Taking pictures in the rain

SAMSUNG CSCTaking pictures in the rain – let the details tell the story

You would think there was a law against taking pictures on a rainy day, as hardly any photographers ever do. They look out the window, see the drips and drops falling from the heavens, and decide automatically that it is a day for doing something else. But one of the things they are missing out on is a chance of getting unique images – with all the other photographers indoors anything you shoot on a rainy day is going to be an exclusive!

And rain happens – it is part of the experience of life, so we should be photographing it. This shot was taken on a rainy morning in London when the commuters were rushing to work, heads down and brollies up. If you are at all nervous of taking pictures of people in the street a rainy day is great, as no one is going to bother stopping to ask what you are doing.

As I walked along behind this person I enjoyed how the water was forming into big droplets on the umbrella material, and how those droplets were sparkling in the light, and I wanted to make a picture to show that. Obviously the person under the brolly was moving pretty quickly, so I set myself an ISO of 1600 and an aperture of f/2 so I could get a motion-stopping shutter speed – in this case 1/2500sec. Then I set my AF point to the lower third of the screen and followed the brolly trying to walk in time with the person under it. When we walk we naturally bob up and down, so getting in rhythm with the subject is important if we are going to avoid motion blur. I knew I was pretty safe though, with that very fast shutter speed, but the timing was important so I could get the focus point exactly where I wanted it on the moving subject.

I was happy to shoot at f/2 because I knew I didn’t have to get the buildings in the background in focus for people to know what they are. You mightn’t recognise Old Broad Street, but it is enough to see that this is a city scene and you get the sense of the old buildings and the new glass tower block in the distance. Also the narrow depth of field would make the droplets the only part of the picture in focus, so you would know that they are the subjects and what I want you to look at.

It was a pretty grey day in a pretty grey place, so rather than turning the picture black and white I just de-saturated it a bit and then overlaid an orange tone to give it a warmer feel.
It might sound odd to describe to someone else that this is a picture of an umbrella, and it wouldn’t sound very exciting, but it is a picture about the atmosphere of the place at that time. Often it is the small details that can describe an atmosphere more fully than a wider shot of the whole street, as details are filled with clues and you force the viewer to look at them.

I hope you like the shot, and that it has encouraged you to go out with your camera next time it rains. Please do leave me a comment below. I run regular street photography classes around London, both during the day and at night, so why not join me and a very small group of other photographers for some instruction and inspiration – and a lot of fun?

I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

My next street day is on 18 February 

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

 

Taking pictures in the rain - London

Colour balance for fluorescent lights – Under Southwark Bridge

8413845800_34b7ff6238_cColour balance • Exposure compensation • High ISO

Daylight is the ultimate light source and its almost infinite combinations of characteristics and properties make it an endlessly variable, changeable and exciting type of illumination. And consequently it is by far the more popular form of lighting for most photographers. Your camera is set up to deal with daylight by default and all your systems expect it unless you intervene with a different manual instruction.
Photographers are so used to using daylight that when the daylight fades cameras are put to bed to await sunrise the next day, or portable sunlight is loaded with batteries and slipped into the hotshoe – a flash gun.
When you put your camera away after sunset you miss the opportunity to enjoy the multitude of different coloured lights humans use to brighten their world during the night, and to capture the atmospheres those coloured lights can create.

Fluorescent strip lighting

I shot the picture shown here early on a January morning under Southwark Bridge in London. The sky was just coming alive, but under the bridge the world was lit only with artificial lighting – in this case fluorescent strip lights. We tend to avoid fluorescent lighting because it can be ugly and it often creates a sickly green cast, but it is important to appreciate that fluorescents come in many different colours, from white to yellow to red, as well as green. The light here was old and dirty, and its bulb emitted a deep yellow glow that felt strangely warm at that freezing blue hour.
What I wanted to capture at this scene was the haven of warmth that the light was creating in contrast with the dank, wet brickwork and the wrapped up people using the tunnel at that time.
The obvious shot from the direction I approached the scene was from the other side of the road – shooting square to the wall, with a people walking into the patch of light.

