We don’t really get much choice here in the rain capital of the Universe (well, ok, it’s not quite Cherrapunji but it feels like it sometimes). But rather than avoiding the wet and water one can see it as … wait for it … yep, an opportunity to do some shooting.
Get your anorak and rain covers and plastic sheaths for your lenses or whatever you need. Don’t be shy. The rain presents some wonderful opportunities for creativity and story telling, especially on the city streets.
Firstly, raindrops are falling on your head. So capture some! In the city lights especially the droplets glisten and sparkle. Focusing on falling raindrops is obviously a non-starter so find something to focus on, a person, or an object, anything around which the rain is falling. Use a narrower aperture if possible to extend the depth of field and fire away. I must admit, I have shot many of the examples here at F/2.8 or lower as the amount available light was an issue. But on micro-four-third sensors depth of field is greater at any given aperture than on a larger sensor anyway.
Secondly, wet surfaces exhibit light and shadows differently than when dry. Shadows seem to be particularly well accentuated on wet surfaces, perhaps because the added gloss provides more contrast. I really don’t spend much time analysing it while I’m firing off the shot. If it looks and feels good then I hit the button. You should hit the button too. Or touchscreen. Whichever you use.
Thirdly, and this probably should have been first as it’s my favourite reason to shoot in the wet, reflections. Love them. Wet surfaces open up possibilities to split the frame with mirror images. A bland, featureless concrete pavement suddenly becomes a glass window, hazy or sharp, reflecting the world above it.
Rain may change the dynamic of the scene, forcing people to move faster through it or splash about or unfurl their umbrellas. Water inevitably sprays everywhere amongst such action and adds more movement to the captured image. In such situations, you might need a wider aperture and higher ISO value to enable a faster shutter speed.
Generously accompanying the rain are the clouds, dense, dark and brooding. Don’t hesitate to capture their details and volume. If sun happens to hiding behind them, then relish the intensity of colours it provides. Don’t forget to look for the rainbow too.
Obviously, a concern for many is keeping their beloved gear dry. I think I am fortunate that much of my Olympus gear is weather sealed and has often been soaked and still functions. But by all means stand under some shelter, wear a baseball hat, shoot from inside your coat using the flip out touchscreen. Anything you can think of to stay dry. Use a lens hood where possible and have some cloth (e.g. microfibre) handy to wipe the lens clean if necessary. But don’t be afraid to get wet. After all, the shots may be worth it.
Speaking of flip-out touchscreens, great way to surreptitiously take shots of people. I’m always a little insecure about shooting complete strangers, and in the middle of London many people would sooner step through you than stand and pose for a shot. It’s different in every place. And by using a longer focal length you can take your shot from some distance away so as not to be intrusive. For many of these shots I used a 60mm F/2.8 Macro lens (I like to challenge myself). For other shots, however, I’ve used pancake lenses like the Panasonic 20mm F/1.7 and 14mm F/2.5 (since sold). They make the camera and lens complex much smaller and discrete.
Well, I am somewhat on the fence about a lot of street photography. Perhaps I’m not particularly good at it (most likely) but much of the street photography out there seems like random snapshots of nothing in particular and in that sense is just a tad pretentious. Perhaps I’m a simple guy and need to have a definitive point of interest or subject to my shots. Just my personal observation. But at least the rain offers opportunities for shooting that I perhaps wouldn’t otherwise have.
Go out there and get wet!
Pictures: 1a, 3, 5, 6, 7 & 7b are brilliant for me. Congratulations! Picture number pops up when mouse is over it.
Thank you Waldermar :)
I like your picture of the Shell centre building, skies are out of this world. The view from london eye must have been great at that time.
Thank you Picture perfect. Yes it was rather special :)
“much of the street photography out there seems like random snapshots of nothing in particular and in that sense is just a tad pretentious”. Amen to that.
But a nice article and some fine shots.
Shooting in the rain can be challenging, but often rewarding too, as the light is frequently magical.
Wet surfaces reflect light in interesting ways, fill shadows and bring out hidden detail.
The only exception that comes to mind is shooting birds – other than aquatic and wetland species, they look a bedraggled mess – a bit like me straight out of the shower.
….’they look a bedraggled mess – a bit like me straight out of the shower’. That’s what you says, Betty, but we can only believe your words for you have not provided a picture of you ….straight out of the shower….so we don’t know how to check in your comment.
Now now Waldemar, you’re letting your imagination get the better of you again…
Brilliant photos and ethos, as always
I have a complete rain proof camera, lenses, and flash. Is it a canon? A Nikon? no. Mine is one of the only WR aps-c systems out there. The Pentax K-3,
Love the pix!
I like long exposures with a variable neutral density filter in rain and snow, i.e.: 20-30 sec. shots. Gives a real feel for motion and intensity!
Sharif. It is nice article and also the pictures.
Since I live in a country with a lot of rain. This one very inspiring me.
Cheers to you.
Thank you Iwan. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. :)
Bravo, Sharif! That’s the spirit! I *love* your photographs!
Cheers to you!
Thank you Rick!
Your photos are delightful. I wish you had spent some time telling us how to protect our cameras. I see you use Panasonic but not what models.
Thank you Don. There are some suggestions in the text. The Panasonic lenses I used are listed in the captions below the images. The 20 mm f/1.7 and the 14 mm f/2.5.
Interesting essay, Sharif. It encourages me to give it a go instead of quickly putting the gear away to protect it from the rain. It also reminded me that many years ago I observed that films crews shooting movies out on location will almost always wet down the street just before filming…and then keep it wet throughout the shoot. When I inquired about this I got a couple of different answers. One was, it settles the dust which would degrade the appearance of the film. The other was, to keep the scene “matched” in case it rained. Otherwise you would have scenes with the street looking dry and then scenes with it looking wet after rain. I suppose those reasons make sense. But after reading your essay, I think there is an added dimension. It just makes the street look better…provides better contrast.