Images from the Film Archives — 1999
I always felt that the colors in nature pop a bit more during and just after a hard rain. Tree trunks turn darker and every color gains saturation, giving any scene more contrast. I wanted to find a way to photograph in the rain, but was reluctant to have the medium format camera I was using at the time get wet, being modular with film backs, lenses and viewfinders easily taken apart from the body itself. After seeing some golfers with an umbrella attached to the handle of their cart that they pulled along the fairways, I headed to the local golf store and looked into what it might be that held the umbrella, and if it could be adaptable for my intended use. I ended up buying a contraption that could be clamped to the leg of a tripod, with a tube attached that the straight handle of an umbrella can be placed into and secured. As an added bonus, the tube was adjustable for angle, so no matter what angle the tripod leg may be, the umbrella could be set to vertical…perfect!! Now, with this umbrella holder, I was emboldened to try photography in the rain.
With a forecast of rain the entire day, the prospect of some fog at New Jersey’s highest elevation (1803 ft.) in High Point State Park seemed likely, so I headed out for the 2-plus hour ride to the extreme northwest corner of the state. When I got there, conditions were just as I had hoped with a rain-soaked forest and new spring buds in the trees, but unfortunately, very little fog. Driving slowly around some of the park roads, I looked for something of interest: a twisted tree, or pattern of trunks with a young tree, whatever caught my eye. I searched for quite a while, with the rain getting heavier all the time, until it became a full fledged deluge. The rain was coming down in buckets! Of course, that’s when I spotted an interesting flat rock covered in lichen, surrounded by young beech trees with brilliant green spring leaves and their thin trunks blackened by the heavy rain. What really set the scene off was the soaked, reddish/brown of the leaves from the previous fall on the forest floor. And, most importantly, there was a spot to pull off the road a short distance away.
I put the camera together and on the tripod in the car, and placed a plastic bag over the camera to keep it dry as I walked to the spot, until the umbrella was in place. Standing on the step stool I always kept in the car, I was able to get high enough using the wide 35mm lens (20mm full frame) tilted down, to look through the viewfinder with the tripod at its full extension, and avoid any distracting peeks of sky through the canopy. The umbrella kept everything dry, and I was happy both with the shot, and with the new photo opportunities that would now be available. The umbrella holder would remain attached to the tripod, attracting quite a few questions from other photographers I would run into over the years. I brought it on every day trip, and every trip I eventually took out west; even to Iceland in 2019 where it allowed me to take the photo below, that would have been impossible without it. Even though the digital camera I now use is “weather-sealed”, I don’t believe water and electronics should ever intermingle, and try to avoid it at all costs. To read about that day in Iceland, click here.