Interview with photographer Hubert de Cuba: “Taking pictures makes me very happy”

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“I dropped from the pan into the fire.” Everyone who is active in paintball for more than 15 years and invests in the latest paintball guns knows how much investment it requires. But these days, Hubert de Cuba (54) decided to shoot with a different object, and his weapon is a camera.

“I am not a professional photographer. I consider myself an advanced amateur”, he told our reporter. Hubert de Cuba began in the world of photography back in 2010, after completing a basic course with Ron van Kessel. His goal was to take pictures of sports activities. But during the pandemic, particularly during lockdown, every activity was stopped. “I wanted to do something else, so I chose scenery. I did a course online for scenery photography, by Tim Shields from Canada. I was getting homework to do, and based on these works, I received a certificate.”

This is how Hubert developed his interest for Aruba’s scenery, including the sea. And from one comes the other, because part of the scenery is our animals, great and small, on land, water and in the air. “And I fell in love with macro photography, where you take pictures of very small animals and insects, that don’t catch your eye right away. You can let people appreciate their details.”

Different photography, different techniques

What allowed Hubert specialize in animal photography is his experience taking pictures of sport activities. “The technique is similar. In sport, it’s not just about going on the field and photographing a batter from every angle. You can’t get on the field; you need a long lens with which to reach the players from a distance. In wildlife it’s the same. You can’t just come up to a bird, it will fly away. What’s beautiful about such a picture is that you need to filter the frame, for the picture to be neat. For such an image, you need a camera that shoots very fast and big lenses.”

There is a reason why Hubert became one of the most outstanding photographers for his images of the animal world. He’s not professional, but the effort he puts into his skill, technique and the investment in cameras is professional level. “I follow a lot of international photographers who specialize in sports. And at the end, they all say the same. They say that whoever wants to go in sports needs a suitcase full of money.”

This is why he decided to launch his website now, printsofaruba.com, with all his pictures, and those interested can buy and have these printed. His pictures now have already gone around the world, particularly because of the possibility of printing, even on aluminum, makes the images stand out and even inspire others in their own art.

The person who got Hubert into photography was his daughter, Kimberly de Cuba. “Kimberly started photographing parties, but after a disappointment, she stopped. Myself, I never felt like taking pictures at private events, being weddings or baptisms. There might be money in it, but it doesn’t attract me. I don’t feel comfortable to ask people to take their pictures. My son Stiven, on the other hand, is very good in this style of photography. He can get a group of 400 together, make them smile and get a gorgeous picture. I respect him.”
Stiven lives in the Netherlands but travels all around the world photographing events.

Aside from expensive equipment, a scenery and wildlife photographer needs patience. And there are times when a GoPro itself is enough. A turtle right under the surface of the sea, before reaching out for a breath; a fish scared in the air before being eaten by a pelican; and a seagull cleaning its guts in the air are some of the impressive images that Hubert took with his GoPro, which garnered international attention. “It’s about being on the right spot at the right time.” However, Hubert is convinced that his own camera and lens would produce even better pictures, and he is ready to invest once again in special equipment to take pictures under the sea.

The passion to take pictures of sports activities is still alive. Last weekend, Hubert was in Colombia to take pictures. Regrettably in Aruba the challenge to take a good image is the bright lights at sports facilities, which lower the quality of the final product. “There is a lot of noise in the pictures.”

His mentor is Anthony Carlo, who aside from his advocacy work is very dedicated to sports photography. “He always told me, sports photography is like fishing. You either catch a fish or you don’t. This always stayed in my mind.” This means that Hubert became very critical of his own pictures, and only wants the perfect picture. This means deleting if necessary, between 150 to 170 pictures until he finds ‘the one’.

Thanks to his eye, patience and auto criticism, Hubert was among 100 photographers from around the world chosen to participate with three pictures in the virtual wildlife photography exhibit organized by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition.

This is the direction in which Hubert wants to go, to continue participating in international competition to stimulate his own development as a photographer and also to bring Aruba’s nature on an international platform. His pictures and paintings hang around the world, and the possibilities are limitless.

And even though De Cuba was able to leave his paintball guns aside, everyone in photography knows that the investment in lens, other tools, and time that’s needed costs a lot of money. Even more than paintball. But the results bright a lot of joy to many, particularly the photographer. “I am super happy.”