The art of seeing: #1 How and why I take photographs

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

(Image credit: Benedict Brain)

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.

Weirdly, nothing gives me more pleasure photographically than a roaming suburban sprawl with my camera – especially the periphery of European cities, which I find a rich resource of potential images. I came across this palm tree in the port area of Barcelona. It was an innocuous and visually uneventful little corner of a slightly run-down official customs-esque building – perfect for pictures!

I was initially drawn to the contrast in tones and textures between the stone walls and the palm tree. For me, this became the central focus for the image. There were several other palms in the area, so I had to work carefully to obscure the others and simplify my frame.

I particularly enjoy the mere hint of the top of the palm tree. Maybe I just take delight in subverting expected norms by chopping the head of the tree off. Whatever the reason, for me the hint of tree feels more successful visually than including it in its entirety.

Generally I’m quite drawn to a minimalist aesthetic in my images. I strive to strip down the elements and simplify a scene, often towards the point of near abstraction.

The simple, subtle diagonal line of the two rooftops and associated stone work helps create a keen sense of depth in the composition.

The image worked pretty well in color; however, I preferred this relatively high-key mono treatment.

I worked to keep the tones as high as I could without blowing the highlights.

Increasingly I’m drawn to the 4x5 aspect ratio: I find it more visually pleasing. Perhaps it harks back to when I made 8x10in prints in the darkroom. It’s an easy crop in Camera Raw. BB

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Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He graduated with a degree in photography from the Derby School of Art in 1991 (now University of Derby), where he was tutored and inspired by photographers John Blakemore and Olivier Richon, amongst others. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and also sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel.

Until July 2018 Benedict was editor of Britain’s best-selling consumer photography magazine, Digital Camera Magazine. As a journalist he met and interviewed some of the world’s greatest photographers and produced articles on a wide range of photography related topics, presented technique videos, wrote in-depth features, curated and edited best-in-class content for a range of titles including; Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Professional Photography and Practical Photoshop. He currently writes a regular column, The Art of Seeing, for Digital Camera magazine.