Cloudy with a Chance of Not Going out on a Photowalk - Visiting Tokyo
Hong Kong in July. Rain usually looms in the forecast. Needless to say, it has been difficult for me to schedule photowalks, with dark clouds threatening from above. Like most of us, the last thing I want is to be caught under a sudden downpour. So to avoid the inclement weather altogether, I decided to make my escape from Hong Kong. It's no wonder I've designated July a travel month for this blog. That said - next stop - Tokyo.
Of course, Mother Nature wasn't going to let me off that easy. Right from the start, even before taking off from Hong Kong, our flight was delayed owing to torrential rain over Southern Japan. Clearly, my elaborate plan to seek for dryer grounds was thwarted. Now with the bad weather trailing us to Tokyo, all I could do was hope for the skies to miraculously clear up, despite what is shown on my weather app.
Human nature being what it is, we typically wish for clearer skies on the days we go out with our cameras. It makes sense when you think about it. I mean, who wants to be caught in the rain. Who wants to be drenched from head to toe? Certainly not you, and definitely not your subject. And who wants their gear to be exposed to the elements? Typically, no one wishes for rain. So when we see clear skies in the forecast, we welcome it with relief.
But what follows is never as ideal as what one would have typically imagined. The sun when high above a cloudless sky is the greatest foe to photography. Too much sun drowns out tonality and increases contrast between highlights and shadows. In doing so, the sun flattens out the image by reducing forms into solid outlines - even if the image capture is underexposed to compensate for the increased available light.
With that in mind, it is exceedingly perplexing how so many typically wish for sun when it's never beneficial to the captured image. But again, who wants to be rained on, especially when traveling or documenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I mean, think of the hassle and the discomfort of having to deal with getting wet. It's so much of a bother, that many would soon accept a loss of tonality and increased contrast, just to stay dry.
When the rain is framed from that perspective, it's easy to see why we prefer the sun. It's because we're too lazy and too soft to deal with getting wet. With even the slightest of drizzle, it's not uncommon for many of us to concede defeat. It's too wet outside. No one wants to be outside in the rain. And even if we brave the bad weather, our photos will look miserable. But is it really all that miserable? That said, it's not as if I want to go out into the rain to see for myself.
But I was in Tokyo for only two days with Lydia. It's not like I had all the time in the world to take advantage of the change in scenery. I had to make each day count for the blog - even if it meant getting soaked. And I suppose - rather grudgingly - manners would expect I play tour guide. After all, it was a first time visit for my partner in crime. Because of that, I had to venture outside my comfort zone to deal with the hassle and the discomfort.
Obviously, that meant I had to expose myself to the elements, which really wasn't the end of the world. It's not as if anyone was going to see how wet I was going to be. For my part, all I needed was a baseball cap and gear that can reasonably tolerate the rain. Having said that, I still needed to cover my partner in crime from the downpour. I mean, we wouldn't want her hair to be ruined by a passing shower. Think of how that would look on the blog.
But wouldn't you know it. No sooner did we duck out of the rain at a Mitsukoshi department store, while wandering around the Ginza district, did serendipity find its way into our day. Much to our amazement, I found the perfect novelty umbrella for Lydia. The pattern on it was almost an exact color match to the pattern on her top. It's almost as if fate was pushing us to go back out into the rain. I mean, the umbrella was even on final markdown.
Fate was right to give me that extra push. Without it, I wouldn't have been able to conclude just how much better it is to take pictures when the weather is threatening rain. I mean getting wet is definitely a drag. But the results in documentation is well worth all the bother. Not only do the clouds act as a giant light diffuser from above, there's also the inherent benefit that comes from dark threatening skies.
Namely, others are just like you in not wanting to be caught stranded in the rain. Because of that, the streets are noticeably less crowded. And even when there are people on the streets, they are usually holding an umbrella. This effectively de-emphasizes focus on their heads, in making them appear less distracting. Moreover, increased numbers of umbrellas provide compositional balance by repeating the subject's umbrella as a visual motif.
In retrospect, I wished it rained just a little longer. Like all good things, it eventually came to an end. And so the crowds began to emerge once more onto the main pedestrian walkways, as I retreated back to my go-to backdrop of narrow passageways and quiet urban spaces less visited. Still, I suppose I could comfort myself that I'm no longer being rained on anymore. But, honestly, I'm not crazy about the crowds.
That being said, I don't think I will ever go out in the rain again for another photowalk - unless I have to go on one. I know what I wrote. I know what I've demonstrated. But honestly, it's just no fun getting caught in the rain. It feels too much like work. Still, there is no denying the lighting is infinitely better in the rain than on a sunny day. But is it really worth getting rained on just for an edge in documentation?
With that being the case, how could I have wished for the rain to last just a little longer on this photowalk? As much as I don't want to be caught in the rain, I was already a casualty of the rain that day. Because of that, it really made no difference if I got any more wet. So for the sake of better lighting and less people on the street, wanting the rain to continue doesn't contradict my true feeling towards it. May it always be sunny wherever I am.
One last point - if you do have to go out in the rain to take pictures - because you happen to be traveling - please remember to bring along a visually appealing umbrella. There is nothing worse than an ordinary looking one. Invariably in documentation, the umbrella becomes a prop that gives your image capture an added quality of uniqueness. Since you're going to have to keep your subject dryer, you might as well take advantage of the umbrella you pick.
Exposure have not been tweaked, because cloud cover made exposure reading much easier. Any other editing or cropping already disclosed on the image caption.
Images captured on the Leica M10 + Leica 24mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. Next week, I will likely do a run-down of that lens. By the way, I admit that this post started out as a review of the 24mm Summilux. But since I ended up with so many images, it only made sense to split it up into two different posts.