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https://alphauniverseglobal.media.zestyio.com/Alpha-Universe-BTS-Ashley-Noel-Rain-1-bw.be110857376e1c1dc5afaa178864837f.jpeg
Photo by Ashley Noel. Sony Alpha 7 II. Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6. 1/60-sec. f/5.6, ISO 1600

Behind The Shot: When Bad Weather Brings A Street Moment To Life

While others might rush indoors during inclement weather in New York City, for street photographers, sometimes the reaction is the exact opposite. When a torrential downpour hit Hell’s Kitchen, street photographer and Alpha Collective member Ashley Noel (@nyroamer) quickly grabbed the camera and lens closest to her, the Sony Alpha 7 II and Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6, and ran out to see what she could capture. “While a couple walking down the street may not be anything significant photographically, sometimes the weather element can bring the moment to life and add a dramatic element. For me, this was one of those chances. The rain made it cinematic and brought it to life.” We connected with Ashley to learn more about the image, read her story behind the shot below.

Alpha-Universe-BTS-Ashley-Noel-Rain-1-bw.jpeg

Photo by Ashley Noel. Sony Alpha 7 II. Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6. 1/60-sec. f/5.6, ISO 1600

“...sometimes the weather element can bring the moment to life and add a dramatic element. For me, this was one of those chances. The rain made it cinematic and brought it to life.” – Ashley Noel

The Scene

This picture was taken on a side street in NYC’s Hells’ Kitchen. It was one of those humid summer days in which a spontaneous rainstorm arose. I was actually inside my apartment building when I saw (and heard) the torrential downpour. I immediately ran outside my building, camera in hand, to see if I could capture anything. 

I’ve always been drawn to inopportune weather, like dark and unpredictable clouds, rain, snow, fog, etc., as I feel it makes for dramatice images that provide the perfect moody backdrop.  For me, the so-called “bad weather” allows me to get some of my favorite shots. When it’s wet outside, I feel colors become deeper and more saturated, especially in the summer, when colors really “pop.” For me, it provides a cinematic effect. 

The Gear

I used my Sony Alpha 7 II with the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. My camera was readily available on my coffee table and I immediately grabbed it and ran outside to try to catch a shot or two of people in the rain. The Sony Alpha 7 II, like all of Sony’s cameras, is fast and accurate. Throughout any variable or situation that I’m in, my Sony Alpha camera is an everyday powerhouse. It's lightweight, versatile, and easily accessible. As a New Yorker, I often find myself on the go, immersed in the hustle and bustle of the city, which brings an appreciation for Sony Alpha cameras, speed, accuracy, and being lightweight/accessible enough for my bag; much lighter than a DLR. 

The Alpha 7 II shoots and autofocuses very quickly. It enables me to reach quickly for the camera and grab the shot. In this case, I didn’t have time to fuss with lenses, the 28-70 mms was already on my camera and that's what I went with. For general day to day photography, I find the 28-70mm lens provides good picture quality, fast autofocus, and great stabilization. It’s light, tough, and compact. Obviously, zoom lenses have great advantages over prime lenses in the focal length or focal length range. For me, the 28-70mm focal range covers many needs. 

The Shot

In this simple shot, I saw a couple walking side by side, arms embraced, sharing a single umbrella. What struck me, is that their steps were in unison and what inspired me about this moment was the raindrops bouncing off the pavement and umbrella. It wasn’t until I had taken the shot (since I hadn’t had much time to prepare for the shot and it was truly a spontaneous shot), that I realized the raindrops dripping off of the umbrella.

Rarely is my shooting a planned endeavor these days. More and more, my photography is spontaneous, when I am drawn to a particular moment, or struck by a scene. The beauty (and challenge) of street photography is that you only have only a moment to capture what you want. I often think of it as a tiny little window of opportunity, where time and opportunity are my muse. Like most moments in street photography and the hustle and bustle of New York City, this moment didn’t allow me to position myself or set up the shot, but I was just happy to get the couple in my frame.

Alpha-Universe-BTS-Ashley-Noel-Rain-1-color.jpeg

Photo by Ashley Noel. Sony Alpha 7 II. Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6. 1/60-sec. f/5.6, ISO 1600

Often, my go-to lens is actually my 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens. I find it's great for street shooting, due to the focal length and the f/1.4 aperture which enables me to isolate the main subject. At this moment, as I mentioned, the 85mm lens wasn’t readily available, so I used what was available (the 28-70mm). The 28-70mm focal length range covers a huge range of needs and can be ideal for photographing people candidly in the city, like this moment.

My camera is usually set to aperture priority mode, which allows me to play with depth of field. Due to my positioning here (at an angle), with the subjects moving (I was stationary) and the lens I was using (focal length 54 mm), the aperture was f/5.6 and shutter speed was 1/60-sec. In this moment, there was not an incredible amount of light I had to work with and I had the movement of the subjects, coupled with rain. The slower shutter speed of 1/60, enabled me to at least capture some of the movement of falling rain, hitting the street and falling from the umbrella.

I was actually inside my apartment building when I saw (and heard) the torrential downpour. I immediately ran outside my building, camera in hand, to see if I could capture anything. I luckily was able to stand under an awning, to avoid the rain myself, but was positioned at an angle, when taking the shot. The couple had already passed, but I wanted to at least try to get them in frame, even if it wasn’t front-facing/head on. While a couple walking down the street may not be anything significant photographically, sometimes the weather element can bring the moment to life and add a dramatic element. For me, this was one of those chances. The rain made it cinematic and “brought it to life.”

The Edit, Changing To Black & White

Since I am a New Yorker and am always on the go, so is my editing style and post-processing. I always joke that I’m not very fancy at all, and my editing style is very simple. I still use mobile editing apps like Lightroom Mobile and Snapseed to edit my images. I always shoot in color and edit to black and white later. My standard approach is to sharpen and use the “clarity” option. If I edit in black and white, I always tweak the shadow/whites, and adjust the brightness and contrast (I prefer not to have too much contrast).  

To me, there's something very alluring and soulful about black and white imagery. The look is timeless, classic, and dramatic. I feel very lucky to live in a city like New York, which constantly provides so much visual stimulation and countless opportunities to photograph. It is the perfect photographer’s playground for all things black and white. I love to snap a moment in time, accompanied by the backdrop of gorgeous architecture, sunlight, light reverberations, rain/snow, or even the movement of people, and see that image in black and white. I often prefer black and white imagery as I feel it can evoke emotions, a mood, and perhaps even a little nostalgia.

See more of Ashley Noel’s work on Instagram @nyroamer.

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