10 Techniques to Capture Magical Monsoons
Conchita Fernandes lists out simple things that you can try out with your camera, to photograph the elegance and charm of the rainfall this year.
When the sky turns grey and the rain starts pouring, instead of packing up your gear, maybe it is time to take your camera out and start shooting. Monsoons are filled with a variety of subjects like water droplets, colourful umbrellas and more. However, to capture this well, you need to be aware of different techniques that can be used in the rain, which will in turn help to break the monotony.
Using Large and Narrow Apertures
The monsoon season provides an excellent opportunity for creating a variety of beautiful blurs. You can constrict the depth-of-field by using wide open apertures for moody portraits or micro landscapes. On the other hand, you can use a narrow aperture to create environmental portraits or dynamic street photographs.
Drama with Flash
A lot of people don’t realise that their camera flash is capable of much more than just shedding light on the subject. It can freeze motion, like that of the falling raindrops. On the other hand, you can also explore the slow-sync flash mode of your camera for background motion blurs, along with a frozen subject.
There are other off-camera flash techniques that you can try out as well, for brilliant backlighting and sidelighting effects in portraiture. However, when you’re at it, ensure that your flashgun is protected from the rain.
The Essential Polarising Filter
The rainy season turns every surface reflective. You can control some kinds of reflections by using a polarising filter. Additionally, the filter will also help you to saturate colours, thus making your photographs more vibrant.
Going Pastel with Soft Focus
The rains bring with it soft indirect light from overcast skies, which in turn smoothens out highlights and shadows. You can enhance this look further, just by applying a thin layer of vaseline on the surface of your protective UV filter. This is great if you want your entire scene to have a hazy painting-like effect.
However, smearing vaseline only on the outer circumference of the filter, leaving the center clear, works best with portraiture. It softens the outer edges of the frame.
Fun with Coloured Gels
Use plastic gelatin sheets over your flashgun to selectively light up a subject standing right in front of your camera.
Taking the Monochromatic Path
The monsoon usually announces its arrival with a lot of drama. This should give you lots of opportunity to make stunning black and white photographs.
Apart from this, the rainy season also provides several monochromatic hues, which you can further enhance by either using different colour filters, or by changing the colour or White Balance settings in your camera.
Experimenting with White Balance
The camera’s WB settings is something that very few photographers use. Try out the Cloud or Shade WB, and you will see how it renders warm and saturated tones to your photographs. On the other hand, the Tungsten WB option will give the image a blue colour.
In the monsoon, water droplets can look like little pearls. To take it a step further, use the droplets as supplementary lenses. To get a crisp image, ensure that the refracted object is 2-3 inches behind the droplet. Try shooting at different apertures to control the blurring in the background.
Thinking in Bokeh
Bokehs always add a sense of pleasantness to photographs. Fast lenses with apertures below f/2.8 are great for creating them. However, depending on whether you’re focusing close to the lens or at the background, you can create background and foreground bokeh.
Playing with Different Camera Angles
Although this is strictly not a camera technique, experimenting with different angles and perspectives can make your photograph more interesting.
For instance, getting a window seat on a bus on a rainy day can get you some very interesting street photos from a different vantage point. Similarly, look for converging lines that you can use for creating vanishing points. Tunnels and roads are common subjects for this. A wide angle lens is perfect to achieve this effect, as it causes exaggerated perspective and an elongation of the field.
The monsoons are more about enjoying the moods and experiences that come with it. However, consciously using some of these techniques for your photographs will ensure that your viewer can experience it with you. So instead of staying indoors and avoiding a bit of rain, go out there, travel and explore the season’s eccentricity and madness.
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Better Photography.