Rainy Days are Sunny Days for Street Photography

I ride a Harley Davidson. I love riding and I try to get out there and rip it up every chance I get. Since I became a biker I have also become something of a weatherman. I often look weeks in advance at weather projections and forecasts, sorting out which days look good to plan a ride and which days may be a long shot at best. Projected sunny days make me giddy days in advance of riding. Looking ahead, I plan all sorts of riding scenarios. Normally though, the riding scenarios consist of me taking my camera gear with me when I shoot sports. When the day arrives I race from one game to the next, splitting traffic and gunning it hard as I go. It’s exhilarating. On the other hand, a day where it is projected to rain is a non-starter for riding. No riding will happen that day. Steady rain, no matter how lightly it falls, is not the ideal condition in which you want to operate your bike. This doesn’t mean that on rainy days I sit around trolling the internet and bemoaning not living in my dream city of San Diego or the always sunny Phoenix however. I have a car as well as a Harley and on rainy days, even though I can’t ride, I get to pursue street photography.

Wet Puppy

I don’t have kids or friends who like to ride shotgun in my car, so my normal riding buddy is my 5d Mark III with a 50mm 1.2 lens on the front. My street gear and I usually hit my favorite street photography spots in town, as well as run my usual errands. I don’t exactly get as excited as I do for riding my Harley, but I do get pretty excited to go and shoot the streets, especially when it rains.

Slick Street

The reasons I like shooting in the rain is firstly because the photos just look dope. Rain adds another element to record on your sensor. If you use a higher ISO and higher shutter speed, you can actually freeze the rain and see individual drops falling, if that’s your thing. For me, rain adds additional texture to a shot. I also like the look of wet rocks and streets.

Those boots look edible…

Secondly, besides the overall look of the photos, I like the fact that people are either using umbrellas when it rains, which always looks good, or they are bare-headed and that can look even better. Also, people are less likely to see your camera when it’s raining. I can raise my camera to my eye and compose a photograph how I wish and a subject probably wont notice me doing so. Of course, having a weather sealed camera body and lens is a big help. If you don’t have a weatherproof setup then you can use an umbrella, even though it might mess with your speed when composing and taking photographs. I wouldn’t recommend putting a plastic bag over your camera and attempting to shoot the streets however. You may accomplish keeping your gear dry but you will also accomplish looking like a complete douchebag.

When will they invent an umbrella you don’t actually have to hold?

I love sunny days. I get to ride my bike and shoot lacrosse or field hockey under the warm spring or late summer sun. When it rains however, this is when the sun shines on street photography. To me, street photography is second best when it rains. The only time the rain is bested, element wise, is when street photography is shot during a blizzard. Nothing beats snow shooting in the streets, but you’ll have to wait for winter to read that blog post. For now, when rain is in the forecast plan on grabbing that damn camera you paid all that money for and actually using it. Pull your hood over your head and get the hell out of your car. Always remember, when you’re out there in the pouring wetness, stay low and keep shooting. 

Dirty Snow

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Street Photography is Balance

Street Photography is both a private and a public experience.

There you are, walking through misty autumn rain with your 50mm lens and your trusty DSLR or rangefinder. It is man vs. nature. It is recording what light allows you to record. It is wickedly delightful people watching. It is deciding what to capture and what not to capture. It is your trial and error. Get the shot, miss the shot. Nobody can help you compose and shoot. It’s just you. Street Photography is your personal failure or triumph.


That scarf is why the universe was created…

Street Photography is also social networking. It is interacting with people. Unless you are using a telephoto lens, or shooting with a wide lens and cropping, in order to get classic street photos of living subjects you have to get close. In fact, many shooters use a 35mm lens or wider so that they are forced to interact with people. I am on the fence about this method myself. I use a Canon 50mm 1.2, which is not too wide but also not considered telephoto. It forces me to get close to my subjects, but not close enough that I disturb the candid nature of the scene every time. Sometimes subjects spot me and react as I snap the photo. Sometimes they walk by and have no idea what I’m doing. I suppose I use a 50mm because it is balanced, and balance is one of the key aspects of street photography.

Many gurus will charge top dollar to host a “seminar” just to tell you that balance is essential in life. I’m telling you here, for free, that the need for balance permeates all things, and street photography is no different. Street Photography is the daily micro-struggle, and it integrates itself into your life alongside your morning coffee at Starbucks or walking your girlfriend’s yappy pure-breed dog 3 times a day. It is your exercise routine and your healthy diet. Used correctly, street photography can help bring about the balance that we all need in our busy lives. Just keep at it. Dress comfortably. Keep your eyes and ears open. Stay low and keep Shooting…..

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