Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and the author of You Will be Able to Take Great Photos by The End of This Book.
A while ago, I went on a speaking gig with an international cruise line – which was, I have to admit, quite fun work. I have been banging on over the last couple of years about the great photo opportunities there are to be had close to home, which I still stand by. However, I have to say that it was invigorating to experience new places, new people and, best of all, new light.
I was taking photos like crazy, and my creativity felt unleashed and re-energized – I was out of control! I was soaking up everything from new topographies, architectural details, street shots, little vignettes of daily life, and, of course, capturing the character of some of the people I met en route.
Making portraits of people is a great way to connect with the world and explore the delightful similarities and differences between us. This shot, of a security officer called Jose taken in Costa Rica, was one such encounter.
It was a fairly ordinary scene, the kind of situation that’s easy to walk past without giving a second glance. However, in this instance, the striking shadow of the umbrella and the stark, bleak whiteness of the background caught my attention, albeit fleetingly in my peripheral vision.
A brief exchange in pidgin Spanish later, and Jose seemed happy to oblige, allowing me to take several images. I gave him a business card so he could contact me directly if he wanted a copy of the photo, which he did. A lovely exchange.
I’ve still got quite a lot of images to get through from the trip, but so far I think this is my favorite shot. I love the harsh, hard, overhead light that was so intense, the lightness of the background and the sharp, crisply defined shadow of the umbrella. Even the fact that the subject was using an umbrella speaks to the story and helps communicate the intensity of the situation.
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