Ricardo Braz is a twenty-five-year-old travel photographer from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil who is known for remarkable captures—both sweeping and intimate—of Earth’s many corners.
Taking pride in traveling to places that most people wouldn’t have on their holiday-destinations lists, Braz has already visited sixty-four countries on five continents and has reveled in some very big adventures along the way. From hiking to the Everest base camp in Nepal, to closely watching an erupting volcano in Guatemala, to scuba diving with manta rays and sharks in the Maldives, to capturing the northern lights in Alaska and Iceland, Braz has established himself as a travel photographer truly in service of our great planet.
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Braz’s work has also caught the attention of some big brands, landing him gigs with Jeep, Corona, Columbia, Flashpacker Connect, Turo, OMNI Hotels, LensRentals, and Visit Faroe Islands. And, with publication in National Geographic, British Airways magazine, and Conde Nast, Braz has solidified himself as a photographer with a unique eye for natural beauty. Face the Current connected with Ricardo to uncover his inspiration, understand what it’s like to trek to extreme locations, feel his connection to the wildness of nature, and learn some details on his photographer mentorship program. For Braz, traveling is the ultimate way to seek self-development, and it’s his intention to inspire others to step outside of their comfort zones, venture out into the unknown, and open themselves up to the experience of becoming better human beings.
Sasha Frate: You say you’ve “acquired a taste for exotic countries and cultures—places ninety percent of people wouldn’t think of as a nice holiday destination”. What is it about these places that most wouldn’t consider a “nice holiday” and what about that attracts you to them?
Ricardo Braz: I’m sure all places can be considered a nice holiday destination; it just depends on your personal tastes! I think that with globalization and quick access to information, people, in general, tend to choose the “easiest” destinations to travel to; ones that demand less effort (physically, mentally, and time-wise) to get to, ones that you can communicate easily in, and ones that also have great infrastructure. When I mention two days traveling non-stop, an eight-hour drive, three days of hiking, etc, it’s something that scares people. This might be because they have never tried it before or are not willing to get out of their comfort zone, but that’s what attracts me! I love to try different things and live different experiences to show people that there’s more out there than visiting only the “mainstream” destinations. Those experiences that push me beyond my limits are what shaped me into what I am today: an open-minded person with no fear of trying new things!
SF: Out of the sixty-four countries you’ve been to, what is one travel experience that you’d say had the greatest impact on changing you in some way?
RB: It’s so hard to pick just one! I can’t pick a single country, but a life-changing trip was when I spent five months in Asia by myself (Jan-Jun 2018). It wasn’t my first time on the continent, but it taught me a lot. It was the beginning of my career in photography and I needed to try new things in life. I quit my job in Brazil and decided to take the trip just a few days after graduating business school. I’ve visited Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Japan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka and met amazing people along the way—some that I still consider good friends. I shot and practiced as much as I could, got my few first clients, and decided that I wanted to do photography for a living. If I hadn’t taken that trip, I probably wouldn’t be doing this interview right now!
SF: I’ll admit, even despite living on a couple of the Hawaiian islands for years, one of my biggest fears is of encounters with sharks. What was it like for you to swim with sharks and manta rays in the Maldives, and was there any fear factor for you?
RB: I’m a big fan of animals, so I learned that when we’re the ones visiting their habitats, we should act accordingly and respect it at all times. If we behave correctly next to any animal—do no harm and maintain a safe distance—it’ll be completely safe! And with sharks it’s no different. There are a few species that are quite dangerous indeed, like the great white, the bull, and the tiger, that behave differently than other species and should be avoided when swimming, but the other species are very safe if you follow all the rules. I’ve already had many encounters with different species of sharks (hammerheads, oceanic white tips, whale, nurse, reef) and the thrill is amazing. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be swimming next to those giants!
SF: You’ve experienced a lot of extremes, from Everest Base Camp and frigid temps in Alaska and Iceland to erupting volcanoes and Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell”, a burning crater in the desert. While studies show that warm and cold weather people are completely different, most tend not to seek the extremes. But beyond the thrill of adventure, what is it about experiencing the extremes that you find important or special?
RB: It’s all about adaptation and I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about adapting to different environments.
As an outdoor passionate, I’m always discovering new things about how my body reacts in different circumstances, so I can know how far I can push. This also applies to people: knowing how to adapt to different cultures was super important in terms of opening my mind about many things.
SF: You created a beautiful movie called Reconnected. What was the inspiration behind this and why was the storyline important for you to share?
RB: Reconnected was create in June; a difficult month for most people in the world after a long period of isolation. The idea we had was to show people that being in isolation wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; that we could connect with the nature around us in a beautiful way. Those months were the most time I spent home without traveling, so I wanted to share a positive message that happiness could be found close to you in simple places.
SF: Perhaps similar to your swim to a stunning little island off the coast of Israel in the Dead Sea, can you share a couple of unique/interesting treks/adventures you’ve had to take to get to your also unique and interesting destinations?