White balance

Fluorescent lighting with fluorescent white balanceI know most people would have used auto white balance, or even switched to fluorescent, without recognising that the colour of the light is an essential element in the atmosphere. I had the camera on the daylight setting, as I do for 90% of my pictures. The first image shown here was processed from raw with the fluorescent setting selected so you can see the colours that most people would come away with.
In this shot wanted to make the most of the symmetry of the structure, and with the light striking the subject at such an acute angle we only get an outline of the front of the body. It’s not a bad angle, and I quite like that lit rim of head, face and trousers, but to engage an audience I think we need a bit more than just that.

A different angle with leading lines

I switched to the other side of the road, returned the camera to daylight, and tried to guess the difference in illumination value between the faces passing me by and the background. I set –1.3EV of exposure compensation so skin tones would be the right brightness and to control the camera’s desire to render the detail of the background. As the subjects were moving I wanted a shutter speed that would avoid a lot of blur, and I needed a depth of field that would allow me to guess and pre-set the focus, but balanced with a nice soft rendering of the background. I closed the 25mm f/1.4 lens to f/2 which, with the exposure compensation and an ISO setting of 3200, gave me a shutter speed of 1/200sec – enough to freeze most of the movement but without creating a completely static-looking image.
And then I just waited for someone interesting to come by.

Colour combinations

In the final image it is the warmth of the light that delivers the atmosphere. The deep yellows scream out ‘artificial lighting’ so we know immediately we are underground or working at night. I love the rich reds of the brickwork that is pleasing and comfortable without taking away the sense of the dereliction of the filthy water-soaked walls.
I was lucky with the greens, browns and blues of the two guys in the scene, and their poses that seem to echo their status relative to each other – the more confident becoming the dominant figure by his looking into the lens in a semi-challenging manner.

Panasonic Lumix G5 with Leica DG Summilus 25mm / F1.4 ASPH  – ISO 3200 f/2 and 1/200sec

If you enjoyed this post why not join me for a street photography course? These happen in London during the day or the evening. Or perhaps a one-to-one session would suit you better. I can help to improve your photography whatever your level of experience. Find out more in the Events and Courses section.

See me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/demolder
Follow me on Twitter at @damiendemolder

 

Making the most of fluorescent lighting

Fluorescent lighting with fluorescent white balance

 

Gift vouchers for photography courses

Nitin Gandhi shooting silhouettes and the light reflecting off the tilesGift vouchers for photography courses

A voucher for one of my street courses or a one-to-one learning day is the perfect gift for any photographer of any experience level. There’s no greater feeling than making progress in something you love, or in finding the answers to the questions that have been bothering you for ages.

Whether you pick a street day or a personal day the recipient of your gift will love you for ever, and every time they take a good picture from that day on they’ll remember your kindness and your thoughtful gift.

You can find details of my day courses and night courses on their respective information pages. You can find details about my personal one-to-one courses here, but in short they are designed precisely around the needs of the student and their level of experience or area of interest – so every one is different. They start with a chat on the phone so I can find out what is needed, and it ends with an assessment of the pictures taken on the day – with hints and tips on how they could be better, and what has worked brilliantly.

My aim is always happy and fulfilled students, who know they have learnt a lot and that they’ve had an excellent and enjoyable day. These courses change the way students think about photography, their cameras and the way they see everyday scenes. I aim to make them life-changing.

Gift vouchers are posted to you along with one of my greeting cards, so you can write your own message inside. The price of the voucher reflects the cost of the course.

Street photography courses cost £180

Personal one-to-one days cost £499

Just go to my students’ picture gallery, and read the comments they’ve posted on the day courses page if you want to know what people think.

To buy a voucher email us stating the course you’d like to buy, and we’ll get in touch straight away to sort out the details.

Damien

 

 

Gift Vouchers display image

 

Photographing light – when the subject isn’t an object

Light, No Light

When we talk about pictures we are taking, have taken or are going to take, most often we do so in terms of what that picture is of. We talk about that amazing giraffe, or the beautiful river winding through the landscape, the smiling child or the delicate flower. We rarely describe a picture by explaining the way the light was at that moment. And yet light is the most important element of any photograph, so perhaps that is what we should be talking about and when we go shooting that’s what we should be actively seeking out.
I shot this picture because I liked the way the morning sun was reflecting from the side of a modern office building in London, creating these coloured stripes on the pavement. It was the stripes and their colour that made me stop, and they inspired me to take the picture. The stripes aren’t an object, but they are the subject of the picture.

