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Portrait of a woman in a red flower dress, surrounded by rainforest greenery, looking up at a thousand year old tree in Volcan Baru National Park, Chiriqui province, Panama
Exposure: 1/50 sec, f/5.6, ISO 500

Sometimes I look at this photo and forget that I was right there behind the camera, in the midst of this jungle greenery... Isn't it incredible how a simple expression or posture can set the mood, transforming the feel of an image? The mere presence of a human in the frame draws us in and makes us think; we try to imagine how they were feeling, what they were thinking, and start piecing together the ambience of their surroundings. If their appearance or character, as we perceive, is compelling enough, we might put ourselves in their place and try to imagine how we would feel or what we might see, if we were there...

I find portrait photography extremely compelling, especially the kind with a story to tell beyond the person's character; an image that is more than just a face on a background. The so-called "adventure" photography genre wouldn't exist without people in the photos; these images thrive on the combination of stunning landscapes and personalities within them, awakening longing for adventure and exploration within us!

This post contains some of my all-time favourite portraits, all shot within the last year or two. Each includes a brief background story.

Portrait of a local woman, selling hand-crafted dresses in central Panama
Exposure: 1/320 sec, f/5, ISO 320

We met this woman on our long drive across Panama, somewhere between the capital and the mountains in the west, just off of the Pan-American highway. She was selling traditional hand-crafted dresses, similar to the one she is wearing here, all hanging under a construction of tarps propped up by wooden poles, where she was well shielded from the blazing sun.

I couldn't pull off more than an exchange of two or three short phrases in Spanish, but she seemed happy to see us nonetheless, especially after we purchased one of her own beautiful creations. Anything else I would have wished to know about her, I could only gather from the tone of her voice, the look in her eyes, her gestures. To this day, anytime I look at this portrait I wonder; what was her life like outside of her dress-sewing activity and make-shift clothing shop? What was her first impression of us when we approached her? Did it change after our very brief exchange? What is she thinking at the moment I am pressing the shutter?

Portrait of couple in the park, mom to be, expecting a baby
Exposure: 1/2500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 500

Last spring this beautiful couple announced that they are going to be having their first baby, expected to arrive in the second half of December (Sofia is 5 months old as of the time of this writing). These photos (couple more here) were actually a lot less "candid" than they might appear, as we all had to work together to perfectly capture the couple's look, character, and mood. And we couldn't be more happy with the results!

Portrait of latina woman smiling and looking at a frozen waterfall in Iceland in the winter
Exposure: 1/50 sec, f/5.6, ISO 250

And this is the mother just a few months earlier, on a trip to Iceland, exploring the beautiful Southern Region and its natural jewels, with not a hint of a child yet in mind... Here she is looking towards the morning horizon across from Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

Portrait of woman in a red dress on a rope bridge in a Panama rainforest
Exposure: 1/125 sec, f/5, ISO 500

On a rope bridge in Anton Valley (El Valle). We were on a short hike through a piece of rainforest in central Panama. It was a fairly short walk, no more than a mile or two roundtrip and the most memorable part of it I could not catch on camera; picture walking through the thick greenery, with nobody else around, with butterflies of bright aquamarine colour (think of the blue tones from the movie Avatar) gracefully floating around you...

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