Experimenting with Abstract Photography in Cojimar, Cuba

When we drove into the small marina in Cojimar,* the town that inspired Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, I expected the wooden boats, the bait and the fish, and the fisherman with their rough hands and tanned skin. What I didn’t expect were the bold graphics and textures I found in the form of storage units that lined one side of the complex.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-982801

Battered and lopsided, patched and hammered, and held together with bubblegum and twine, I was drawn to the vivid colors and patterns that made the row of sad shacks come to life.

I’ve never really had a knack for shooting abstracts but these buildings became my kindergarten. The colors and lines was so bold I couldn’t miss them, heck, they practically took photos of themselves.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-983302

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-987408

These images will never end up in a gallery, but taking them gave me a taste of something I want to explore.

Here, you’ll see more of the classic Cojimar: The fishermen, a celebrated shark (or what was left of him), and a crazy crab, but in this post I wanted to share some images that were more of an experimentation. A nod towards the abstract.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-984905

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-984104

I believe in experimentation, though I rarely do it as often as I would like. Playing with composition, angles, lighting, shutter speed, can elicit the most interesting results. Ninety percent is likely to be crap but 10% of something unique definitely ups your game.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-990901

My inspiration for this kind of play came from a  workshop I took with Brett Erickson, who suggested we always try to take pictures from varying perspectives and while doing so, pay close attention to how the story changes. It’s not brain surgery, but whenever I slow myself to consider thise advice, I tend to shoot better, no matter the subject.

I really had a good time shooting these “abstracts.” Are they masterpieces? Hell no. But they forced my eye to see differently. I told myself to look for shapes and contrasts I might not normally notice.

And for that alone, for me, they are a resounding success.

Check Out On the Heels of Hemingway


*The images above were taken while an invited guest of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. The writing and sentiment are my own.

Categories: Cuba, Photography

117 replies »

  1. Your photographs are so interesting. I’m drawn to the colors and the run down subjects. My favorite is the third picture with the stairway and out of focus gate in the foreground. They COULD draw a crowd in a gallery showing.

  2. What excellent photos. I was trying to capture the rustic beauty of the buildings in Laos recently and struggled – this is great inspiration for next time (and for getting a decent SLR)! Thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Tanya. It was one of those serendipitous moments. I’ve never really done it before and it just clicked that day. At least in the way that I am inspired to do more. I’m glad you found it valuable. 🙂

    • Yeah… Way off my usual track which made it kind of fun. Now I want to try that more here in the city and when I travel. I think it add nicely to my repertoire once I get better at it. If not, it’s still fun. 😉

  3. For some reason, I started with the bottom photo and worked my way up. So many of these photos could be abstract paintings too. I’m sure they capture the spirit of the place. Wonderful! Thanks for posting them. I am enriched by viewing your photos and the photos taken by others that you include in your blog.

  4. Hey Susan ,
    I’ve been following your blog for quiet sometime. The pictures you take , the travel you do and the detailing is just brilliant.
    It is very inspirational. It motivates me to get out and take pictures when I collapse in the couch to watch tv.
    PS: Love that red door.

    • Hi! I’m so glad you let me know you’re out there. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the posts and that you’re finding some inspiration. That just makes my day. So happy to hear it.
      I hope to hear from you again soon and thanks a million about that red door. I’m kind of partial to it too. 😉

      • I am sorry to hear you’ve been afraid traveling abroad alone. May I what your biggest fear is?
        On another note however, I am thrilled that my post has inspired you to open the door to the possibility of going solo.

      • I was afraid of meeting some bad people or bad accidents during the trips. Traveling alone might be interesting that I will want to try it, but it might be dangerous to meet some serious problem and I might can’t protect myself

      • I was afraid of meeting some bad people or bad accidents during the trips. Traveling alone might be interesting that I will want to try it, but it might be dangerous to meet some serious

      • I have never been on a trip myself, but I have been to many countries with my family. We made the plans ourselves and shared ideas together. We never go with a tour or people we don’t know. We met nice people during the trips and they did help is a lot. That actually showed me the world is full of love, but all I want to do is to go have a trip myself. All belongs to me😳😳

      • It’s all in the planning and common sense. You wouldn’t put yourself in a dangerous position in your home town, there’s no reason to assume you would on the road. That being said, why not try a simple tour. You’re alone, but there are other people in the group you can befriend and a lot of the practical trip planning is taken care of for you. Granted, it’s not alone, alone. But you’ll get a sense if whether the next time you can take the leap.

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