An added element

These pretty coloured bands are enough on their own to make a picture – an abstract set of lines bending from one side of the frame to the other – but I wanted to add some human life to the scene for scale and extra interest. I noticed that as people entered or left the lit patch they cast their shadow across the stripes, making a shape perpendicular to the flow of the scene, and creating a number of intersections that drew the eye.
I waited for the right person, with the right shape, to walk into the right place in the scene, and was reasonably quickly rewarded by this girl strolling into the area that cast her shadow between the green stripes, over the more brightly lit and colourless zone. Her shadow fits perfectly, and as her head’s shadow entered the frame her feet, with the catch-lights on her shoes, were preparing to make their way out. Everything came together in a cocktail of luck, anticipation, planning and patience.

Exposing for the more important tones

Stripes levels. Damien DemolderTo make the most of the colours of the light I had to take control of the camera’s exposure system. To the camera this is a dark scene that needs lightening. To my brain it was a scene in which the lightest areas needed to be a more moderate brightness so that the colours wouldn’t bleach out. I had to make a dramatic adjustment with the camera’s exposure compensation feature, turning the brightness down to -1.7EV. I have black in the scene, and there are light tones that are close to white. Although the picture looks very dark there are actually few real blacks and the histogram shows tones right up to 252.

It is a picture of light, and the exposure has to take that into account. Your camera is designed to take pictures of cats, humans, trees and buildings, so when you want it to just shoot light you need to take full control and tell it very clearly how to do it. Your brain is much bigger than your camera’s so don’t allow your camera to take charge of the situation.

Join me for a street photography class and learn first-hand how to take pictures like this. Choose between daytime classes and classes in the evening and into the night. For details see my street photography workshops page.

Samsung NX20 with the 30mm lens.

 

Stripes black display. Damien Demolder

This frame shows the areas of the image that are completely black

Green reflected light, by Damien Demolder

Do you like this picture?
Did you find the post interesting or useful?
Please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks.

 

Student gallery from the one day London street photography course

Student gallery from the one day

London street photography course

The gallery shown here is made up of pictures taken by students during Damien’s one day street photography course that is held in London. Each student is asked to load his or her best three shots from the day, and visitors can add their complements in the comments section.

These pictures will give prospective students an idea of the sort of quality they can hope to achieve by the end of the day, and remember those who come on this course are of very mixed experience when they arrive.

This is an intensive learning course and Damien packs in a lot in the single day. Students get time to create their own work and express themselves as individuals, as well as considering the help and advice that Damien freely gives.

You can find out more about this course on the One Day London Street Photography information page

‘[nggallery id=1]’

If you have been on this course please feel free to add three of your best pictures from the day, using this uploader below. Size your images to 800 pixels in the longest dimension first.
‘[ngg_uploader id=1]’

Street photography – long shadows and shooting at night

Street photography –
long shadows and shooting at night

An evening shooting by the light of the setting sun, and then the multi-coloured lights of the city after dark

£180 How to book

Join Damien for an evening of photography by the light of the street lamps and shop windows. Starting as the sun falls in the sky to create those magical long shadows and then working into the dark with the orange of the city streets and the multi-coloured lights of neon displays we’ll catch the varied and romantic atmosphere of London at night. Damien will teach you how to spy a good subject to start with, and then we’ll explore exposure and white balance as well, of course, as composition, timing and communicating the emotions of a world after dark.

As with the daytime street classes, these night shoots are about learning and being taught. Damien will spend time with each participant and will ensure that you get the attention, information and inspiration you need to create stunning images.

Who is it for?

As there is such a high degree of one-to-one time on these courses they will suit photographers of any ability and experience. You may have just bought your first camera or you might have been taking pictures for years, it doesn’t matter. Members of the group are encouraged to learn from each other’s unique vision as well as from the instruction and guidance that I will deliver.

Broad itinerary

The itinerary for the evening will depend on a number of factors, including the weather, the time of year and what is happening in London at the time (road works, building refurbishment etc). In broad terms though, we will meet-up before sunset, usually around 4pm, and then, after a brief chat about the shoot and what everyone expects and wants, we’ll visit a number of locations to talk through the ways in which they can be photographed.

