James Nader Photo Diary


Walking through the streets of Havana, you’ll be hit by a mix of vibrant colours and a rich cultural experience. This city offers a paradise for photographers, blending architecture from days gone by with modern-day street art and classic cars parked against faded pastel buildings. It’s a photographer’s dream, where authentic moments and vibrant scenes await at every turn.
As a photographer, I had the pleasure of exploring Havana with my trusty Sony RX1R and iPhone in hand. The compact yet powerful RX1R allowed me to capture every detail with precision, while my iPhone provided the convenience of quick and on-the-fly editing using Adobe Lightroom. These tools were essential companions throughout my journey, helping me capture the essence of Havana’s colours and culture.

The close heat climate of Havana presented its challenges, with the scorching sun casting harsh shadows and intense light. But I quickly learned to adapt, adjusting my camera settings and experimenting with different angles to make the most of the challenging lighting conditions. It was a constant dance between capturing the vibrant colours and managing the harsh contrasts, a challenge that pushed me to think creatively and enhance the visual impact of my photographs.

What struck me most about Havana, apart from its visual beauty, was the warmth and friendliness of its people. The locals were incredibly welcoming and open to having their pictures taken. Whether a musician playing on the street corner or a group of friends enjoying a lively conversation, people were relaxed about the picture-taking process and many were so happy to participate. This created an authentic and genuine atmosphere, allowing me to capture candid moments that truly reflected the spirit of Havana.

Let’s delve deeper into the exploration of the colours of Havana. The city’s architecture is a visual feast for any photographer’s lens. The pastel-coloured buildings are a testament to the city’s rich history and are a delight to capture. Each building tells its story, from the vibrant yellows and blues to the soft pinks and greens. With my Sony RX1R, I focused on the intricate details, capturing the weathered textures and faded colours that added to the charm of these structures.
The vibrant street art and graffiti caught my eye as I wandered through the streets. The walls of Havana are like a canvas of expression, filled with bold murals and colourful tags. I couldn’t resist capturing the raw energy and creativity that emanated from these artistic creations. With my iPhone in hand, I snapped photos of the vibrant artwork, ensuring that each brushstroke and splash of colour was captured in its full glory.

Of course, no exploration of Havana’s colours would be complete without mentioning the iconic classic cars that grace its streets. The Sony RX1R proved to be the perfect companion for capturing the timeless beauty of these vintage vehicles. The bold and bright colours of the cars, juxtaposed against the backdrop of Havana’s colourful architecture, created striking compositions that were a feast for the eyes. I spent hours photographing these vintage machines, capturing their intricate details and the stories they carried within.

But beyond the buildings and cars, Havana’s colourful people truly brought the city to life. Their vibrant attire and expressive personalities added energy and dynamism to the streets. With my camera at the ready, I immersed myself in the lively scenes, capturing candid moments that showcased the city’s authentic spirit. From couples dancing to the rhythm of the music to friends sharing laughter on the sidewalk, every interaction was a chance to capture the vibrant essence of Havana’s people.

As I ventured deeper into Havana, I couldn’t help but uncover the rich culture that permeates every aspect of the city. Music and dance are at the heart of Havana’s cultural heritage. The pulsating rhythms of salsa, rumba, and son fill the air, inviting you to move and groove. With my camera in hand, I aimed to capture the movement and passion of these dance forms. The Sony RX1R allowed me to freeze the dancers in action, preserving the energy and joy of the moment.
Cuban cuisine is another vibrant aspect of Havana’s culture. The fusion of Spanish, African, and Caribbean flavours creates a culinary tapestry that is visually enticing and delicious. With my iPhone, I captured mouthwatering shots of colourful dishes, each a work of art in its own right. From the vibrant hues of the tropical fruits to the rich earth tones of traditional Cuban dishes, the colours and textures come alive through my lens.

Religion and spirituality are deeply ingrained in Havana’s culture, with Santeria being a prominent belief system. The city’s churches and cathedrals stand as testaments to the city’s devotion, and I made sure to capture their grandeur with my Sony RX1R. The intricate details of the architecture, combined with the soft hues of the stained glass windows, created a sense of serenity and spirituality that I sought to convey through my photographs.

Throughout my journey, I couldn’t help but notice the friendly and relaxed atmosphere that permeated Havana. The people were open to being photographed, and their genuine smiles and laughter added an extra layer of authenticity to my captures. It was a joy to interact with the locals, exchanging stories and laughter while capturing the essence of their vibrant culture.

