Wet Surfaces Shine

Wet cobbled streets in the old quarter of Salzburg, Austria makes for an atmospheric adventureLeica M9 camera and Leica Summilux-M 24mm f1.4 lens. Exposure Details: 1/8 second @ f4.
Here's a photo from a very wet night in Salzburg, Austria. One of my favorite cities, perhaps because it feels more like a town, Salzburg's architecture, history and beautiful Mirabell Gardens offer the keen photographer days of great creative opportunities.

I was exhausted upon arrival, having come from a pretty intensive 10-day exploratory trip to Russia which had included several nights with no sleep in a pretty average hotel. Nevertheless the photo opportunities in Moscow and, particularly, in St. Petersburg made it all worthwhile.

So, after checking into my hotel I hit the sack for a few hours sleep, prior to heading out for a sunset session.

I was woken by heavy rain. Sunset was, apparently, cancelled. But that didn't stop me. I made by way over the bridge and began exploring the old part of town. Jumping puddles and dashing from one doorway to the next was a hoot and I had a great time making photos.

Indications when I left the hotel was that the rain would last all night, and beyond, which it did. As I didn't have much idea how far I'd be walking or what kind of overhead cover I'd have I chose to leave my tripod back at the hotel. My camera was kept dry in my bag and only taken out when the need arose.

The low light levels required a combination of relatively high ISO, wide Apertures and slow Shutter Speeds. I'm practiced at working, hand held, at quite slow shutter speeds. Its not uncommon for me to work at 1/8 second. That may not be the case with my next camera where, to achieve the resolution offered by the sensor, the camera needs to be extremely stable at the moment of exposure. So, what for me was a 1/4 second hand held in the days of film, and now 1/8 second with 22 and 24 mega pixel cameras, will, likely need to increase with my next camera. 

Due to the inclement weather the lanes and alleyways of the old town were largely deserted. That, together with the wet cobble-stones and gaudy artificial light, made for pretty atmospheric locations for night photography.

The lesson really is to never let a bit of bad weather get in the way of your photography. While you may miss the odd sunset, a whole new range of opportunities arise when wet surfaces are illuminated. Just remember to base your composition and your exposure around the light, not the darkness. Sounds like a good metaphor for life, doesn't it.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru