Cuba - The Passionate Street Photographer

Discuss this workshop

The Passionate Street Photographer: An Intensive & Transformational Shooting Experience with Nikon Masters’ Steve Simon & Juan Carlos Ocana

“Best workshop I’ve ever taken! Steve is not only a great photographer, he is also a terrific teacher. He is patient and very hands- on. In some workshops the instructor sends students out to shoot after a short lecture–Steve goes out with his students, coaching them throughout the process. His course is well organized and covers diverse topics. He is funny and engaging and generous with his time and knowledge. I had SO MUCH fun and am ready to sign up for the next one. Highly recommended!”

Anna Blanco, New York City

Workshop cost is $5,500. Initial deposit of $500 is due at the time of signup. Balance due 30 days before departure.

Upcoming Workshop Dates:

September 9 - 15, 2016

December 10-16, 2016

January 16-22, 2017

Join award-winning street photographer Steve Simon and Cuban photographer and guide Juan Carlos Ocana for an unforgettable week of living and breathing photography in beautiful Havana, Cuba.

This intimate six-day masterclass (limited to 10 students) will take you to some of the most picturesque, interesting and exciting locations on and off the beaten path in Havana and beyond.

Everything will be taken care of for you so we can concentrate on making amazing images of the people and the culture in Havana. We will explore vibrant, visually rich places and neighborhoods in Old Havana, often outside tourist areas for unique photo opportunities. We will have great access at a local outdoor boxing club with great light–a place where some of Cuba’s best known boxers have trained. We will visit and photograph the National Ballet & Dance Company. Old Havana is spectacular at night and we will go out night shooting as well. With the recent warming of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, change is inevitable making now a perfect time to visit.

I am very excited to work with my friend and colleague Juan Carlos Ocana, a great Cuban photographer and expert on the best places for photographers to wander and shoot. We are sculpting a unique photographic street workshop for you to come away with a fantastic portfolio of images. This all-inclusive trip will include most everything, return flight from Miami to Havana, lodging at the 4- Star Park Central Hotel, all meals (though you are free to wander off the menu), transportation, transfers, daily instruction and critiques as well as your Cuban Visa and the license and all paperwork required for American Citizens to travel to Cuba . Other nationalities do not have these restrictions. Price is $5,500 which includes a private, single room at the luxurious Park Central hotel for the week. ($500; balance due 30 days before departure.)

Street Philosophies

“When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear.”

– Alfred Eisenstaedt

Steve will be teaching you new and powerful street photography techniques guaranteed to push you from your comfort zone to new heights in your work and share his street-shooting philosophies gleaned from a lifetime of wandering urban places with his camera. This intensive workshop will help you find your own unique vision and street style through assignments created to get you past photographic fears and cliches to capturing lyrical, poetic and decisive moments that communicate the energy of the streets.

But mostly we will be shooting the theatre that is the street; sometimes together, often on our own. Cuba is an amazing place for a photographer. I have found people very receptive and the color, light & architecture are unique to this special place. All levels of photographic experience can benefit from this workshop.

You’ll learn about the “rhythm of place” and we will discuss the laws and ethics of street photography as well as dealing with difficult situations that might pop up. We will define a strategy for capturing the rich daily life of people on the street; overcoming fears and shyness, approaching strangers, framing, juxtaposition, layering your compositions, letting the image come to you and whether color or black and white best suits your vision. And we will have fun!

Our Hotel: Parque Central

We were lucky to secure rooms at maybe the nicest hotel in Havana. Located in the center of everything, the Parque Central comprises two buildings, a colonial section and modern tower, linked by a stylish, underground tunnel. Both sections have independent lobbies, restaurants, and rooms. The newer tower is sleek, chic and contemporary, with a wood, glass and steel design theme set off by bright colors and textured fabrics. The colonial part is classic elegance: what you’d expect to find in a 5-star hotel in any global capital city. Whichever wing you stay in, you’re assured comfort and superior service. Our meeting room is also located here.