As a photographer, Havana presented endless opportunities to experiment and push the boundaries of my creativity. The close heat climate, while challenging, added a unique intensity to the colours and textures of the city. The friendly and relaxed atmosphere allowed me to connect with the people and capture candid moments that truly reflected the spirit of Havana.
When photographing Havana, it’s essential to understand lighting and how it interacts with the city’s vibrant colours. The tropical climate provides ample sunlight but creates strong contrasts and harsh shadows. Adjusting camera settings and being mindful of the direction and quality of light is crucial to capturing the true essence of the colours.

Composition is another vital aspect of Havana photography. With its diverse architecture, street scenes, and cultural events, the city offers countless opportunities to experiment with angles, perspectives, and framing. The Sony RX1R and iPhone allowed me to capture both wide shots that showcased the grandeur of the city and close-ups that highlighted intricate details and emotions.

In Havana, imperfections tell a story. The city’s worn-down buildings and vintage cars are part of its authentic charm. Instead of trying to hide these imperfections, embrace them and use them to enhance the visual narrative of your photographs. Let the peeling paint and rusted metal add depth and character to your captures.

Capturing movement is essential in Havana, where the streets are alive with music, dance, and people. Whether it’s freezing the motion of a dancer mid-step or panning to capture the energy of a passing classic car, mastering the art of capturing movement adds dynamism and vitality to your photographs. Experiment with shutter speeds and techniques to convey the sense of motion that permeates the city.

As a photographer in Havana, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting photography spots. The Malecón, Havana Vieja, Miramar, and the statue of El Cristo de La Habana are just a few of the must-visit locations that showcase the city’s vibrant colors and culture. The Malecón, with its breathtaking views of the ocean and city skyline, provides the perfect backdrop for capturing the essence of Havana. Havana Vieja’s narrow streets and colorful buildings offer endless possibilities for capturing the authentic charm of the city. Miramar, with its wide boulevards and modernist mansions, provides a glimpse into Havana’s contemporary side. And atop the hill stands the El Cristo de La Habana statue, offering panoramic views that encompass the city’s beauty and vibrancy.

In conclusion, Havana is a photographer’s paradise, offering a captivating blend of colours and culture. With its vibrant architecture, street art, classic cars, and friendly people, the city provides endless opportunities to capture moments of authentic beauty. Embrace the challenge of the close heat climate, soak in the warmth of the locals, and let your creativity soar as you explore Havana’s unique and enchanting streets. It’s a journey that will leave you with a treasure trove of photographs and memories, capturing the true essence of this magical city.

Certainly! Here’s a list of some of the best places to see in Havana:

  1. Old Havana (Havana Vieja): Explore the UNESCO World Heritage site with its narrow streets, historic plazas, and stunning architecture.
  2. Malecón: Take a stroll along Havana’s famous seawall and enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean and the city skyline.
  3. El Capitolio: Visit this iconic landmark, reminiscent of the U.S. Capitol, which now houses the Cuban Academy of Sciences.
  4. Plaza de la Catedral: Admire the beauty of Havana’s Cathedral and soak in the ambiance of the square surrounded by colorful buildings.
  5. Plaza de Armas: Discover this historic square lined with book stalls, where you can find antique books and collectibles.
  6. Castillo de la Real Fuerza: Explore this impressive fortress, one of the oldest in the Americas, which now houses the Maritime Museum.
  7. Museo de la Revolución: Immerse yourself in Cuban history at this museum housed in the former Presidential Palace.
  8. El Malecón de la Habana: Experience the lively atmosphere of this vibrant promenade, where locals gather to socialize, fish, and enjoy the sunset.


  1. Plaza de la Revolución: Marvel at the iconic Revolutionary Square, home to the José Martí Memorial and famous for its large-scale political rallies.
  2. Fabrica de Arte Cubano: Visit this multi-disciplinary arts space housed in a former oil factory, showcasing contemporary Cuban art, music, and performances.
  3. Fusterlandia: Step into a colorful world at the art project of José Fuster, where buildings and sculptures are adorned with vibrant mosaic tiles.
  4. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes: Explore Cuba’s premier art museum, featuring an extensive collection of Cuban and international art.
  5. Gran Teatro de La Habana: Admire the stunning architecture of this grand theater, home to the Cuban National Ballet and other performing arts companies.
  6. Necrópolis de Cristóbal Colón: Wander through this vast cemetery, known for its elaborate mausoleums and monuments.
  7. Hotel Nacional de Cuba: Enjoy a drink at this historic hotel, known for its glamorous past and panoramic views of the city and the ocean.

