Notes from the Rain – Notes from the Road for December 2nd

It rained today in Kyoto. Reading this, you might be thinking, “oh no, not that,” but, actually, in many ways we were blessed by the rain. Now, if you’ve never gone shooting in the rain, there are a couple of “gotchas” you have to watch out for when in the field. For starters, everything gets wet. When I say, “everything,” I do mean everything. Your camera (it will get wet, trust me on this) you shoes, your camera bag, your map, your cell phone, yup, everything gets wet, wet, wet. That’s kind of how rain works, right? It’s almost like, no actually it is, water falling from the sky covering everything here on earth. So, why should camera gear be immune to this?

Sometimes, it’s good to have things wet. Streets, for example, look much better wet, so much so that, when they film car commercials, they sometimes hose everything down to make it look like it just rained. Moss on trees looks really cool when wet. Dry? Eh, not so much. (OK, sometimes it’s cool too but, trust me on this, it really looks better when wet.) Flowers and plants generally look very cool with little water droplets on them. The rain makes people do certain things too, like carry umbrellas and wear jackets which can look really awesome when photographed. Rain actually softens the light too, and that works wonders for colors. You can get some really intense, deep color when it’s raining. It’s hard to shoot in the rain, yes, but you can get some interesting shots from it. I’ve always found rain to be very hard on the photographer, on our gear especially, but lovely if you can manage a shot. It turns you into a sort of “Babe Ruth” of photography-you often strike out but, when you get a “hit” it’s out of the park good. Rain can make you miserable, yes, but it can make you pull shots out of your anatomy you didn’t think you had in you.

Another side effect of rain is that a lot of times it keeps people indoors-other “normal” people don’t like to be out in it. That can make things (well, except for museums, movies, and the like) kind of empty. Such was the case today in Kyoto.

We started out from hotel and decided that, because it was raining, we would try to shoot the market, since that is covered and we could walk around inside. That’s one way to get out of the rain. Of course, we were not the only people with this idea. The market was packed, making for hard shooting but interesting shots nevertheless. We took a cab over to market, shot some in the morning, and then decided to go to an outdoor market (actually street area) to shoot and checkout some handicrafts, since these are usually located indoors also. The shopping wasn’t our style but, over the course of our travels, we encountered not one but two temples, and we had them both pretty much to ourselves. We got to photograph both of these pretty much by ourselves, sans the typical packs of tourists that sometimes free range themselves into your shots. What a relief!

It was very pleasant shooting the quiet contemplative temples in the rain by ourselves. Almost like a meditation itself, that was. Another moment where we were lost in it, taking our time, working slowly and deliberative, working the shots. As you shoot, subtle movements can make all the difference in the world and, if you have the luxury of working slowly, of really working a location, you often find there is a lot to gain from this technique. Today, that’s exactly what we did. Work slow, in the rain, in the temples, lining up the shots. No hustle, no bustle, no timelines, just camera in hand, working with the sound of the soft autumn rain as our soundtrack. In some ways, it was really a gift.

Stopped for a snack and then late afternoon headed back over to Gion to try and shoot the geisha district at dusk. Managed to get there a little late and it was packed with mobs of tourists. We did get to see some back alley streets and even shoot them too before we noticed the signs. They have signs up that you cannot photograph on the private streets there. Managed to put the cameras away and go for some tea instead. Sill really happy we got to see Gion at dusk, even if we don’t have a lot of images to share for the experience. It’s nice to just experience these things sometimes and we did just that.

Tomorrow, we are going to try for philosopher’s path and more Gion in the daytime, possibly more shrines and temples over on the east side. It’s calling for cloudy weather which might make for good foliage shots, if we can manage to find some of the red leaves.

Until next time…

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