The roof terraces of both sections have pools with great views and thus great photo opportunities. Parque Central really is an oasis in the heart of one of the most densely-populated areas in Havana. The lobby might be Havana’s nicest place to chill and a great place to have a coffee or a drink while you edit your work and check your email and social media. The hotel is within walking distance to many of the great places we will photograph in Havana, like El Malecon by the water, and the Capital just a few-minute walk away.


“The only thing that gets in the way of a really good photograph, is the camera.”

– Norman Parkinson

We will talk street-tech and Steve will give you his minimalist view on gear along with a simplified shooting process to maximizing your response time to capture decisive moments. Steve’s street tools include a Nikon D5, D500, D810, D750, D5500, and Nikon DL24-85 cameras (though I will likely bring just two bodies) along with a carefully curated selection of lenses; but he’s familiar with a wide range of equipment to help you maximize your mirror-less, compact, rangefinder, DSLR or even your camera phone for compelling street images.

We will talk lenses, auto focus, zone focusing, shooting form the hip, using live view, flash and a host of other tips, tricks, distractions and ideas that will improve your work dramatically. It’s a street photography workshop but the lessons learned will benefit you in all genres of image-making.

In class, we will look at a selection of your best work from the previous day. These daily critiques are of crucial importance, where we share ideas and constructive criticism as we look through each others’ images. The workshop will be a “safe place” for group discussions with suggestions and new ideas put forward. We will visit a photography gallery and participate in lectures and critiques every day. You will be encouraged to take on a theme over the week for your final portfolio and slide show, which could be a specific idea or as general as your “Love Letter to Havana” capturing general impressions of the city from it’s people, places, food, light or architecture. I will also be providing assignments to push you to a higher level in your work.

I usually arrive in Miami a day or two before, and whoever is interested Maximo Gomez (Domino) Park is a great place to meet and capture a taste of Havana—take some shots of those playing a friendly game of dominoes and grab some nourishment at one or more of the Cuban coffee shops and restaurants nearby.

Street Agenda

“I am a tourist.“ – Garry Winogrand

Day 1: Flight Miami – Havana Arrival & Orientation.

Arrival & Orientation.

Transfer to the hotel in Old Havana.

Introductory meet and greet followed by a quick-start session with tips on shooting and editing. We will then take a photo walk with Cuban photographers Juan Carlos Ocana and Vladimir Rivera along Prado Avenue as we discuss what we will see and do this week along with shooting tips and the realities of being a street photographer in Havana. We will end up at the water along The Malecón when the late day light should be really nice.

We return for dinner at the hotel.

Day 2:


Early morning shoot in Old Havana with local Cuban photographer.

We start the day with a lecture and critique. We meet daily @ The Parque Central meeting room 11:00am-1pm so we can take advantage of the best early morning and later in the day light. (Sun will rise at about 6:45 am and set just around 8pm). In this our first class session we will introduce participants by seeing a brief portfolio of their work and view the work of some of the best and most influential street photographers from Cuba and around the world. You are encouraged to edit and choose your top six images from that morning (and the previous day’s shoot) for critique. Gourmet lunch and supper at a fine family-owned “palador” (restaurant).

After the group critique we hit the streets in a trio of convertible classic cars for a drive-about throughout Havana, touring some of the most interesting and scenic places, shooting as we go but stopping to photograph at several pre-selected locations. We will have a local Cuban photographer accompany us each day to share their experiences and insight into photographing the streets of Havana.

Night Shoot:

Havana comes alive at night and most nights we will have a street shoot with great opportunities to capture the music, dance and night life in Old Havana– as well as the architecture which is transformed from the daylight rendering with artificial light.

On this night we will visit Arms Square.

Day 3:


Early morning shoot in Old Havana with local Cuban photographer.

Lecture, critique and meeting with local Cuban photographer. 11:00am-1pm @ The Parque Central meeting room.

Location Shoot: The Rafael Trejo Boxing Club in Old Havana. This is an open air training facility that has trained some of Cuba’s world class boxers. We will have great access and great light and will meet and photograph local boxers, trainers and coaches.

Gourmet lunch at a fine family-owned “palador” (restaurant).

Street Shooting in Old Havana: Along with traditional street shooting in Old Havana, we will be meeting and speaking with local people for street portrait assignments.