There will be a brief stop for a snack and then the group will work on until about 9pm when we retire to review the pictures taken during the event. This is a group review session during which group members get the chance to see how the others tackled the same tasks. It is always amazing to see the range of different angles and viewpoints, and it’s often surprising to see who comes out with the best shots. It’s not a competition, of course, but beginners sometimes get great satisfaction from their shock high-ranking and success.

In all though these are fun events devoted to learning something new about something you enjoy very much. There is no pressure, and advice and guidance are given in a very friendly and supportive way. There is no such thing as a stupid question, and I’m more than happy to discuss basic concepts, kit choice, photographic techniques and advanced practice.

How to book

I run these courses frequently. Using the calendar in the top right of the page you will be able to see on which day of each month there is a course. Click the date to see the details and if you’d like to book email me. I’ll be able to tell you whether the course you want is available, and give you payment instructions.

Places available for these dates:

Thursday 11th December 4pm -10pm in Central LondonSold out

Thursday 29th January 2015 4pm-10pm in Central London

Thursday 12th February 2015 4pm-10pm in Central London

 

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Smoking in the sunshine – reading the exposure

Man smoking in the sun, Fujifilm X-Pro1This is one of those everyday scenes – man steps out for a cigarette and loses himself in thought. (Or stares blankly ahead with his mind completely switched off, perhaps.) It’s a situation that’s played out thousands of times a day in towns and cities all over the world, but this one made me stop to take a picture for two simple reasons – the curve of the part of the building the man is standing under, and the sun streaking up the street and showing off that curve so well.

I was lucky here. I didn’t have to wait for someone to come and occupy the right place in the scene, as he was already standing there waiting for the right person to see the potential. I love that curve and the way the side-on light defines its roundness and the texture of the material it is made from. What works so well is that it is set against the shaded area, and thus it stands out and makes its statement nice and clearly.

The main issue I was faced with here was that of exposure. The hard contrast between the lightest areas and the deep shadow at the top of the frame meant I had to concentrate for a second to read what was going on. The most important area is nearly always going to be the person’s face, but here we have the consideration of the almost-white concrete of the curve too. I didn’t want that to burn out, but I also wanted to show that it is nearly white. The camera would look at all that shadow and open itself up to allow more light in, but I guessed that the power of those highlights might just balance things out. I would normally have exposure compensation set to -0.3EV, but on this occasion I reckoned the multi-pattern metering would sort things out on its own.

I wanted a shallow depth of field and so opened the lens to f/2 – as wide as it would go, and the shutter set itself to 1/4000sec.

The man is set in to the left-hand third of the frame and I allowed the curve to sweep close to that left edge and then come gliding back in again. Shifting my position I slotted the smoker inside the curve, in a way to contain him, and then filled the rest of the shot with the funky white-on-black graphics on the glass.

The upright format suited the breadth of the action, and allows the pavement at the base and the deep infinite shadow at the top to demonstrate depth. And that emphasised depth forces the curve and the man to pounce out of the picture in to viewers’ eyes.

Exposure has to be a conscious decision and, especially when working in sunny conditions like this, can’t be left to the camera to work out for you. You have to read the scene and determine what the camera will see and what it will do. Then you choose to over ride it, or let it get on with it. The most important thing though, is that you thought it through and made that choice yourself. Then the picture can be yours, and not belong to the camera.

 

Fujifilm X-Pro1, 35mm f/2 lens at f/2. 1/4000sec @ ISO 200

Come on a street photography course with me in London. Follow the link for more information.

 

 

Street Photography Courses in London – Full Day

Man on smoke break, Fuji Finepix X Pro1London street photography one-day courses

Improve your seeing and photography skills in a single informative and entertaining day. Suitable for all levels

£180 How to book

See our previous students’ pictures in the London street photography gallery at the bottom of this page.

Join me for a full day of tuition and make some serious strides forward with your street photography skills. Groups are kept very small (5-6 people) so each individual gets lots of one-to-one time and learning levels are high.

These aren’t the sort of days where you are left to wonder aimlessly with your camera. These are courses that concentrate on introducing new concepts, developing new ways of seeing and polishing existing skills.

During the day you’ll learn how to identify a good location, and then discover how to work it to find the best angles and to optimise its potential. We’ll talk composition, exposure and lighting, as well as timing, lenses and focusing – and what makes one of those magical decisive moments.

