Hi everyone! Mira was my first photography student when I started teaching here in Italy and when she asked me to write an article on photography for her new blog, I was honored. I just returned from a New Year’s Eve trip to Paris. I knew ahead of time that is was going to rain – but the torrential downpours we encountered would have deflated any photographer’s dream of capturing the city of love for this once a year event. Plus the fact that France didn’t provide a fireworks display (we found out later they haven’t done it for years) nor was there entertainment for the masses of people from all over the world. I had nothing to capture but rain and more rain, millions of people and traffic.
Actually on a recent trip to Austria – I found that most of the great photos I captured were directly out the front window of the bus. We had a bus tour and a boat tour scheduled into the two days – so I decided to go for it. Every time the bus stopped at a light or intersection I shot out the side window though it was solid sheeting rain. For this shot you can see I simply leaned over and aimed through the front windshield. I wasn’t happy with shooting that way – but without any other choice I gave it a shot. You can see the wonderful results below.
One of the things I always tell my students – is don’t put your camera away when you see inclement weather on the horizon. Storm clouds and in this case rain certainly enhanced my options. Always remember to protect your camera – if you don’t have waterproof casing a heavy baggie placed over your camera with a hole cut out of the end for your camera lens helps somewhat. It isn’t 100% fail safe but it is better than getting water into your camera. Naturally that is a case of do what I say – not as I did – because I left my baggies in the hotel room. I was cognizant enough to remember to pack them – just not take them when I needed them.
The boat ride was a horrendous experience for all the camera buffs on board. Others simply popped out their umbrellas and enjoyed the trip. I always carry two cameras with me – one strapped around my neck and one on my shoulder so I don’t have to change lenses. On these shots I used my 18 to 35mm lens – there was simply no way for my 300mm lens to focus through the solid downpour. In retrospect if I had had only one camera and had to have changed the lens – my cameras would probably have been destroyed.
Photos taken before a storm, during a storm and after when the ozone layer is crystal clear afford you some of the most spectacular photos. I will have to give Canon a lot of credit – both cameras and lenses were drenched with rain the whole time and they never fogged up or got water into the body of the cameras. I did everything to keep them dry – stuck them inside my coat – wiped them off continuously with paper towels until they were all gone – but nothing worked. I simply gave up and kept shooting – hoping that they wouldn’t be damaged. I lucked out this time at least.
The photo above was taken from the side window of the bus when we slowed in traffic. If you focus on an object far away – you might get some blur or motion in the front of your photograph but the back will remain in focus. That also works driving on the highway. Most of the lenses are manufactured with a stabilizer. I did not take a tripod with me. Just know that when you hand hold especially during evening hours – one or two out of every twenty photos will be sharp enough to work. I put the camera on continuous shooting and just kept the shutter down. Eventually one of the shots will be in focus.
This street corner photo on the Invalides Bridge – was handheld and the camera was set on the no flash dial which on the Canon cameras is at the bottom of the program dials. It was hand held and worked around cars and people. I didn’t use the timer or a tripod. There are only 3 or 4 of these photos that worked. Invariably someone would walk in front of the camera or a car would stop on the middle of the bridge for some reason. I took 57 photos on that corner and this is the best combination of all of them. The rain had stopped momentarily and I ran for three blocks so I could capture it. Night rain photos offer the most beautiful reflections – and they simply glisten in a way that you can’t capture any other time.
This last photo was taken through the front window of the bus during our midday tour – you can see how dark it was out. Some of the most exquisite designs can be formulated through pouring rain.
Contemplating the photos I wanted to share with you – I have decided to include the photo of the Capitol in Washington, DC that won the photograph of the year for 2011 in AWAI. This was actually taken when I still worked for the Department of Justice. Shortly after I snapped this shot the water puddle was totally frozen.
One last thought – be sure you take both landscape and portrait position photos of all your pictures.