Give your lens a rain check

Jun 20, 2013, 09:18 IST | Dhara Vora

The monsoon evokes a mixed bag of emotions and incidents in India, where it is revered and cursed with the same intensity. Acclaimed Indian photographer and photojournalist Raghu Rai, currently working on a photo book themed on the rains and clouds, freelance lifestyle photographer Sebastian Zachariah and MiD DAY's Principal Photographer Rane Ashish share a few tips and tweaks with Dhara Vora, to get the most from this season

Raghu Rai: People’s reactions matter
The human emotions and the body language relating to clouds and rains make for great subjects of monsoon photography. Without human expressions or some sort of a human touch, the photograph won’t breathe life into the rains.

Raghu Rai

When you have to capture the rain, always look for a shelter with eight to 10 feet of distance from the rain. Keep your shutter speed high if you wish to capture the raindrops or keep it medium if you want longer raindrops in the frame. If you keep it slow, you won’t get anything.

Monsoon in Delhi. Pic courtesy/Raghu Rai

When dark clouds appear in the sky, though the light is low, it makes for great pictures. Shoot on less exposure in order to get the depth of the colours of the dark black clouds. Though there is no fixed rule, the depth of field is what will help you get layers in your photo. 

To avoid clichés, you have to capture how people respond to the rains. For my book (yet untitled), I have tried taking photographs from an aeroplane and helicopter, from above. It makes you feel as if you are in the dreams of clouds, you get a really unbelievable view of the clouds and rains and it is an entirely different experience of space from up there.

Rane Ashish: Capture as it unfolds
While you have to take care of your camera, you have to be protected too. Always carry a big umbrella with you. As a photojournalist, you will notice that whenever a disaster is unfolding in front of your eyes, people might have the time to gather and watch it, but not everyone will care to offer you an umbrella if you are stuck.

Ashish Rane

To capture an incident your camera has to be on high shutter speed. Also, travelling during the rains is very difficult. So, capture what is unfolding around you, instead of aiming to reach another destination, where it might be flooded already; chances are, you won’t reach the spot in time. If your camera is wet, wipe it with a napkin.

The deluge of July 26, 2005. Pic/Rane Ashish

First aid would be to place it under a bulb at least overnight to get rid of the moisture. A hair dryer doesn’t really help. Placing your camera behind your television also helps sometimes, as there is heat in that section. If you’re shooting photos by the sea side in the city, remember to wipe your camera afterwards to get rid of any salt deposits.

Sebastian Zachariah: Patience is the key
The safety of your equipment is very important. If there is water on your lens it will lead to distortion. Also, there are chances of fungal growth during this season. Keep silica gel sachets in your case to absorb the moisture. As a temporary cover for your camera, carry a strong plastic bag along, cut a hole in it for the lens and use it to cover the camera.

Sebastian Zachariah

Patience is the key to good photography during the rains. Several budding photographers would say that the light isn’t good in this season but if you wait for some time, the sunlight coming through dense cloud formations can give you a wonderful light. The haze and dust that settles down during the rains, give you clean and washed subjects; you can also capture the horizon when it is clear.

The photographs might tend to have a bluish tinge, so during post production you can add a warm tone and increase the contrast to show the difference between the bright and dark areas. When shooting a subject or an object, go closer to it to rather than trying to fill in the sky and several elements in one frame. With the help of artificial lights such as an external strobe or flash, you can fill in the dark area with light.

Crows have a bath in the city’s rains. Pic courtesy/Sebastian Zachariah

But don’t use the flash directly on the subject; try to bounce it off something or use a reflector to catch whatever light you can. Learn to read your histogram; your screen might show the photograph to be beautiful, but it may not necessarily be so. Choose a vantage point (under a bus stop or the first floor) to shoot and be safe from the rain. Colours are brighter as rains wash everything, objects look fresh this season, and it brings out emotions in people - capture these elements during the monsoon.

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