2014 Cuba Photo Tour

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This year’s photo tour to Cuba was a resounding success! We had nine wonderful, creative and engaging people join us this time. We were able to secure our favorite guide, Tatiana, whose great humor and open mind was perfect for our wandering band of photographers. Guides, especially in a place like Cuba (where things tend to be done the way they are “supposed” to be done, after decades of top down directed life) tend to prefer to control their groups & move them according to a schedule and a checklist. A photography tour has to flaunt that kind of rule, however, just by its very nature. We photographers need to explore, take our time, get to know a person or a place in order to create a better image. Postcard shots are all well and good, but in this age of ‘everyone is a photographer’, anyone who wants to actually do something special or unique with a camera needs to take a little more time, give a little more effort, in order to find their vision. Tatiana got that (after a little training of course!)

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I’ve heard recently that photographers are suffering from “Cuba decay fatigue”. So many have gone to Cuba in the last ten or so years & brought back images of the decaying buildings, doors, walls, infrastructure, etc, that some are getting tired of looking at it. There is a parallel version of this happening with images of decaying industrial buildings here in the states too. The problem with this criticism is that at least with Cuba, it’s so much a part of the country and the culture, that you can’t avoid it. I love the doors, of which I’ve made dozens, maybe hundreds of images (two above) and the walls are filled with stories. Shades of Aaron Siskind and Harry Callahan! (look them up)

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But back to our trip. As I’ve written before, the Cubans are warm, friendly & itching for more contact with us.  The two schoolgirls were enrolled in a music conservatory where we were given a concert of sometimes world class excellence from the older students. The enthusiasm of everyone there was life affirming, and during the finale, a rousing version of ‘Guantanamera’ (which I was ready to never hear again as it is played too many times for visitors, but this version was jazzy, a full salsa band rollick through the auditorium), the entire student body was joined by the faculty in salsa dancing in the aisles. The fellow on the left was part of another musical show, street performers doing traditional African dance & drumming in a poor neighborhood that is being reclaimed by the arts called Callejon de Hamel.

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Of course the old cars are everywhere, seducing every visitor. But they are simply evidence of the resourcefulness of the Cubans. I love this image captured in a farmer’s market. Repurposed Corona beer bottles holding garlic paste for sale.20140131-6

There is a flood of Americans traveling to Cuba now. The hotels are being renovated at a frantic pace. We saw more economic activity in the form of major construction projects and new small businesses this trip than in both of our previous two. Change is coming to Cuba; the big question is how well it will be managed and how much outside influence will be exerted. If you want to see Cuba before the golden arches get there, I think you may want to start your planning now.

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The mountains near Vinales, a World Heritage Site in western Cuba known for tobacco farms.

Read more.. Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Mt. Auburn Cemetery

What is it about cemeteries that attracts photographers? It seems that every amateur photographer who starts to get serious about the craft ends up in a cemetery at some point in their development. I am no exception; I spent time in a beautiful local cemetery in CT years ago, photographing some of the older carvings & names, the dried up flowers left behind on anniversaries or holidays & the little flags commemorating the grave of a veteran. But it always felt trite to me, there wasn’t much that I created that I had not already seen before. So I did not pursue that subject very far.   As my garden photography career grew & I spent time in and around the Boston area people kept telling me about the Mt. Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, billed as America’s fist “garden” cemetery. It’s also one of the older ones, founded in 1831, & was created with the help of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society as a “rural” cemetery, as opposed to the more typical church yard version that was more common at the time.

Well all of the people who suggested I go to Mt. Auburn were right! The place is astoundingly beautiful. It’s got all that mystery & peaceful somberness of most cemeteries, but there is so much more. The landscape is lovely, there are vistas, precious surprises and interesting grave markers, no, make that wonderful grave markers everywhere. The lushness and beauty never stops. It has the arboreal interest of the best arboretums I have visited; tree lovers will go nuts here. Now I understand the attraction of a good cemetery for the photographer. Mt. Auburn is sexy, mystical, sweet and inviting, all at the same time. What more can one ask for in a subject? I’ll be back, for sure.

