On Location

Exploring Cuba: Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Playa Larga, and Havana

with Jennifer Spelman and Carlos Otero Blanco

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Course Description

Join frequent Cuba traveler Jennifer Spelman and Cuban photographer Carlos Otero on a people-to-people cultural exchange into the beautiful waterfront city of Cienfuegos and the colonial heritage and charm of Trinidad before visiting Havana, the capital city of Cuba. Jennifer and Carlos are your guides and mentors on your adventures across this magical isle.

After an afternoon arrival to Havana on Tuesday, December 13, we gather for a welcome evening orientation, evening walk and tasty dinner. Early Wednesday morning we depart for our drive across the island, enjoying lunch and stops to photograph enroute to elegant Cienfuegos. 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 bay of Cienfuegos, 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.

After packing up Friday morning we stop to take in the stunning scenery of the waterfall, El Nicho, before arriving in colorful Trinidad — Cuba’s third oldest settlement and our home for two days. That evening we explore the picturesque town as the late afternoon light illuminates the charming city center.

Saturday morning we greet the city as it awakens for a morning walk and then after breakfast visit the historic Torres Iznaga area and a local coffee plantation. The afternoon we explore the picturesque winding streets. Sunday morning enjoy lunch in Guasasa and then stop to meet the local charcoal farmers carboneros before checking into our accommodations near Playa Larga. Monday morning we awaken early to observe the colorful birds of the La Salina area and Sendero Enigma de las Rocas. Lunch is followed by a visit the Girón and its important museum.

Tuesday morning we return to the spirited energy of Havana and enjoy a late afternoon exploring Central Havana. Wednesday morning we visit a surprise location before enjoying a final afternoon to wander in Old Havana. Our trip concludes with celebration dinner in Fabrica de Arte Cubano.

Additional Information

COVID-19 Update: For all in-person workshops and trips in 2023, Santa Fe Workshops highly recommends that all participants, staff, and instructors attending be up to date with Covid vaccinations (per definition of the CDC). For international trips, local laws will apply, so it is important that you confirm you will be fully vaccinated according to the countries on your trip.


This SFW Cuba program is open to amateur, advanced amateur and professional photographers. Enrollment is limited to eight 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.


View Payment, Refund, Withdrawal, and Transfer Policies for this International Program.

Nature & Landscape, One-of-a-Kind, 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.