Shots in the dark: How to shoot magical photos in the Mumbai rains

Updated on Jul 18, 2015 04:52 PM IST
It’s cloudy, low-lit and hazy, but done right, the Mumbai monsoon makes for magical photos. Here’s how to shoot in the rain without losing your head — or your camera.
Rajat Ghosh says photographers should look out for intimate moments that only occur during the rains. (Photo: Rajat Ghosh)
Rajat Ghosh says photographers should look out for intimate moments that only occur during the rains. (Photo: Rajat Ghosh)
Hindustan Times | ByApoorva Dutt & Abhishek Rawat

When the monsoon hits Mumbai, the city becomes a canvas for images both stark and beautiful. Whether it’s a child wading through shoulder-high gutter water, or couples sharing an umbrella, the city is a dream for the aspiring photographer. It can also, however, be a nightmare — the continuous threat of water damaging your digital camera, smartphone, or, worst of all, expensive camera gear, can make shooting in this weather potentially an expensive affair.

Here are some great rain shots taken by experts, accompanied by tips on how to brave the rains yourself.

* No natural light? Use car headlights: Rajat Ghosh, editorial and advertising photographer

Ghosh says photographers should shoot at dusk, when wet roads reflect the light. The atmosphere is clear and the images emerge sharper, as above.

While some photographers might try to avoid a car butting into their shot, Ghosh actively seeks them out in the rain. “The water on the ground reflects the car’s headlights,” he says.

Ghosh says photographers should look out for intimate moments that only occur during the rains. “You see school kids in raincoats taken to and from school by doting mothers,” says Ghosh. “The water and the image of the children give your photo a magical quality.”

* Contrast land with water: Soumitra Datta, landscape and nature photographer

Monsoon images have an ‘impressionist’ quality, says Datta. “This means that there is a hazy quality to your photos, no matter where and how they are taken,” he says. “Make sure you have a strong foreground — for example, the contrast between land and water is always impactful.”

Photo: Soumitra Datta

Choose a medium shutter speed, he adds, so you can capture blurred raindrops, waves and other fluid movements. “Don’t go out past the evening or too early in the morning, when the light is at its worst,” he says. “Juhu beach during the rains is a favourite, when photos taken seconds apart are wildly different.”

* Photograph rain’s impact, not just rain: Ritam Banerjee, commercial photographer

Pay attention to objects and situations around. “Take umbrellas for example,” says Banerjee. “They can be colourful, dull, provide a single splash of colour against a cloudy landscape, or when all together, give a sense of movement.”

Try and capture the impact of rain on Mumbai too. “Every aspect of living here, from commuting to parenting, is unique. Find shots that go beyond the rain — what is it like to take the train during a downpour? What about caring for an infant?”

Photo: Ritam Banerjee

While you’re at it, don’t forget to look down. “The reflective ground is a great canvas,” he adds.

* Learn from the photographers at gateway: MS Gopal, editorial photographer

The rain offers the chance to take dynamic photos of the sea being tossed around by strong winds. “Take advantage of this and go to sites such as Mahim beach and Marine Drive. Find spots where crowds have collected,” says Gopal.

The multitude of tourist photographers that dot the Gateway of India area offer some solid inspiration, he adds. “They carry a yellow towel, used both to wrap their gear and wipe it down,” says Gopal. “People can try this technique, or wrap their cameras in plastic or a Ziploc bags.”

Photo: MS Gopal

* Capture the cloudy skies with high contrast: Swapan Mukherjee, commercial photographer

“Keep your image contrast about 15% higher than normal, because the cloudy sky makes the lighting conditions dull and flat,” says Mukherjee.

Mukherjee adds that you should choose your mode of shooting carefully. “Most people select the auto mode, which is not a very good option during this season,” he says. “Choose the landscape mode and keep your saturation high as well.”

HT Photo: Praful Gangurde
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