1/80s @ f/5.6, ISO 400, FL=70mm, Natural Light with Fill-flash, Handheld
I really like this image. I’ve titled it “Sisters” because to me it speaks to the sisterhood. Three young ladies intensely engrossed in a very feminine activity. I recently photographed this scene in the heart of the Cuyabeno Wilderness Reserve, located within the northern Amazon river basin straddling Ecuador and Peru.
The two young girls are the daughters of the local Shaman, and are members of the indigenous tribe which inhabits the area. Sonia, the young woman applying the face paint, is the French girlfriend of our wilderness guide. The contrasts struck me immediately: Sonia’s light complexion, blonde hair, body art and face paint; the two young girls with their brown skin, black hair and native curiosity. The counterintuitive scene of a white outsider applying face paint to indigenous locals. So different from one another, and yet equal members of the sisterhood.
I was listening and photographing (with prior permission) a presentation by the father, the Shaman; translated from the local dialect to Spanish, and then from Spanish to English. The three girls seemed unaware of the proceeding, and immediately bonded in an alternative common activity. Looking over my shoulder I saw the beautiful soft backlight coming in through the window, but it left their faces in deep shadow.
Making a few quick adjustments to my camera, I fired off two quiet shots using my Speedlite for fill-flash. I exposed for the ambient light in the background, and used my Speedlite to softly fill in the shadows on their faces. I am very pleased with how the lighting turned out, because I am far from being an expert with electronic flash, I much prefer natural light whenever possible. Having nailed the shot, I quickly returned my attention to the Shaman.
The result is a snapshot in time, a moment captured for all eternity. For me, a good photograph must ask questions and tell a story. Sonia is deep in concentration, the little girl is paying rapt attention, and the older girl is watching closely and waiting for her turn. Sisters in the universal and eternal sisterhood.
Photographer’s note: This image was captured as a CameraRAW file with my Canon 5D Mark II full-frame digital camera, Canon EF 70-200 f/4L USM telephoto zoom lens and Canon Speedlite 430EX II with diffuser. RAW conversion and post-edits were completed in Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11).
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler
Northern Amazon River Basin, Ecuador