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The art of seeing #5: What is it that you want to capture, or explain, or show?

(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. 

www.benedictbrain.com

Recently I’ve travelled quite a bit, and I’ve found myself working in new ways. On this trip I was lucky enough to be transiting the Panama Canal. I nearly missed capturing the first lock as I waited for my lens to acclimatise from the cool environment of my cabin to the humid, tropical heat. There’s not much you can do other than wait for the glass to heat up and defog.

Trying to capture the impact the Canal has had on the world through a lens proved a real challenge. Everything I was shooting was OK but, frankly, not much more than good-quality ‘record’ shots. It was after the first set of locks, while the ship was in Gatun Lake, that it occurred to me I needed to be approaching this with the mindset of a landscape photographer. After all, it’s one of the most significant human-made manipulations of the land in history.

As is my wont, I ended up creating a small series (about 12 images) of landscapes taken from the ship that reveal various aspects of the tropical topography. However, if there’s one image I feel sums up the experience of the journey, it would be this one.

In this image we see the rear end of a container ship: there must be the best part of a hundred containers in sight. Contrasted against the jungle and the heavy, moody sky, the elements of the composition all come together to tell the story I was hoping to communicate.

Technically it’s a straightforward image. There’s no point in using a tripod on a vibrating moving ship, so it was handheld, which I just about got away with. BB

• Other articles in the Art of Seeing series

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