Read more.. Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Our January 2014 Cuba People-to-People Photography Trip is on!

Vinales World Heritage Area

Join us January 25- February 2 for a photography based trip to Cuba.  We will meet Cuban photographers, visit galleries and share our stories with Cubans and learn about their lives. We will see the gorgeous Havana architecture and meet many warm and open Cuban people. We will also visit the beautiful Vinales Valley, A UNESCO World Heritage Site and Cuban National Park. Most of our time will be spent in Havana.

Sunrise Over Old Havana

The light in Cuba is exquisite, suiting the generous spirit of its countrymen.  I will include instruction and we will review and critique images as the trip progresses. This is a unique opportunity!  Come see for yourself what others only talk about. Travel to Cuba is legal; we will be traveling under a “people-to-people” license issued by the US State Department. We will have a modern air conditioned coach bus for our ground transport accompanied by a knowledgeable Cuban guide and there will be ample time for exploring on your own. We will eat at some fantastic restaurants opened under new laws allowing private enterprise. We leave from and return to Miami.

Havana butcher

artist Juan Moreira

It’s not too early to start planning so set aside January 25-February 2, 2014. For more information you can email me rich@richpomerantz.com, or contact the Center for Cuban Studies at 212-242-0559 and ask for David.

Read more.. Thursday, September 26th, 2013

NYBG in Winter

Enid Haupt Conservatory at the NYBG two days after winter storm 'Nemo'

Certainly the NY Botanical Garden sees its share of snow, but I can say from personal experience that getting to see the NYBG with a healthy fresh snowfall, like we just got from winter storm Nemo, is a rare treat. So I was really looking forward to heading to the Bronx this past Sunday, just two days after Nemo, for my regular gig in the gorgeous Enid Haupt Conservatory, where I meet visitors on Sundays in January and February to help them with photography tips & tricks. The NYBG has a great incentive offered for these two months – upload your photos from the Tropical Paradise exhibit in the Conservatory to the NYBG flickr page & at the end of February the creator of the best image will win a free photography class at the garden. Click on the link to the flickr page and you’ll see some really wonderful photos made by some of the people I met there. NOTE: Many of these folks are shooting with point and shoot cameras! Proving yet again, that the most important piece of photographic equipment is the one between your ears.
I was not disappointed with the landscapes I found there – as you hopefully will agree:
There is still snow there, despite the warm weather of the past few days. The Conservatory is a wondrous place to visit. In two weeks the orchid show will be opening there and this contest will be finished. The orchid show is one of the most popular exhibitions that the garden puts on and it draws huge crowds, so I highly recommend you get over there before it opens on March 2. Then come back for the orchid show, because it is also quite fantastic! I will give you a tip though, there are orchids on display now, just a few, scattered here & there in the conservatory, to whet your appetite for these unique and inspiring flowers. Mostly you’ll find them in the last room  just past the cactus rooms, with the carnivorous plant display (that carnivorous plant display is often overlooked by visitors since they are kept in glass cases, but it’s a fascinating bunch of plants nonetheless). However there are a few other orchids hidden in the other display rooms, you have to look carefully to find them.

macro view of an orchid

So come on over to the Bronx for a dose of tropical warmth before spring raises her seductive head! The Haupt Conservatory at the NYBG is one of those treasures of New York City – easily accessible by subway from the city and only minutes from lower Westchester County.
Read more.. Saturday, February 16th, 2013

NYBG in Winter

Enid Haupt Conservatory at the NYBG two days after winter storm 'Nemo'

