I had no idea that shortly after picking up a new medium format Mamiya 645 camera in early 2020 that I would take a photo which would be my most popular of the year. In fact it’s my second most Flickr photo ever, with over 10,000 views.
In January 2020 the world was still “normal”. I still went to a downtown office each day. Restaurants and bars were open. No one needed a mask.
Grabbing time after work to shoot in Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square was something I did regularly. I’d never tried street photography with a medium format camera but wanted to see how the images would compare to the 35mm Leica and Nikon images I was used to. Instead of a cool clear night I got a typical wet winter night, though living in the Pacific Northwest you decide early on that if you let rain keep you from getting out you’ll never leave the house.
So I loaded this new camera with some Kodak Portra 400 120 and started wandering around before I completely lost the light. There weren’t many people around so as the rain had people scrambling to get out of the weather. I saw a young lady rushing by, umbrella down low against the rain, and I took the shot.
Getting the shot back from the lab in February, it wasn’t typically the kind of image I’d share. The slow shutter speed and shooting handheld meant the image wasn’t tack sharp though the wide open aperture of the Mamiya 80/1.9 lens (my only Mamiya lens at the time) made for a pleasant, blurred background. Regardless I though it was worth posting to Flickr and adding it to some of the film and medium format groups I’d just joined.
Looking back it’s a photo I really like. There’s a story there — where’s the woman going, what’s in her bag, who is she under the umbrella? The lights and reflections of the wet brick of Occidental Square give it a vibrance that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It certainly could have been shot on a digital camera but as one of my first medium format pictures it will be a favorite for a long time. I’m glad so many others have appreciated it as well.