The Old Studebaker in Havana

Before I went to Cuba, I always wondered if there are old classic American cars all over the roads in Havana, or if photographers warp how we see Cuba by cherry picking the cool cars amidst a bunch of new ones?  The old cars are definitely legit.  It feels like half the cars on the road are classics, though in reality, nearly 95% of them have been repaired or rebuilt with new parts.  There might be a Honda engine under the hood of this car for all I know.  But it’s awesomely nostalgic either way.  I found this old Studebaker sitting at the end of a residential alley in a quiet neighborhood.  It’s like they put it out just for me to photograph!  Seriously, how awesome is this scene?

Cuban car edited with luminosity masks

I sent out the unedited RAW file for this image to a handful of people who use Lumenzia as part of a fun challenge to see how we might all tackle the same image with luminosity masks.  If you want to try editing the image yourself, you can download the original RAW file here.  Please feel free to edit and share the image per my Creative Commons (Attribution, NonCommercial) license.  Here’s the original image before I edited it:

Original image before Lumenzia

I got rid of the windshield reflections, punched up the background, added texture, and a whole lot of other changes.  I think I used about 26 layers!  Definitely one of my more complex edits, but that’s the beauty of luminosity masks – you can adjust very specific parts of the image.  Here’s a video showing how I actually edited the image with Lumenzia (luminosity masks), Nik (Color Efex Pro), a texture, and some cloning to get rid of the hand prints on the dusty hood.


Key segments in the tutorial:

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 0:58 Game plan for editing
  • 3:44 Example of how to select part of the image with luminosity masks (reflection in windshield)
  • 5:01 Walking through the luminosity masking layers
  • 12:23 Before and after luminosity masks
  • 12:49 Adding contrast/detail with Nik Color Efex Pro
  • 15:29 Adding a texture
  • 18:03 Lumenzia sharpening to add grunge/detail to background


If you’re an American and interested in going, I can’t recommend Cuba enough.  There were 5 daily flights direct from Miami when I went, and hoards of other Americans traveling there legally, not to mention people from many other countries around the world.  No doubt the tourism will increase significantly in the coming years as relations between the US and Cuba begin to normalize.  I went (legally) with Sante Fe Workshops.  My trip was led by Jennifer Spelman and Dustin Sammann, with strong local support from the leading photographic institution in Cuba:  Fototeca de Cuba.  The trip was very well organized, we got to see amazing places you would miss as a random tourist, and the Fototeca photographers were incredible.  Cuba is a very safe place for photographers, and the locals are very welcoming.  There is no more interesting place in the world for street photography!

One last thought…  I wanted to show that I wasn’t cherrying picking images of cars, so I dropped my camera on a tripod one morning and just recorded a few minutes of Cuban life passing by.  It’s pretty simple footage, but the kids in school uniforms and old cars show a very real slice of life in Havana today.

Greg Benz Photography