Dark clouds with a tinge of sunny orange setting over the cityscape and birds flying back to their nests — sounds like a perfect shot for a photograph? The rainy season offers many such opportunities but it also puts the photographers in a conflicting situation — whether to pack their equipment and save it from moisture or give in to the temptation of clicking those perfect rain shots.
We approached lensman Nithil Dennis to find out the answer. He shared some basic but important tips with us. Dennis, who has been pursuing photography for more than 17 years, specialises in documentary photography, street portraits, travel and photojournalism. He is currently the director of Symbiosis School of Photography and has a mix of academic and industry experience. Dennis himself developed an interest in photography at the age of 14 and was extremely fascinated by the Yashika SLR camera which his uncle owned.
Having graduated in visual communication from Loyola College, Chennai, he currently uses Canon 5D Mark IV with mostly Canon lenses like 16-35 f2.8 (Landscapes), 50mm f1.4 (People, Portraits & Street), 85mm f1.4 (Portraits), 200mm f2.8 & 400mm f4.5 (Wildlife). He cites Henri Cartier-Bresson and Raghu Rai as his greatest influences since their images have a lasting impression and tell socially relevant and impactful stories.
Talking about the major challenges faced by photographers while looking for a perfect shot during the rainy season, Dennis says, “The difficulties in shooting in monsoons include handling of equipment and unpredictable locations. To get the perfect shot, we need to know the location pretty well, be it a city, the outskirts or forests. Familiarity reduces the hunt for the right moment or subject. During monsoon, the mood changes with the landscape of the location, the people, their habits and accessories, the roads, neighbourhood and animal behaviour. A photographer who wants to capture striking images, should look for those mood changes and characters that emerge only during the monsoon. Look out for exclusive elements and contrast them with the background to get striking shots.”
But it is not just the mood of the moment, the photographers are also worried about the moisture in the lenses which makes them skeptical about carrying their camera around. The simple solution for this problem is carrying a waterproof gear, says Dennis. He explains, “It serves the purpose of shooting images without water leakage into the camera body. The problem arises on the face of the lens, where water invariably hits if it is raining heavily. It is advisable not to shoot in such conditions. I always carry a rain cover for my photo kit bag and also have a hair dryer with me. After returning from the shoot I use the hair dryer to remove the moisture on lens and body.”
He also talks about the safety measures that photographers should keep in mind during the photoshoots in monsoon. “Safety is the first concern. Make sure you have guides and travel advisories in place while you travel to unknown locations. Also carry your protective gear such as raincoat, cap and shoes that are waterproof. If you are in a forest, make sure and keep looking out for snakes, leeches and other dangerous organisms. Always carry a first-aid kit.”
Dennis recalls his own memorable moment of clicking a shot during the rains. “I was shooting in the forests of Nilgiris, South India and I came across this beautiful sight of two snails mating. To get the shot, I had to go to ground level and I was using a film roll SLR camera which did not have a flip screen preview. I had to look into the viewfinder to get the perfect focus, exposure and composition. Luckily, I found a small ditch with thick vegetation near it. I jumped into the pit to get the right shot. The vegetation inside the pit was damp. It took me around five minutes to take the perfect shot. I clicked a few pictures and climbed out of the pit. Once I was out, I realised that the pit had a lot of leeches which had climbed up my leg and were already busy sucking the blood. I had to pull out 16 leeches from my leg to finally get going on my remaining journey.”
Of course the shot was worth it!