Contributing editor Jim Richardson is a photojournalist recognized for his explorations of small-town life. His photos appear frequently in National Geographic magazine.
A wonderful thing happened during our National Geographic Expeditions workshop in Venice a couple of years ago: It rained all week.
Well, not quite all week, but enough that it got to be a running joke. We thought we might just get to see one of the legendary Venetian floods washing through the Piazza San Marco. We weren’t quite that lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view), but it rained when we toured Murano and it rained as we traversed the Rialto Bridge en route to dinner and it rained on us in the gondolas and sandolos without pity. “Now, this is actually an opportunity,” I kept repeating as we huddled under our umbrellas. Nobody believed me. I sounded (and looked) like a drowned rat putting a good face on impending doom.
Then something wonderful happened: The sun came out. Student photographers rushed out to capture the glories of Venice. And, lo and behold, they came back disappointed! “It looked better in the rain,” was the near-universal sentiment.
In fact, Venice had looked magical in the rain. In case you hadn’t noticed, Venice gets its share of photographers, and the rains had transformed numbingly familiar scenes into something fresh and ripe for discovery. It may be a truism but it’s still worth trumpeting—when it starts to rain, good photographers head out to make pictures.
There are, of course, problems involved, and these break down into two categories. One, how to keep your camera dry (nobody cares whether the photographer gets wet), and two, how to show rain in the pictures. This second item seems paradoxical. How can you not show rain in the pictures? Amazingly, the rain often look dull, gray, and on the edge of being invisible.
So, here are a few tips: