’s over. Ottawa never lacks humidity.

This year was a challenge for shooting winter scenes. I wanted to refresh my Christmas card shots of the Parliament buildings, but had to leave it until a couple weeks before Christmas for lack of snow. Even then, the snow was light.

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One of my favourite local places to shoot the changing seasons is the rapids at Blakeney, just west of Ottawa. Here the Mississippi River (no, not that Mississippi) tumbles over rocks and twists through forests. Setting my camera on a tripod, and using a slow shutter speed creates a smooth effect with the flowing water. Coloured autumn leaves, or ice on the shores create very different seasonal moods.

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Autumn

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Winter

It’s good to revisit the same locations and see how they change with the seasons. As I curse the seemingly endless Ottawa winters, I try to appreciate the variety of perspectives that our changing seasons bring.

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