January 13, 2009 ·

Michael Reichmann

When it rains some photographers run for cover to keep themselves and their cameras dry. Nothing wrong with that, but it can mean losing out on some great photographic opportunities. One of these is photographing people with umbrellas.

Whether as a silhouette, a backdrop or a prop, umbrellas have character, and can therefore become wonderful compositional elements. For this reason, when it rains — particularly when I’m on vacation, as I was in this instance in Seville, Spain — I grab my raincoat and camera and head out to shoot.

Men with Umbrellas — Seville, Spain. May, 2004

Minolta A2 @ ISO 200

Here two men were waiting in the rain with a white stucco wall behind them. While there was lots of detail visible I decided to expose for the wall, stopping down by at least 2 stops over the as-read meter. I also had to burn in some detail to produce an almost total silhouette. Even so the white handkerchief in one mans breast pocket still appeared and so I let it stay as it adds some dimension to the shadow area.

The only bit of colour that remained was the visible part of one man’s tinted glasses, and for me at least this adds a fascinating compositional element to an otherwise monochromatic image.

Passing By — Seville, Spain. May, 2004

Minolta A2 @ ISO 200

The same location had this grumpy looking individual who appeared to disapprove of my taking his photograph. Just as I was about to do so people walked in front of me. Not wishing to press my luck I didn’t persist, but later on when I saw the frame I very much liked the way in which the umbrella of the passerby obscured the man’s eyes, making them enigmatic. The blur of the people in motion also makes the scowling man even more stolid. The layering of the people, combined with the range of motion and counter directions of movement makes this a very dynamic image.

What do you do when it rains? Next time see if you can find some people with umbrellas and how best you might photograph them.

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Michael Reichmann is the founder of the Luminous Landscape. Michael passed away in May 2016. Since its inception in 1999 LuLa has become the world's largest site devoted to the art, craft, and technology of photography. Each month more than one million people from every country on the globe visit LuLa.

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