Certainly the NY Botanical Garden sees its share of snow, but I can say from personal experience that getting to see the NYBG with a healthy fresh snowfall, like we just got from winter storm Nemo, is a rare treat. So I was really looking forward to heading to the Bronx this past Sunday, just two days after Nemo, for my regular gig in the gorgeous Enid Haupt Conservatory, where I meet visitors on Sundays in January and February to help them with photography tips & tricks. The NYBG has a great incentive offered for these two months – upload your photos from the Tropical Paradise exhibit in the Conservatory to the NYBG flickr page & at the end of February the creator of the best image will win a free photography class at the garden. Click on the link to the flickr page and you’ll see some really wonderful photos made by some of the people I met there. NOTE: Many of these folks are shooting with point and shoot cameras! Proving yet again, that the most important piece of photographic equipment is the one between your ears.
I was not disappointed with the landscapes I found there – as you hopefully will agree:
There is still snow there, despite the warm weather of the past few days. The Conservatory is a wondrous place to visit. In two weeks the orchid show will be opening there and this contest will be finished. The orchid show is one of the most popular exhibitions that the garden puts on and it draws huge crowds, so I highly recommend you get over there before it opens on March 2. Then come back for the orchid show, because it is also quite fantastic! I will give you a tip though, there are orchids on display now, just a few, scattered here & there in the conservatory, to whet your appetite for these unique and inspiring flowers. Mostly you’ll find them in the last room  just past the cactus rooms, with the carnivorous plant display (that carnivorous plant display is often overlooked by visitors since they are kept in glass cases, but it’s a fascinating bunch of plants nonetheless). However there are a few other orchids hidden in the other display rooms, you have to look carefully to find them.

macro view of an orchid

So come on over to the Bronx for a dose of tropical warmth before spring raises her seductive head! The Haupt Conservatory at the NYBG is one of those treasures of New York City – easily accessible by subway from the city and only minutes from lower Westchester County.
Read more.. Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Foolproof Garden Photography – Revisiting the Garden

For better or worse we live in a culture of instant gratification and the expectation of immediate results. All too often we are too impatient to do the work required to generate truly meaningful change and growth. So it is with the usual moans and groans that I am greeted when I offer my foolproof method for achieving success and fulfillment photogaphing gardens: Keep doing it! The absolute best way to capture the true feeling of a garden is to visit it repeatedly at different times of the day and in all seasons. It makes sense after all, a garden is an organic palette, a man-made environment using natural growing materials. It is always changing, so it’s really quite impossible to capture any “best” image of a garden since the subject is in continuous flux. You have to capture it as it changes over time, to do it any justice.This lovely spot is at Pine Meadow Gardens in Southbury, CT, owned and designed by Wesley Rouse. I am in the midst of a four season photography project photographing this garden throughout the year, which is one of my favorite things to do in many gardens. One of the major attractions photography has always had for me has been to use it to document change over time, whether it be in the human form or in the landscape, whether man-made or not. The image above was captured in September. Here is the same view (different lens) made a few days ago. Winter garden photography is one of those rare niches in which there is little competition, but enormous rewards. Like other things it does require planning and thought. For instance it’s usually best done shortly after a fresh snowfall, so the snow has not yet fallen or been blown off the branches. Yet light is as ever, critical. Photographing when it is still cloudy will usually result in drab images. I am not one of those who thinks you can only create beautiful images in a garden in soft light, though there is some value in that (especially when doing plant portraits). I believe you need some dimension, some shading, which can only come from a direct light source. This is especially true in winter, with all that white! The snow does all kinds of things to your light, not the least of which is to bounce it all around. I learned from a ski photographer years ago to overexpose when shooting in snow – yes, that’s correct – overexpose. You have to fool your camera’s built in light meter, which wants to turn all the tonal values entering through the lens into an average medium gray. Do that and your white snow goes all gray and muddy and everything else in the image follows the snow down into darkness.  Hence the need to overexpose. But not too much. How much? You have to play with it. Perhaps as much as two full f-stops, but it depends on how much light you have and how your image is composed. More snow, more overexposure.This image did not need much overexposure due to the trees in the background and the arbor in front (I added some vignetting in Lightroom which darkens the arbor even more). Yet even this image was nonetheless overexposed by one-third of a stop).I happen to like moody, dark, contrasty images, even in pretty gardens. Shooting in winter gives me a bit more latitude to express my dark side. Yet in order to keep the image properly exposed and capture the detail of the plant against the snow covered hedge in the background, this image was overexposed by a full f-stop. Go figure! Then go shoot!

