Several years ago my wife, Linda, and I took a photography vacation on Vancouver Island and the weather was forecast to be completely rainy. We knew before we left that we would get wet, so we prepared with plastic bags to cover our cameras, umbrellas to deflect water off our viewfinders, hairdryers to dry cameras and tripods off every evening, and wet weather attire because we didn’t want to spend our days in wet clothing. The trip was a bit uncomfortable, but the coastal downpour didn’t stop us from doing photography, and we didn’t waste a day of that trip huddled indoors. We were outside, cameras in hand, every day of that trip and returned with great pictures, and a fun experience of shooting in the rain.
I do a lot of commercial photography work and more than once that has meant getting wet while I produced pictures for clients. Wet hair, a soaked shirt, and driving home after the session sitting in a puddle of water isn’t pleasant, but I am there to make photographs rain or shine and I do think that those wet subjects sometimes lend interest to a visual story.
This summer has been pretty wet in the interior of British Columbia and I’m sure there are photographers that have kept cameras packed away as they waited for dry sunny weather. However, there are some that aren’t going to let wet skies ruin their photographic pursuits. I received a call from my friend Sam last week on a day that was experiencing a constant, light rain, but in spite of that, he was about to drive to a wide-open meadow location where he always found hawks, barn owls, or the occasional eagle watching for quarry from fence posts, power poles, or the few small trees that are left standing. I commented that he was going to get wet, but he said he had purchased a wet weather cover for his telephoto lens and had camouflage, rainproof clothes for himself.
The camera model and lenses he uses are weather sealed and can take the rain, so all he needed was to keep water droplets off the front element and viewfinder. But that kind of rain proofing isn’t available on all cameras, so my advice is do some research to find out how well sealed your camera is against water before venturing out when it’s raining.
Rain photography is exciting and creative. Falling raindrops, raindrops pooling on a surface, and wet reflections, can offer a creative and colourful environment for passionate photographers. Reflections during a downpour can have amazing patterns if one looks carefully, and light from the sun coming from in-between and under the clouds creates a beautiful environment. And the effect of rain combined with the gloom of an overcast day will make colours more saturated. I like to tweak the contrast a little in PhotoShop, after the fact, for more dramatic final images.
Mount the camera on a tripod and use a very slow shutterspeed for a long exposure to capture the rain or use a flash to stop the drops as they fall. I like using a flash, but I stand under a porch or awning when I use it because a flash has high power electronics that might short out. Rain becomes more visible when it is backlit. Try focusing on rain running inside a window instead of the scene outside for interesting compositions. The light coming through the raindrops is slightly brighter than the rest of the scene. Beware, that the light source can overpower the camera’s exposure meter so shoot on an angle, and make several exposures, and check the histogram regularly.
Watch for rain droplets on flowers, spider webs, wire fences, metal surfaces like a car hood, or even pools of oil on the street. Sometimes the small drops of water will act as mirrors with a multitude of reflections.
Rain transforms everything no matter if one specializes in scenics, architectural, wildlife, or people photography. I think the words of singer/songwriter Roger Miller are perfect when he says, “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet,” and easily relate to photographers. And for those afraid of taking pictures in the rain, actor and singer Cher made me laugh when she says, “Don’t take your toys inside just because it’s raining.”