Downtown In The Rain

I walk the Minneapolis skyways a lot, and had this concept in my head for a while: city street lights, wildly unfocused, through raindrops on glass.

Street lights and traffic, through rainy glass in a Minneapolis skyway.

I’d tried it before and it’s trickier than you might think. I wanted the raindrops big and in sharp focus, but all the light sources outside to be wildly out of focus. A 100 mm lens, and f2.8, gave me what I wanted. But the paper-thin DOF meant that to get the entire frame sharp I had to shoot at a perfect right angle to the glass. And then the lights weren’t necessarily where I wanted them in the frame…

There’d been a drought all summer, but one afternoon rain was heading in and I went downtown, thinking there might at least be sprinkles on the glass. For a while nothing was happening, but then a light steady rain got started, and I walked miles looking for good spots in the skyways, with lights nearby on the streets below.

Street lights and traffic, through rainy glass in a Minneapolis skyway.

The rain kept picking up until it was an epic downpour and I had not just nice dense raindrops on the glass, but fantastic runs and streaks, and the sky got darker. I went back and forth between the locations I’d picked, but found new ones on the way.

Street lights and traffic, through rainy glass in a Minneapolis skyway.

So why do I like these photos? As a kid, in the early 60s, I was way into sci-fi. Those paperbacks had totally cool modern art on the covers – wild abstractions, over-the-top colors. And the setting was often a dark, dystopian urban world of impossibly tall buildings where windows looked out on colored lights in a mist of perpetual twilight. A world of endless possibility and mystery..

I’m also interested in visual concepts of “inside” versus “outside” in urban settings, especially in today’s buildings with their expanses of glass that deliberately blur that distinction. And on the surface of that glass, reflection and rain . I’ve always loved rain. Rain extends time and stretches the “now”. Rain on windows distorts the “here”.

That’s what I’m trying to do with these: mid-century ‘modern’ art with a sci-fi noir vibe. I’ve always wanted to live in the future – maybe someday I will…

Street lights and traffic, through rainy glass in a Minneapolis skyway.

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