narrative and illustration # 4 – rain

“Imagine a magazine cover on one subject: rain. You have the entire cover space to work in, and you should produce a single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no one in doubt about the subject. This is first an exercise in imagination, not always easy, and second an exercise in producing a photograph to a specification.”


This is what I settled on – the view from upstairs on a bus, as a woman with an umbrella crosses the road in front of us. As it is a magazine cover, it needs to be in portrait format; I cropped down to match the roughly 4:5 dimensions of the Guardian Weekend. There is plenty of space for text to be superimposed upon the image.  It works as a compendium of many of the ideas I examined while working on this exercise, during the couple of properly rainy days we’ve had recently.

  • Visible Qualities of Rain – drops, reflection, puddles, umbrellas, flood, distortions on glass, swollen streams, rainbow (prisms), clouds, grey, gloomy, wet areas and sheltered bits of dryness
  • Invisible Qualities of Rain – cold, driving, wetness penetrating, frozen forehead
  • Rainy Associations – April, spring, growth, green, crops, wet earth, clearing the air on a hot sticky day, refreshing, weather forecast (& weather symbols on the map); Few things are as sad as places that are meant for enjoyment when the sun shines in the rain; beaches say, or beer gardens…
  • Rainy Actions – huddle, take shelter, shoulders forward, head down, hurry, wait for it to pass, give up and stride out as quickly as possible to get through, weather cover on baby’s buggy, hood up on your coat, inside looking out
  • Rain and the glasses wearer – rain means I need to wipe my glasses more often; cold rain means they steam up when I go inside; I always experience rain from behind glass.
  • Photographic consequences of rain (see part 4 – weather) – less light, so slower shutter or shallower depth of field or both; saturated colours (in foreground) seem stronger in comparison; matt surfaces become shiny and reflective; falling rain further diffuses the diffused light from an overcast sky making the distance softer, more grey; your gear gets wet; when it doesn’t simply reflect light back creating highlights, the wet increases the saturation and range of colours appearing in previously flat, unreflective surfaces…

Here are three of my other goes:

None seems to quite capture the sense of raininess quite so well as the selected image, but would give the imaginary magazine’s editor other options…

2 thoughts on “narrative and illustration # 4 – rain

    1. schirgwin Post author

      Thanks Judy! Over the course of a day’s photography, it became more and more apparent that the hardest (and most important) part of the brief was finding some way of making the rain visible. This was my last chance, on the bus taking me home from the tube…


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