Supper will be at a local restaurant.

Day 4:

Early Breakfast.

In a trio of convertible classic cars, we leave for a drive-about throughout Havana, touring some of the most interesting and scenic places in Old Havana, shooting as we go, wind in our face. We will stop at several pre-selected areas and have an hour to shoot before jumping in the convertibles and heading to the next location.

Gourmet lunch at a new family-owned palador.

Lecture, critique and meeting with local Cuban photographer. 1:30pm-3:30pm @ The Parque Central meeting room.

After the group critique we hit the streets again during the golden light in a new section of Old Havana. We will have a local Cuban photographer accompany and guide us.

Supper will be at the hotel.

Day 5:


Early morning shoot in Old Havana with local Cuban photographer.

Lecture and Critique 10:30pm-12:30pm @ The Parque Central meeting room.

Location Shoot: The Cuban National Ballet School is the largest in the world and the most prestigious in Cuba. It is a training facility and not for performance which means will will have great access to photograph the dancers as well as opportunities to meet and do portraits.

Lunch at local restaurant.

Street Shooting in Old Havana.

Visit a local gallery and learn about Cuba’s vibrant photography scene.

Supper will be at a local restaurant.

Night Shoot:

Havana comes alive at night and most nights we will have a street shoot with great opportunities to capture the music, dance and night life in Old Havana as well as the architectural nightscapes which are transformed with the artificial light.

On this night it’s Havana Harbor, photo walk with local Cuban photographer.

Day 6:


Morning location shoot: Together we jump on the bus and head to several pre-selected areas for one-hour shoots. Possible locations include: The Callejon de Hamel, where vivid and colorful murals, outdoor sculptures and shrines dedicated to the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria cover the entire small block; The other end of the Malecón; The American Embassy area, San Francisco Square and the Cigar Factory.

This is the final day of the workshop, and we meet 1:30pm-4:30pm @ The Parque Central meeting room for a last lecture, critique, recap and group slide presentation highlighting your work. You will provide your final edit of up to 30 images from the week and I will weed it down to the final 15 per person for the final slide show. I will send you a copy of the slideshow which will be posted on and Vimeo.

Last supper and workshop wrap at a special local restaurant.

I always find it hard to say goodbye at the end of a workshop but I’m heartened by the fact that you leave with a renewed sense of mission and confidence, new techniques and ideas to apply and a reinvigorated passion to continue your wanderings on the streets of your world.

Night Shoot: Optional Cathedral Square photo walk.

Day 7:


Transfer to the airport.

Flight Havana – Miami.

“A picture is the expression of an impression. If the beautiful were not in us, how would we ever recognize it? “

– Ernst Haas

What to Bring:

The weather in Cuba is often beautiful and can get hot this time of year. Average temperatures in the mid 80’s during the day, cooling down into the low 70’s when the sun goes down.

A portfolio of 12 images – JPEGS on a USB FlashDrive in a folder entitled “Your Name” for critique. Images file names should contain your name as well.

This is a digital workshop, so a DSLR, Mirrorless, High-End Compact or rangefinder camera will all work. Having a back up body is always a good idea.

For your DSLR or Mirrorless, fast prime lenses are ideal, or at least one wide-angle zoom. Lenses in the classic range for street photography: 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm will all work (based on full frame camera) and fast lenses f2 or faster offer more flexibility.

Two or three fully-charged batteries & charger.

More memory cards than you think you will need and a card reader.

Your own laptop for image editing and note-taking.

A flash is optional but bring one to experiment with flash on the street.

“The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.”

– Robert Doisneau

For questions or inquiries:

*This workshop is limited to 10 students. When you sign up you will get a detailed welcome letter detailing everything you need to know about traveling to Cuba for the workshop.

