Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Tortilla fingers

Petronila Escalante prepares tortillas in her family's home in El Bonete, a small village in northwestern Nicaragua. Usually made of corn, the tortilla is a staple in diets throughout Central America and Mexico..

The rule of thumb in photography is that light is your friend if it's behind you or to the side, but if it's shining at you from behind the subject you want to photograph, then you've got issues. But sometimes it works to your advantage. In 2009, I was photographing Petronila Escalante as she prepared tortillas in her family's home in El Bonete, a small village in northwestern Nicaragua. It was really early in the day, when the sun is wonderful, and in this case it was flowing in under the thatch and illuminating her. To her left, however, were some of her kids who wanted to stare at the camera, so I decided to isolate her. I switched sides and realized that if I placed the sun directly behind her hands, I got the silhouette of her fingers as she slapped the tortillas. Cool. And you get the smoke from the fire lit up against the dark background, and the sun functions as a sort of rim light around her head. Sometimes it all comes together.

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