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"Blotches 'n' Blears"

Gliding past St. Sulpice in the 6th, clad in blue jeans and jaunty brolly, a mum pushes her baby through the soggy city streets.

A common enough scene, yet one which will never be repeated, not with that woman, those jeans, that brolly, this photographer not with those puddles, these thoughts or this photo. it's unique. I know. I was there. Where were you?

Key points
Special Effects
I wanted to create a hazy, mystical feeling to this shot. I was looking for both softly muted but somehow saturated colours to accentuate the dreamlike quality I wanted to convey.
I found an effect where I could add soft fuzz and control the amount of halo effect and some other parameters. You can see the halo clearly around the umbrella and base of the pillar, but I make no secret of using it. You can see darker areas in the shadow area at the top of the shot, on the umbrella and jacket, and on her jeans. The rest is just one gorgeous soft fuzz. This sort of picture where there is really no pure black and everything is light is called 'high key', by the way, and is very effective in creating a soft, dreamy atmosphere.
The two key colours here are red and blue, with white from the pillar and steps in the background setting them off.
There are actually two colour-related diagonals here going in exactly the same direction: the red of the umbrella going down and left to the even softer reddy/pink on the wet paving stones; and the blue of the jeans going up and right to the guy above the umbrella in a very pale blue jacket. This echo of the colours is important, as very often is the case, and makes the photo stronger.
With a shot like this which was totally spontaneous you can't do too much, but the fact that the woman is on her way out of the shot (and the rain?) gives a sense of being there and understanding how she was feeling.
The man's jacket and woman's jeans are more up-and-down, while the umbrella and softly splodged pinky paving stones are more horizontal, which is also pleasing.
The upright railings on the left are contrasted by the barely perceptible horizontal lines of the steps on the right. I can't say all of these things were planned (they weren't!), but in retrospect we can see how they all contribute to the overall effect.

Photo Ideas
  • Rainy days are ideal for great shots. Don't worry about dull lighting. Position yourself strategically somewhere there are lots of people hurrying by, much more interested in getting out of the wet than in what you are doing.
  • Messing around with the image after can produce some amazing effects with those muted colours or lovely reflections from the wet reflective ground.
  • People tend to pull some interesting expressions when they are getting rained on or trying to stay dry. Try to capture some of them!
Then comment on this lesson with a link to your best result - we all want to see them!

  • special effects - have fun turning a boring or flat image of people in the rain into something worthy of a romantic or funny postcard
  • colours - cloudy days and rain tend to dull-down or mute colours... which is great! Try a low-contrast, high-key image and see how beautiful and atmospheric it can be!
  • composition - take loads of shots and don't worry too much about the composition at this stage. Then look at them later at home and decide which ones look best - you often get some marvellous surprises at this stage you didn't even notice at the time

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