Read more.. Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

More Pet Peeps

I admit, blogging is perhaps the last place one should try to hide one’s foibles & inabilities. Two years ago at Christmas I posted what was promised to be the first of a series of animal photo based posts, with a bunch of dog photos. Then I followed it up with…….nada. Zilch. Lots of farmers & gardens. Farms and gardens, where I meet plenty of great animals which I photograph. Have I posted any pics?

Nah! My bad.

So since it started as a Christmas post with lots of beautiful pups, I figured I could make it up by starting anew with the same theme because, (speaking as a hopeless dog lover who can NEVER get enough doggie love) who doesn’t love dogs? Seriously, who could resist Millie (the French Bulldog below)?With a face like that, you have to be a lover! And she is so affectionate. Yes, it’s an iphone photo, proving yet again that the best camera is the one you have at hand. So meet some of my canine friends:

This photo bomb is Dash, a Portuguese Water dog who lets Maria Nation garden in his yard.. Maria’s garden was featured in Great Gardens of the Berkshires (my 2008 opus) and has been in many magazines, as well as the cover of the Garden Conservancy’s summer open gardens guide a few years back.

This happy fellow lives at the Wilson Botanic Garden in Costa Rica. He was my tour guide and companion for the better part of an afternoon as I found my way around the grounds there, with his able assistance. Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! This year, especially after recent events and the ongoing nonsense in our political arena, take a hint from our furry, four-legged friends. Smile, wag and be as helpful as you can be. Love lots, snuggle when you can, don’t worry about little embarrassing things and give kisses at every appropriate opportunity. Here’s my sweet love, Ruby, be-ribboned for our home’s holiday enjoyment and I hope, yours too. Be safe and have a great holiday.

Read more.. Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

More Pet Peeps

I admit, blogging is perhaps the last place one should try to hide one’s foibles & inabilities. Two years ago at Christmas I posted what was promised to be the first of a series of animal photo based posts, with a bunch of dog photos. Then I followed it up with…….nada. Zilch. Lots of farmers & gardens. Farms and gardens, where I meet plenty of great animals which I photograph. Have I posted any pics?

Nah! My bad.

So since it started as a Christmas post with lots of beautiful pups, I figured I could make it up by starting anew with the same theme because, (speaking as a hopeless dog lover who can NEVER get enough doggie love) who doesn’t love dogs? Seriously, who could resist Millie (the French Bulldog below)?With a face like that, you have to be a lover! And she is so affectionate. Yes, it’s an iphone photo, proving yet again that the best camera is the one you have at hand. So meet some of my canine friends:

This photo bomb is Dash, a Portuguese Water dog who lets Maria Nation garden in his yard.. Maria’s garden was featured in Great Gardens of the Berkshires (my 2008 opus) and has been in many magazines, as well as the cover of the Garden Conservancy’s summer open gardens guide a few years back.

This happy fellow lives at the Wilson Botanic Garden in Costa Rica. He was my tour guide and companion for the better part of an afternoon as I found my way around the grounds there, with his able assistance. Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! This year, especially after recent events and the ongoing nonsense in our political arena, take a hint from our furry, four-legged friends. Smile, wag and be as helpful as you can be. Love lots, snuggle when you can, don’t worry about little embarrassing things and give kisses at every appropriate opportunity. Here’s my sweet love, Ruby, be-ribboned for our home’s holiday enjoyment and I hope, yours too. Be safe and have a great holiday.

