Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Spanish word for umbrella is "paraguas," which -- if it's a contraction of "para" and "agua" -- literally means "for the waters." Even if that's not true, I don't own an umbrella. This puts me at a disadvantage in Cordova, because it's still raining.

You can't tell that it's raining. I used Photoshop to erase all of the raindrops from the photo. Actually, I kid. I didn't do anything to the photo. The reason you don't see any raindrops in the photo is that I used a relatively long shutter speed, which causes the light reflected from stationary objects to overwhelm any momentary light reflected off rain. People use this fact to eliminate people -- who tend to move around -- from photos of landmarks, buildings, and the like -- which tend to stay in place. The result is a photograph in which the desired subject is isolated.

In rain photos, lighting comes into play, too; when it's raining, more often than not there's not much direct sunlight. (There are, of course, those very cool moments when it's both raining and sunny.) In this photograph, if I had used a shorter shutter speed, the camera would not have received enough light. So there's a sweet spot with rain photos. You need a certain amount of light, so you have to keep the shutter open longer, but by doing so you fail to capture raindrops. (For the purposes of discussion, I'm leaving aside the role that aperature plays in this, but there's probably a huge hole in my understanding that, if filled, would make me approach this subject in a different way altogether, i.e. if I knew what I was talking about, I'd say it differently.)

If you add time to the equation, what happens? How do filmmakers shoot rain? Rain machines. Sometimes they flood the rain with light, which emphasizes the rain as a kind of diffuse, luminous presence. (Contrast that with shooting rain in the dark, where there's only the sound of rain hitting things.) They use lightning. They often hose down the streets before shooting a night scene in a city, but they do that because it's pretty to mirror the lights of the city on the ground (think Taxi Driver). Then there are hurricanes, where the rain is so intense that you can't miss it and -- of course -- you can't miss the havoc that the rain and the wind are causing.

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