When it comes to cigars, Havana is renowned for its world-class Cuban cigars. Here are some of the best cigars to consider:

  1. Cohiba: Considered the flagship brand of Cuban cigars, Cohiba is known for its rich flavor and impeccable craftsmanship. Cohiba cigars are highly sought after and offer a luxurious smoking experience.
  2. Montecristo: Another iconic brand, Montecristo cigars are known for their complexity and balanced flavor profile. They are often regarded as one of the finest cigars produced in Cuba.
  3. Romeo y Julieta: With a long-standing reputation, Romeo y Julieta cigars are beloved for their smoothness and elegant aroma. They offer a medium-bodied smoking experience and are widely appreciated by cigar enthusiasts.
  4. Partagás: Partagás cigars are known for their robust and full-bodied flavors. They are often characterized by their earthy, spicy, and rich taste, making them a favorite among aficionados.
  5. Hoyo de Monterrey: Hoyo de Monterrey cigars are recognized for their refined and delicate flavors. They offer a medium-bodied smoking experience with notes of wood, coffee, and sweetness.
  6. Bolívar: Bolívar cigars are known for their strong and intense flavors. They are often favored by those who enjoy cigars with a bold character and a touch of spice.
  7. H. Upmann: H. Upmann cigars are highly regarded for their consistent quality and smooth flavor profile. They offer a medium-bodied smoking experience with notes of cedar, nuts, and subtle sweetness.
  8. Trinidad: Trinidad cigars are known for their elegance and complexity. They offer a medium to full-bodied smoking experience with nuanced flavors and a smooth draw.

Havana offers a vibrant and lively entertainment scene, with a range of options to suit different interests. Here are some of the best places to go for entertainment in Havana:

  1. Tropicana: Tropicana is a world-renowned cabaret and one of Havana’s most iconic entertainment venues. Known for its dazzling shows featuring live music, dance performances, and extravagant costumes, Tropicana offers an unforgettable nightlife experience.
  2. Fabrica de Arte Cubano: Located in Vedado, Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) is a multidisciplinary arts center housed in a renovated factory. It showcases contemporary Cuban art, music, dance, film screenings, and live performances. FAC attracts a hip and artistic crowd and is a hotspot for cultural exploration.
  3. Buena Vista Social Club: For lovers of traditional Cuban music, the Buena Vista Social Club is a must-visit. This iconic music venue celebrates the sounds of Cuban son, bolero, and other traditional genres. Enjoy live performances by talented local musicians and immerse yourself in the rhythms of Cuba.
  4. Jazz Café: Located in Vedado, Jazz Café is a popular venue for live jazz performances. Enjoy an evening of smooth jazz, Latin jazz, or fusion while sipping on a refreshing cocktail. Jazz Café often hosts renowned local and international jazz artists, making it a haven for jazz enthusiasts.
  5. Malecón: The Malecón, Havana’s famous seaside promenade, is not only a beautiful spot for a leisurely stroll but also a hub of entertainment. Locals gather here in the evenings to socialize, listen to music, dance, and enjoy the coastal breeze. Join the lively atmosphere and experience the vibrant street culture of Havana.
  6. La Zorra y el Cuervo: This jazz club in Vedado is a hidden gem for jazz lovers. Descend into the basement venue and immerse yourself in the intimate and atmospheric setting. La Zorra y el Cuervo features talented local jazz musicians and often hosts jam sessions that bring the best of Cuban jazz to the forefront.
  7. Casa de la Música: With locations in Miramar and Havana Centro, Casa de la Música is a popular venue for live music and dancing. Enjoy performances by renowned Cuban bands and orchestras, and dance the night away to infectious rhythms of salsa, son, and other Cuban genres.
  8. Fábrica de Tabaco Partagás: If you’re interested in learning about the art of cigar-making, a visit to Fábrica de Tabaco Partagás is a must. Take a guided tour of the cigar factory, witness skilled artisans rolling cigars by hand, and learn about the rich history and craftsmanship of Cuban cigars.