Workshop cost is $5500. Initial deposit of $500 is due at the time of signup. Balance of $5000 due 30 days before departure. (Check is preferred. Send to: The Passionate Photographer Inc. 470 West 24 Street, Suite 5G; New York, NY 10011)

If for any reason you need to withdraw from the workshop, please notify us in writing (email is okay) more than 30 days depature. At that time we will refund your deposit less a $500 cancellation fee. If notification of cancellation is made less than 30 days before departure, and we can fill your spot; you get your money back minus the $500 cancellation fee. If you cancel less than 30 days before departure and your spot remains unfilled, we must retain all fees paid. The Passionate Photographer Inc. is not responsible for cancellations due to medical emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. Please insure that these last-minute emergencies are covered by your travel insurance policy (required of all travelers).

Legal Disclaimer – Waiver of Liability is below the testimonials.

Street Photography Workshop Testimonials

I just wanted to drop you a line again and say thank you. Your courses were valuable but mostly you were inspiring. My photography has grown leaps and the passion I have for the art is largely due to you.

David Christofoli, Vancouver

“Participating in the NYC Street Photography Workshop was an enriching and exhilarating experience. It challenged me to step out of my comfort zone to improve my skills. Steve’s curriculum and hands on approach offered me an opportunity to learn new techniques, add some creativity and visualize subject matter from another perspective. Each day presented abundant photo opportunities, resulting with the capture of some amazing images, exceeding my greatest expectations. ”

Chapman Solomon, Mountain View, CA

My week in Steve’s Street Shooting workshop challenged me tremendously. There’s nothing like taking your work apart and putting it back together with new vision to make you a better photographer. If you take this workshop, I guarantee you will see the world differently at the end.

Anne Dunford, Ithaca, New York

“I used to wait for people to clear out of the way so I could take a shot, now I’m waiting for them to be part of my picture. Steve’s course has given me the desire to start planning specific street photography projects close to home and also revisit those places I’ve travelled to with a brand new perspective on what make a great and unique photograph. ”

Peter Simon, Toronto, Ontario

Steve’s passion for photography is contagious and his teaching abilities and knowledge extraordinary! I highly recommend this workshop to anyone interested in photography.

Paul Lavergne, San Juan, PR

“Steve is a patient and inspiring coach. His award-winning portfolio of work attests to his credentials as a teacher who can point you in the right direction. Working with Steve Simon will make you a better and more motivated photographer. It’s his low-key, one-on-one, no bullshit personality that helps him teach and translate his skill effectively. I learned more than I expected I would, primarily in Steve’s critiques of my, and others’, work. During one session, Steve spoke about how we need to take the literal and make it lyrical, a concept I have tried to put into words for quite some time. As a photographer, it is too easy to be ‘captured’ by the odd, the funny, or the simply interesting. That, too often, results in a snap shot. What I really want to do is compel myself to see things differently and be able to photograph them uniquely.”

Frank Barnako, Great Falls VA

Really happy with it all. This one week course was one of the best weeks of my year. (Or more). The critiques were really helpful. It opened up my eyes to a whole new world. I learned what accentuates a photo or just stands in its way. Steve couldn’t have been any more patient when one didn’t understand. Getting critique on my work, getting to see other peoples work, and the shooting was really great. The vibe—meeting kind people who shared my interest and pushed me to do my best—it was an awesome group! The homey feeling at the loft was so great; feeling so comfortable as opposed to stiff workshops. I’m there for your next! Now I understand street photography and I love it. Just go out and shoot! Freakin awesome experience. (But I doubt you want to put that up on your blog).

Connie Itzkowitz, Brooklyn, NY

“Steve Simon freely shared his passion for photography. He was very generous with his time and the sharing of his skills and knowledge of photography with each participant. I saw parts of New York City I otherwise would not have been able to see, and I used a camera in ways I had not imagined to collect wonderful images. As a beginning photographer, a good portion of what I learned was confidence building. Another major component was technique and technical assistance, which were invaluable. Your patience and the sharing of your extensive knowledge was much appreciated. It felt very special to work with Steve and I definitely look forward to signing up for future workshops.”

Laurence Fitchett Jr.

“Our week-long workshop in NYC was excellent.

The atmosphere was pleasant, and conducive to learning, as well as the sharing of ideas. It was also helpful in that interacting with other Passionate Photographers under your expert, patient leadership proved to be unusually productive. I look forward to my next workshop with you.”