Who is it for?

As there is such a high degree of one-to-one time on these courses they will suit photographers of any ability and experience. You may have just bought your first camera or you might have been taking pictures for years, it doesn’t matter. Members of the group are encouraged to learn from each other’s unique vision as well as from the instruction and guidance that I will deliver.

Broad itinerary

The itinerary of the day will depend on a number of factors, including the weather, the time of year and what is happening in London at the time (road works, building refurbishment etc). In broad terms though, we will meet-up mid-morning, usually 11am, and then, after a brief chat about the day and what everyone expects and wants, we’ll visit a number of locations to talk through the ways in which they can be photographed.

There will be a brief stop for lunch and then the group will work on until about 4pm when we retire to review the pictures taken during the day. This is a group review session during which group members get the chance to see how the others tackled the same tasks. It is always amazing to see the range of different angles and viewpoints, and it’s often surprising to see who comes out with the best shots. It’s not a competition, of course, but beginners sometimes get great satisfaction from their shock high-ranking and success. The day will finish at about 5pm.

In all though these are fun days devoted to learning something new about something you enjoy very much. There is no pressure, and advice and guidance are given in a very friendly and supportive way. There is no such thing as a stupid question, and I’m more than happy to discuss basic concepts, kit choice, photographic techniques and advanced practice.

How to book

I run these courses once a month. Using the calendar in the top right of the page you will be able to see on which day of each month there is a course. Click the date to see the details and if you’d like to book email me. I’ll be able to tell you whether the course you want is available, and give you payment instructions. You can also visit my photography workshops page that lists upcoming classes.

Have a look at some of the pictures taken by
photographers who have been on this course and
watch this video of a day with the Fuji X-Pro1 I did for Fujifilm UK

Student Gallery

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If you have been on this course please feel free to add three of our best pictures from the day, using this uploader below
‘[ngg_uploader id=1]’

 

 

 

 

Using exposure compensation – Walking into the light

Walking towards the light, Millenium Bridge, London
 

Man walking into a streak of light early in the morning.

Here’s a simple but effective way of making a small subject stand out from the background. Early in the morning, or actually any time that the sun is low in the sky, we get great shafts of light that streak between buildings to carve streets in two. Usually, if we allow the camera to do its own thing, these powerful beams of light will appear white and burnt out in the frame, but if you measure and expose for the beam instead of the scene in general, you can use them to great effect.

In this instance I was looking for a way to pick out a single person in this very busy part of London. Often I will do this by using a very shallow depth of field, or by getting close with a wideangle lens. On this morning though the sun was acting as a spotlight on a stage, so all I had to do was use it.

The camera was set to evaluative metering, which obviously was reading for the whole scene. With no interference from me the exposure chosen worked well for the scene but left the area where the sun was falling as a burnt-out white line. Obviously this wasn’t making an interesting picture, or illustrating what I could see with my eyes. The excitement of the scene was that the sun could pick anyone out who walked through its rays – and that is what I wanted to catch.

I was using a manual focus lens at the time, so set the focus point for the paving right where the sun was shining. I guessed that I would need exposure compensation of about three stops (-2EV) so I set this and took a trial shot. It looked about right. I could have set spot metering and measured that way, but I would have had to have walked over to the spot to fill the spot zone, and a guess, with the chance to make corrections, seemed a better and quicker option.

Once I was happy that the exposure and focus were good, I framed the shot and waited for the right person to come along. This is a popular route for runners, school children and to workers travelling to the office. I didn’t really know what sort of person was going to make the best shot, but I knew that when that person came along it would hit me. I didn’t have to wait long for this chap to pass by and make the scene complete. The face, the pose of the arms and legs and the outfit all work to tell us the story of the moment.

Samsung NX100, with Samyang 85mm f/1.4 lens in Nikon fit via a Samsung to Nikkor adapter. 1/500sec @ f/5.6, ISO 100.

See more of Damien Demolder’s recent photographic posts here

To see more of my pictures visit my galleries at www.damiendemolder.com

To see more of my pictures
visit my photo galleries site
at www.damiendemolder.com

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Walking towards the light, Millenium Bridge, London
Man walking into a streak of light early in the morning.
People walking near The Millenium Bridge, London
Without user intervention your camera will record the scene this way.
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