Oh, yeah … I am one mean, crazy dude. I’m also the only guy riding a bike in this storm…

Oh, yeah … I am one mean, crazy dude. I’m also the only guy riding a bike in this storm…
Back Pain
This guy was riding across 96th Street, on the north-bound side of Broadway, while holding an umbrella and a cup of coffee in one hand. I took several photos of him, and I think he noticed me doing so at one point because he glared at me and then gave me an evil grin…

Note: this photo was published in a Mar 4, 2010 blog titled "Seeing in the rain, not quite like singing in the rain." It was also published in a Sep 13, 2010 blog titled "5 Analog Tools I Can’t Live Without (and Why)." And it was published in a Nov 9, 2010 blog titled "Gears ‘n’ Stuff: Cofee Cup Holder," as well as a Nov 12,2010 Matador Sports blog titled "Bike Winter Puts Cyclists onIce." It was also published in an undated (Dec 31, 2010) "Back Pain – Discussion and News" blog, titled "‘Kaligawan to boost Zambales tourism."

Moving into 2011, the photo was published in a Sep 15, 2011 blog titled "MORNING BULLETIN: MASSIVE BIKE SHARING PROGRAM COMING."

Moving into 2013, the photo was published in a Dec 6, 2013 blog titled "6 Ways to Get On New York’s Sh*t List."


Months from now, if people stumble onto this set of Flickr photos, they won’t know or care when the photos were actually taken. After all, rain is a fairly universal phenomenon, and it can happen in any of the four seasons of the year.

Still, it’s an odd experience to be writing these notes a week after the photographs were taken — at an altitude of 35,000 feet, on a flight to Miami that lifted off from JFK airport just as the first snow flurries hit the runway at the beginning of what promises to be the first major snowfall of the 2009 season. Twelve inches of snow are expected by the time the storm stops, which makes this collection of water-soaked individuals seem like they got stuck in the wrong place and the wrong time.

But a week ago, the temperature was about ten degrees warmer — and what could easily have been a foot or two of snow was instead just a couple of inches of cold rain. Rain, of course, brings out the umbrellas; and on a couple of earlier occasions this year (which you can see here and here on Flickr), I began to see that — notwithstanding the typical stories about New York fashions — people were not restricting themselves to black raincoats and black umbrellas. My winter coat (courtesy of North Face) is black, and just about every umbrella I’ve ever owned has been black; my suitcases are black, my backpacks and briefcases have always been black, and even my camera bag is black. Since it’s promising to be a cold winter, I just bought a new pair of gloves and a new woolen cap … in black.

But that’s apparently not true for many other New Yorkers. While you’ll see a few black outfits in the photos collected here, the range of vivid colors continues to surprise me. Somehow, it’s something you would expect to see at the beginning of the spring season — signifying the rejection of the dark gloom of clouds and rain, and celebrating the imminent arrival of flowers and blossoms, of emerald-colored trees and thick green grass and the chirping of birds. But this collection of photos was taken in mid-December, only a week before the official beginning of winter. You’d think that people would be carrying black umbrellas and somber raincoats that marked the season of death and darkness, but I guess that’s just not the way things are here in New York City.

On the previous occasions when I’ve photographed umbrellas in the rain, I’ve deliberately used a "pocket camera," albeit a fairly sophisticated one such as the Canon G-10. I wanted something that would be compact enough that I could stick into my jacket pocket if the rain got heavy, and I didn’t want to risk damaging the electronic components a really expensive, sophisticated camera by getting it wet. The results were usually fairly good, but I always wondered if I could do a better job with one of my high-end DSLR cameras…

… so that’s what I used for this collection of photos: my Nikon D700 camera, with a big, heavy 70-300mm zoom lens. I attached a lens hood to the lens, to minimize the chances of raindrops falling directly onto the lens itself; and I stood beneath the awning and overhang of various storefronts and buildings along Broadway as the rain poured down steadily all around me. Next time, I might be even more adventurous, since I’ve got a professional waterproof bag-thingy that should keep the camera dry even if I’m standing out in the middle of a torrential downpour. But for now, this was a good start.

Because of the rain, most of the people I photographed paid no attention to me at all; they were too busy concentrating on where they were walking, where the puddles were deepest, and whose umbrellas were about to poke them in the face. On the rare occasions when they did see a crazy guy standing under an awning, pointing a camera in their general direction, they frowned or gave me a quizzical look, and just kept going…

So that’s the way it was, on this rainy Sunday afternoon. At this point, I’m going to assume that winter has officially arrived, and that the precipitation during the next few months will take the form of snow, not rain. I don’t know how well it will turn out, but one of my future projects will be a series of photos during a blizzard. Stay tuned … and in the meantime, stay dry.


Note: This is one of 12 photos that I’ve culled from several thousand that I took in 2009, for possible presentation at a Jan 2010 class I’m taking at the International Center of Photography (ICP), called "On Seeing What’s Right In Front of You." The photos already exist in various other Flickr sets — often just one or two out of a group of hundreds of related images — and I’ve just pulled them together for this occasion.

In the spirit of the ICP class title, all of these photos were taken "right in front" of where I live — i.e., within a hundred feet of my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

The photos are organized as 6 separate pairs — each pair illustrating a specific situation, close to home, where I had a particular motivation or strategy for taking photos. This particular photo illustrates the principle that there may be photo opportunities "right in front of you" that other people have avoided because they’re inconvenient, messy, or unpleasant. But that can give you an almost unique opportunity to shoot something that nobody else has done. Case in point: photographing in the rain (the examples here merely involved standing under an awning of a store).

no comment

Leave a Reply