By LORENZO MOSCIA
It has been seven years since I last visited Cuba. Again it was an intense journey. I managed to “escape” and rediscover street photography which I left behind in the past years. My equipment was the trusted Ricoh GR and a Canon 6D with the 50mm F1.2. The Canon was difficult to use, the Ricoh however was as always an excellent choice.
What I have to say is, many people in Cuba suffer from Dengue fever, the government was fumigating all the time. But the Cubans are always great with a big sense of humor. Nevertheless, the capital Havana is different and no longer the laid-back place it once was. There is crime, people are stealing, a lot of apartments and houses have now security systems installed, something I haven’t seen in the years before. If you go eat in a restaurant you always have to double check the bill.
But as you can imagine, Cuba and Havana are great places to be with a camera. Each time I was walking down the street and took out the Canon, all sorts of people would approach me because in their eyes I represented the typical “yankee” with dollars.
I would start to talk to them in a sort of Cuban slang (I have been married to my cuban wife for the past 14 years), so they would let me alone. But going around with the Ricoh GR was a totally new experience to me. I rediscovered the pure plasure of the “street photo,” just going around with no particular subject in mind, with a little camera in one hand with great feel and handling, and no one would be pay attention to me.
I usually use the Ricoh in A mode and find very easy to play with the apertures. But I love as well the unique TAv mode where I set aperture (let’s say F5.6 or F8) and speed (something faster than 125) — and the camera just finds the ISO to match. That is very usefull when you walk around and you just shoot on the move and don’t want panning images.
So, not a single Cuban gave me any attention with that camera, even in some more extreme “barrios” neighborhood where tourists not normally go. I really felt like invisible.
The bad part about the Ricoh is battery life. Very poor. Even with the blind screen option on. I will have to buy an extra battery. The second problem is autofocus in low light condition — even though the camera offers the manual and snap options which are very good by the way. Overall, the files look nice with very balanced color and very good dynamic range.
Well the Canon remained in the bag most of the time. I used it basically for the portrait series. Some days I went around with just the Ricoh, holding it in one hand like a packet of cigarettes, spot a scene from a distance, get closer and take pictures whitout looking at the screen.
If I would go buying “fuel” at the local market down the road (beer and rum for the family and juice for the kids), the Ricoh would be always in one hand allowing me to take pictures even if I was carrying bags with both hands.
Using this camera in the streets of Havana is not exactly like my “first love.” That title clearly goes to the one and only black Contax G2 with the 28mm. But, I must admit, the Ricoh feels pretty close.