Photographing in the rain is one of my favourite photographic activities. Unfortunately, it is marred by the logistics of keeping myself and my equipment dry. Although, once you set yourself and get used to it, it is a wonderful activity and well worth the effort. Wind tends to be my worst enemy. It can thwart even the best-prepared photographer.
We were in Cradle Mountain and it was raining. We were all dressed up ready for the morning shoot, and I remember Kay looking me firmly in the eye and suggesting that a slow morning tea of scones and tea around the fire would be a better option. Somehow, I managed to talk her into it and, armed with umbrellas and a good plastic bag, we photographed along the enchanted forest. Well, around lunch time, Kay was the one who didn't want to come back inside. "It's so beautiful Len." she said. It wasn't as bad as she had imagined.
So, here are some tips I have figured out along the way. Some have been shared with me by other photographers too, for which I am thankful:
- Weather-sealed cameras and lenses are the go. This is a must-have in my opinion. Some lenses require a filter on the front to be weather-sealed, so make sure you check this. I have had to forgo my favourite lens for a weather-sealed one because I was tired of it fogging up on me.
- A lens-hood is very important, a deep one is even better. The current trend in clover-shaped ones doesn't help the wet-weather photographer. I have extended some with gaffa tape and a piece of plastic. Shooting square helps me here as extending the lens-hood will cut into your image area with vignetting. You may choose a lens with a deep hood just for your rainy excursion.
- Tripods and umbrellas are the go until it gets too windy. Then, unfortunately, nothing really works well.
- A plastic bag or dry sack (available from camping stores) is great for covering the camera while you move the tripod and get set up. This allows you to put down the umbrella and set up with two hands. Then you can put the umbrella back up, whip off the waterproof bag and shoot one-handed. Yes, adjusting the framing requires a bit of contortion. I put the umbrella under my arm and work two-handed. I seem to be able to manage this. Just.
- If it is just rain, I often just let my camera get wet, and forgo the umbrella. You can only do this if the rain is light and vertical, if it is blowing in the wind it will hit your lens. When I work this way, I clean the lens before every single shot with a lens wipe, a nice absorbent microfibre one is great. I carry about five, so once one gets sodden I have another. A small hand towel can also be helpful to slip into your camera bag.
- Try to avoid getting your umbrella in the photograph.
- The choice of umbrella matters. I have a few. My favourite is a golfing umbrella. It is large and waterproof in the heaviest rain. I also have a lightweight one from a camping store that lives in my camera bag with my raincoat.
- If your camera does get wet, don't change your lens. Bring the camera inside and wipe it dry. I actually wipe it dry before it goes back into my camera bag. Then, when I get back indoors or into my vehicle I wipe it dry again. I will leave it out to dry in room temperature. Never take the lens off if there is any water anywhere on the camera, as water inside the body is the most damaging thing. Therefore, choose your lens and have it on your camera before you step outside.
- Wear a waterproof hat. This is just my personal preference as I can't stand the hood on my jacket covering my ears and senses.
- Wear waterproof clothes. I always have rain pants and a rain jacket. If you are going to do this a lot, it is worth investing in a good quality set. I do like a 3/4 jacket that covers my bum. They were the fashion years ago for bushwalkers with shorts, They used to come down to the knees but are very hard to find these days. I can't stress enough the importance of high-quality clothing. It needs to be tape-sealed and should breathe. Gortex is one reliable option, but there are others that work just as well. Gortex doesn't work in humid environments and is best in cold climates.
- Face it, you are going to get wet. So dress for it. Cotton will get cold when wet. So wool, silk or synthetics that don't absorb water are best. Quick-dry. I was wet from this mornings shoot and half an hour at home and I am dry again because I am wearing quick-dry outdoor clothing.
- Weatherproof footwear is another consideration. In the UK, all the photographers had muck boots, basically expensive gumboots with a vibram sole. I like my bushwalking boots, but am often out with just my approach shoes, which means I end up with wet feet.
- If it is going to be wet all week, I will also waterproof my lens and camera in my pack with plastic bags.
- Dry out your camera bag each time you return. I leave it wide open so it can air.
- If your camera isn't weatherproof and it gets wet, put it in a bag of uncooked rice for a week. And get it to a repair centre for a service. I can't count how many cameras I have destroyed with water. An expensive lesson.
- Cameras fog up when they are a different temperature to that of the air. In cold environments, I keep it in a cooler part of the house. At the snow, I leave it in the changing room a few hours before I go out. Camping, I keep it in the vestibule. This is so that my camera and lens is at the outside temperature. Batteries hate this treatment. Keep them in your jacket and warm them up so they don't run out.
- A polarizer is great to remove the shiny reflections from drops of water on plants if you are working in colour.
- I have tried raincoats for the camera, but honestly I can't stand them as they get in the way of working the camera and they fog up too.
- Be careful where you put your pack. Your umbrella dribbles and seems to aim the stream of water right into your pack if you put it in reaching distance. Keep it zipped up. I like to keep it on my back, as there I know it will be safe from water.
- If you can think of any other points please put them in the comments on the post on the website at http://lenmetcalf.com and I will add them to the article.
Photographing in the rain can bring the most beautiful photographs. The light is amazing. Personally, I think it is worth the effort. Enjoy.
Working in the rain and mist. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018