RB: I’ve had a few of them, for sure! Once I visited what is considered to be the most remote village in Sri Lanka. To visit Meemure, I needed to take a five-hour train ride followed by a four-hour bus ride and then a two-hour stint in a 4×4 public car. A few local guys I met there had a camping trip planned in Meemure and invited me, so, why not?! It turned out to be one of the most remote places I’ve been—no electricity, phone connection, or infrastructure whatsoever. It was just us, our tents, the food we carried, and our camping gear. It was a very peaceful trip with spectacular waterfalls, mountains, and rice fields everywhere.
Another great experience I had was solo road-tripping in Kazakhstan. I needed a local person to show me the way to some of the golden dunes I found on Google Maps, and when I got to the entrance of the park, the guides were charging me around 200 dollars for a three-hour round trip to the dunes! That’s crazy expensive for the country, so I knew I was getting scammed. Instead, when I got to my accommodation with a house family, I talked to the owners and they said their kids could show me the way for free. So, I set out to the dunes with two eight-year old kids in my car who only spoke Russian. It turned out to be such a fun adventure and we connected very well despite not speaking a common language. We blasted some Russian rap in the car, did a photoshoot session, and in the end, I gave them a Brazilian soccer shirt that I had with me and never saw more genuine smiles.
SF: You offer mentorship—what does this look like and what might one’s experience be like with you?
RB: Yes! That’s a service I offer that I’ve been enjoying a lot. The mentorship is completely adaptable to the client, and it normally starts with a fifteen to twenty-minute conversation for me to understand their goals. From there, I draw a plan for the three-hour class, and this is normally divided into two sections. I give access to all of my RAW files and presets so the client can edit as a “homework” assignment, and I also request a few images from the client so I can show them some techniques involved in the way that I would edit. I also talk a lot about business, such as reaching out to clients, building a portfolio, delivering files, etc. Social media instruction is also important, including some tips on how to grow on Instagram, plan their feeds, and connect with other creatives. The topics we can talk about are basically endless, so it’s fun to start a new mentorship!
SF: How do you see travel as a tool that can shape us to become better human beings?
RB: For me, it’s all about understanding different people and environments.
When you’re in a place for too long (let’s say your hometown or even your country), your reality becomes like a “bubble”. It’s the same kind of people, routine, food, and natural environment. When you travel, new experiences change your mind about an infinite number of topics that you didn’t pay attention to and that might have seemed normal to you when you were home.
That’s very enriching! Understanding and living other realities makes you reflect on your own life and incorporate new habits that will eventually make you a better person!
SF: You have a great eye for capturing scenes—such as your icy scene in Seattle, Washington—that appear as if they’re in far-off lands, but in reality, they are not always all that remote. What are your top scenes that felt like a fairytale or remote landscape but were actually captured in surprisingly close proximity to cities or well-known areas?
RB: Before visiting a new place, I always do extended research on it to scout new locations to shoot. This always leads me to new and “undiscovered” places. I actually wrote a guide on Instagram entitled “How to Find Hidden Spots in Your Travels” to show some methods that I use!
This temple is located just forty-five minutes outside of Bangkok and it’s still a hidden gem. Millions of people visit the city every year and I bet not even one percent make it there!
This water park is located ten minutes away from the city-center of Hue, in Vietnam, and it’s still a hidden gem, too.
SF: Can you share a couple of the places you’ve been to or experiences you’ve had where you felt the wildest and most connected to nature?
RB: I try to connect with nature in most places I go, so I‘ll choose a few! The wildest and most untouched country I’ve been to was Kyrgyzstan. Nature there is incredibly raw—there is almost no tourism and the people there are very welcoming. It was one of my greatest travel experiences without a doubt and I can’t wait to be back one day. Besides that trip, I feel very connected to nature when I go diving. My family and I are very into scuba diving, so we often do liveaboards (when you live on a boat for a week, diving every day). I feel like that’s the closest we can be to nature!
SF: Thailand looks to be a world unto itself through your captures. What are your top three favorite temples to visit, and what is a “must-see experience” for anyone Thailand-bound?
RB: Thailand is such a great destination for temple-hopping. My favorite ones are still a bit off the grid, such as the dragon temple – the fish temple (this is actually a complex of really amazing temples) in Bangkok, and the amazing “Sky Stupas” in Lampang.
But Thailand has a lot to offer other than temples! There are beautiful cities all around, incredible parks and mountains in the north, and stunning paradisiacal islands in the south. I’ve been to the country six times now and I already have a big list of places left to visit.
SF: You’ve shared a beautiful memory of connection with a local family in their yurt out in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, where despite not speaking the same language, you laughed and connected over tea and biscuits. With travelling moments like these where we feel that humanity has no borders, it can be challenging to face disparities and divisiveness in the current world. Do you believe sharing more stories like these can have a positive impact in terms of reminding us all that we are one?
RB: Absolutely! The media is flooded with negative messages about a lot of countries, especially in the Middle East, Africa, and “third world countries”. I was born in Brazil, a country with big disparities, and I feel like I’m used to that already. I can see it and accept with other eyes. When we are outside of our country/comfort zone, we are naturally more open-minded to new conversations with different people, and this leads us to see things differently. It’s about new perspectives, ways of living, simplicity, and unity. That’s the most beautiful thing about traveling, and your experiences abroad will teach you things that you’ll take for with you when you go back home. I’m just super happy to share these positives experiences with others through social media!