Read more.. Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

GIft of Photography for the Gardener

Last week I was the fortunate recipient/subject of a wonderful write-up in the local Litchfield County Times by the incomparable Tovah Martin. Tovah is one of the more prolific, not to mention gifted garden writers around. Truly she is really a fantastic writer. She is very much in demand as a speaker also, and for good reason. She is charming, smart, (brilliant actually), very entertaining and quite knowledgable about all things garden related. Her piece about me was a new angle on what to give the gardener in your life for the holidays, with the answer being either professional photography of their garden (in the form of either a framed print of digital files) or private garden photography lessons, from who else but a professional garden photographer who also does plenty of teaching. We happen to know someone who fits the bill….Click here to read the article.

Tovah Martin posing with the Momix dance troupe

I love this shot of her with the MOMIX modern dance company which I made on location in a field of ten thousand sunflowers cultivated by the company’s founder and artistic director, Moses Pendleton. We were doing a story on Moses and his sunflowers for Country Gardens magazine, literally the day before Hurricane Irene knocked them all down. I have been lucky enough to work with Tovah a number of times, and it is always a dream assignment. First of all, she is a master stylist; she can dress up a garden, a room, a set, any space, with panache and beauty to match any designer. It’s her secret weapon and one she wields effectively. Second, she just knows so much!! I learn not something, but many things every time I work with her. Sometimes it’s about the plants, sometimes it’s about the industry, but it’s always something useful and fascinating. Most important, she is just so wonderful to be with, she is so pleasant and funny and like the famous tv commercial rabbit, she just keeps on going & going….

Read more.. Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Hollister House – “One of the Best Private Gardens in the United States”

We are truly blessed to live in a part of the country that has perhaps the densest concentration of really fine high level gardens in the world, certainly in this country. Northwest Connecticut, who knew? The Litchfield hills are the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains which run along the western border of Massachusetts and New York State. Our corner of this odd little rectangular state known mostly for pizza and mega-rich gold coast commuters is a gardener’s heaven climate-wise as well as people-wise. We have so many great gardens, garden writers and garden designers it’s almost embarrassing.  But the crown that sits above it all is Hollister House, George Schoellkopf’s superlative creation around the 18th-century home he has inhabited for several decades. The parterre garden (The ‘Gray Garden’, officially) seen above is what most visitors first encounter as they walk around the front of the house from the sign in area in the parking lot to enter the garden. This next image is how it looks as you step a little further in, and you drink in the panorama of George’s creation. (Granted, the first image was made in June & the one below in August, so the plant succession has changed, but you get the idea.)

“A classic garden in the English manner…informally planted in generous abundance” is how George describes his garden.  Considering the wealth of plant material, the breadth of the variety and the wonder of the landscape, this garden is for me most impressive for the peaceful, relaxing effect it has on its visitors. Certainly whenever I visit all cares and stresses melt away. It seems to have the same effect on everyone else I have been there with, and I am fortunate to get there plenty.Hollister House is one of the select few American gardens which the Garden Conservancy has noted for preservation.  Stephen Orr, the Garden Editor for Martha Stewart Living, and noted writer about gardens, called Hollister House “One of the best private gardens in the United States” recently at the third biennial Hollister House Garden Study Weekend, a three day orgy of gardening with a symposium (imagine the likes of Page Dickey, Marco Polo Stefano, Edwina von Gall, William Cullina and Bill Thomas, among others, as your speakers for one day!), open garden tours, a rare plant sale, and of course, plenty of freshly prepared local food. Come visit! If you live within an hour in any direction from New York City, or west of Boston, it is a day trip for you. You can combine it with other great local gardens on one of the many open days, or with other local attractions. If you live further away, there is plenty in this area and beyond to make the trip worthwhile. I look forward to seeing you there!

Read more.. Sunday, September 16th, 2012