Gary G. Altman, Atlanta

Not only is Steve a great photographer, he is also a caring, compassionate person as well. He is constantly trying to help participants achieve their photographic goals in a gentle, caring, and sincere manner. Sadly, the critiques of my work were very helpful. Steve was right-on in terms of his suggestions to better my work. The totality of the workshop was terrific, primarily because the parts were all excellent as well. Choice of shooting locations, image reviews, suggestions, videos shown, and galleries visited were all great. Steve also promoted wonderful interactions among the participants. The venue was perfect for the workshop. We could spread out, leave our things there, use the facilities, and eat the goodies provided. You know you’re in good hands with Steve! An outstanding workshop!!

Stephen Sholl, New York City

Legal Disclaimer – Waiver of Liability

You agree when you sign up for any event with The Passionate Photographer Inc. & Steve Simon that you have read and understand the information below.

In consideration of your participation in the Nikonians Academy, The Passionate Photographer Inc. & Steve Simon Workshop or Event, you promise not to sue and hereby release The Nikonians Academy, The Passionate Photographer Inc. & Steve Simon, all those participating in the Workshops, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents or representatives from and against any and all liability to you, your personal representatives, assigns, heirs and next of kin for any loss or damages and any claims or demands therefore arising in connection with your participation in the Workshop or Event, including, without limitation, those arising out of injury to your person or property or resulting in your death. You further agree that the foregoing Release and Waiver of Liability is intended to be as broad and inclusive as is permitted by law and that if any portion hereof is held invalid, it is agreed that the balance shall continue in full legal force and effect.

If you join us for any event/workshop please understand that you are responsible for your own preparedness and well-being and will hold no one else liable in case of injury. You agree not to sue or hold The Passionate Photographer Inc. & Steve Simon or any of its Organizers, Co-Organizers or Contractors responsible for any injuries that may happen at a workshop or planned event.

This release extends and applies to, and also covers and includes, all unknown, unforeseen, unanticipated and unsuspected injuries, damages, loss and liability.

I understand the inherent risks associated with participation in this Workshop and the possible injuries that can be sustained by participants. I knowingly and voluntarily assume these risks and full responsibility for any personal injury or illness, including death, that may be sustained by me, or any loss or damage to property owned by me, as a result of or in any way arising out of, my participation in this Workshop, or in travel to and from this Workshop.

I acknowledge that I am solely responsible for medical or other costs arising out of any bodily injury, illness, or property damage or loss sustained by me through my voluntary participation in this Workshop.

The Passionate Photographer Inc. & Steve Simon do not provide liability insurance for the protection of individuals who may participate in any of the events or workshops.

Your attendance at any event signifies that you have read and accept the terms of this liability waiver. By signing up for any event you understand that you are attending all events AT YOUR OWN RISK.

  • You will learn

  • What to bring

  • Required

    • Camera
    • Lenses (28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and/or 85mm)
    • Extra batteries
    • Charger
    • Memory cards
    • Laptop for image editing
  • Optional

    • Flash
    • tripod/monopod
  • What is provided

    • All meals
    • Lodging at 4-star Park Central Hotel
    • Local transportation
    • Local airport transfers
    • Return flight from Miami to Havana
    • Daily instruction
    • Image critiques
    • Cuban Visa, license and all paperwork
  • Venue Information

      Please check your venue by specific city area location.



Cuba - The Passionate Street Photographer workshops are provided in the following locations:

City Area Date Instructor Price (Member) Price (Non-Member)
Havana, Cuba 28-MAY-2016 Steve Simon $500 $550 Sold out
Havana, Cuba 05-JUL-2016 Steve Simon $500 $600 Sold out
Havana, Cuba 10-DEC-2016 Steve Simon $500 $600 Sold out
Havana, Cuba 16-JAN-2017 Steve Simon $500 $600 Sold out

Member prices are only applicable to Nikonians Silver, Gold and Platinum Members. Non-members can register as Nikonians members here. Nikonians Basic members can upgrade the membership level here. Membership payments help sustain the growth of the Nikonians community and its services such as the Nikonians Academy.