On Location

Cuba Unplugged: Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Cienega de Zapata, and Havana

with Jennifer Spelman and Carlos Otero Blanco

Online registration for this program has closed. To check availability, find out about future dates, or if you would like further information, please call 505-983-1400 ext. 111. Also, get the SFW E-Newsletter for updates!

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Course Description

Join us in support of the Cuban people as we discover the beautiful waterfront city of Cienfuegos, elegant charm of Trinidad, and natural beauty of the Cienega de Zapata. Unplug and return to this magical isle to continue your explorations with a small group of six photographers, led by Jennifer Spelman and Carlos Otero as your guides and mentors.

After an afternoon arrival to Havana on Sunday, March 20th, we gather for a welcome evening orientation, evening walk and tasty dinner. Early Monday morning we depart for our drive across the island, enjoying lunch and stops to photograph along the way to colorful Trinidad, Cuba’s third oldest settlement and our home for the next two days.  We explore the picturesque town as the late afternoon light illuminates the charming city center.

Tuesday morning, we greet the city as it awakens for a walk and then after breakfast visit the historic Torres Iznaga area and a local coffee plantation. The afternoon is free to explore the picturesque winding streets. Wednesday morning, we pack up and depart for Cienfuegos, stopping to enjoy the stunning scenery of the waterfall, El Nicho.  We stay for two nights in “la ciudad que más me gusta a mí (the city I like the best)” as the famous musician Benny Moré once sang about this alluring, French-architecture influenced city. 

On Thursday morning we gather for an early morning boat ride to visit a long abandoned recreational island in the Cienfuegos Bay, as well as a small coastal village full of friendly local families and fishermen. Later that afternoon we meet and make portraits of local residents while visiting the magnificent Parque Martí and surrounding Cienfuegos neighborhoods.  Friday morning we take to the road again before a visit to the Girón Museum and lunch in Guasasa.  We stop to meet the local carboneros (charcoal farmers)before checking into our accommodations near Playa Larga.  Saturday morning, we awaken early to observe the colorful birds of the La Salina area and Sendero Enigma de las Rocas.  Lunch in Girón is followed by a free afternoon to explore and edit images. 

Sunday morning, we return to the spirited energy of Havana where we stay in casa particulares in the quiet Vedado neighborhood, boasting stunning views over the city.  After a beautiful sunrise shoot on Monday morning followed by any necessary COVID testing, the day is free to revisit favorite places in Central and Old Havana. Our trip concludes with a slideshow of favorite images and celebration dinner.

Additional Information


This Cuba Unplugged program is open to amateur, advanced amateur and professional photographers who have traveled to Cuba with Santa Fe Workshops (SFW), with another group, or on their own. Enrollment is limited to six participants.

What You Should Know:

Participants should be technically self-sufficient, as this is not a program to learn how to use your gear or editing software. Participants should be in very good health with good stamina and mobility, as long days are spent exploring—this means walking, sometimes for two to three hours at a time, occasionally up steep stairs, steep hills, and along uneven terrain.

Nature & Landscape, One-of-a-Kind, Street Photography, Travel Photography
© Nerissa Escanlar
Jennifer Spelman

Jennifer Spelman is a documentary photographer. She is co-publisher of CubaSeen, a quarterly magazine showcasing photography and writing about Cuba.

Jennifer received her photographic training as an assistant with Santa Fe Workshops, working with some of today’s most preeminent photographers: Jay Maisel, Norman Mauskopf, and Joe McNally.

A sensitive photographer of people, Jennifer strives to create portraits with energy and insight. She is most at home on the streets of Havana and has worked with Santa Fe Workshops across Cuba since 2011. Jennifer is a patient educator who has co-instructed with National Geographic Expeditions and taught workshops in Morocco, India, Turkey, Romania, Mexico, Japan, in addition to Cuba.

A popular workshop instructor, Jennifer is also part of our Mentorship Program »

Instagram: @jennifer_spelman

Carlos Otero Blanco

Carlos Otero Blanco is a photographer who specializes in underwater photography. Despite the fact that Carlos left Cuba after finishing high school in Havana to study hydrogeologic science in a university institute of the city of Novocherkas, Russia, he recalls art was always his main interest. In fact, in the cruise ship that took him to the late Soviet Union, he was already shooting b/w film with a Zorki camera, one of the few available in Cuba in the 80’s. Carlos recalls that very soon after arriving to Russia, he was already doing extracurricular activities with the institute’s photographer and starting to learn the trade. So, back to Cuba with a university title, Carlos never really went into what he study abroad, but instead sold his old Moskvich soviet car and bought his first digital cameras. Since then, photography has been the main tool for his artistic drive, with a wide range of thematic interests that span from documentary photography, to portraiture, to conceptual art, and nature.

In documentary photography, Carlos is probably best known for his photographic study on Cuban bedrooms, with hundreds of these shot all over Cuba since 2009. This effort of years (still ongoing) has led to a specific book (“Dormir con…” [“To Sleep with…”], co-authored by Enrique Rottenberg), has been shown in several national and international exhibits, and in recently featured articles in the New York Times (Cuba’s Secret Bedrooms), other publications, and books on Cuban photography.

Carlos is also a deep lover of nature and adventure photography. He has done studies in subaquatic archeology, and holds several diving master and instructor international titles. In consequence, Carlos is a certified subaquatic photographer and video instructor, and has participated in apnea and diving productions, and has won prizes in three international subaquatic photography contests.

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