Rainy Day Pics and Inclement Weather
Inclement weather is challenging for photography. Here’s how to make great rainy day pics under inclement weather.
Inclement Weather | Memories From Days Past
Can I Tell You a Story From My Childhood?
I love the rain. When I was a kid I spent long hours staring out at the rain through the living room window.
Later in life I often enjoyed walking in the rain, properly attired of course. Then it stopped raining in my part of the world.
In large parts of Australia we’ve experienced 10 years of significantly reduced rainfall.
Over recent years rainfall has improved somewhat in Melbourne, where I currently reside. Gardens are healthy again and reservoirs are holding more reasonable quantities of life sustaining water.
There's no wonder that I feel good when it rains, despite the fact that the apartment I live in is prone to flooding.
However, more often than not, when it does rain it seems to be a major event which often causes damage.
I now look back fondly to those much more frequent days of gentle, soaking rain I remember from my childhood.
romantic Rainy Images
It’s hard to beat romantic rainy images, whether they’re made day or night, and there’s something quite special about making pictures in the rain.
Wet surfaces that are lit, by either sunlight or artificial light, glow in a way that saturates color.
You can see this effect clearly in the photo I made of the vividly lit street scene in the old town of Salzburg, Austria on a wet summer’s evening.
Likewise, at night, rain-bearing clouds can add interest to a scene as they hang heavily above a surreal, neon-lit urban landscape.
Rainy Day Images and Atmospherics
Of course moisture in the air can create really interesting atmospheric effects, as is evident in the photo of mist and rain clouds in the photo at the very top of this post.
I love the way the low lying clouds hover over the tiny village of Kunoy, on the island of the same name, in the sublime Faroe Islands.
In fact it’s one of my favorite rainy day images.
If you feel the need to photograph picturesque landscape locations and, perhaps, undertake some amazing hiking adventures then the Faroe Islands is the place for you.
Situated in the North Atlantic Ocean between Norway, Scotland and Iceland summers are short and cool in the Faroe Islands.
It also rains there a lot, but it’s easy to get around most of the tiny islands in the Faroes and a week of solid photography will provide many unique and wonderful experiences.
I can’t wait to return to the Faroe Islands.
Rainy Day Photography
I really enjoy making pictures in the rain, but the fact that it's raining doesn't mean that you or your camera gear has to get wet.
You could take cover under a tree or verandah and record the world around you. That’s pretty much what I did when I made this candid portrait during a very heavy rain shower near the town of Mildura in rural Australia.
In some cases you might make interesting, even humorous images of people moving through the rain-sodden environment that surrounds you.
But rather than recording what happens within a space, from outside of it, I prefer moving through and exploring it at, I hope, a deeper level.
What To Do When It’s Raining
If you’re looking for things to do when it’s raining, you really should consider making photos. Personally I find stormy day pictures to be really evocative.
As far as the best places to go when it’s raining it’s worthwhile thinking out of the box.
Have you ever wondered how to take pictures in the rain?
For a start you don’t have to go anywhere.
There’s no reason why you can’t make great photos of the rain or of a stormy sky from the comfort and safety of your own home or apartment.
Making this photo of a stormy sky near the rural city of Mildura in Australia was a truly exhilarating experience.
Those dark, bluish clouds were a sign that a very heavy rainstorm was about to commence.
Most folks believe that rain bearing clouds are grey when, in fact, they’re bluish in color. But our brain doesn’t believe it, so it white balances (i.e., neutralizes) the blue clouds so that we remember them as grey.
Our camera’s work in much the same way. Unless, that is, you know what to do to ensure those clouds photograph the way you want them too.
White Balance is a fantastic topic and one that I cover, in depth, during the one-to-one private photography courses I run in and around Melbourne, Australia.
How to Photograph Rain
Simply photograph from your verandah or balcony or, if that’s not possible, point your camera out a window.
Playing around with your camera’s white balance and exposure can help you create really interesting results.
If you’re trying to record falling rain then play around with your camera’s shutter speed. The slower the shutter speed the more likely you are to see individual rain drops recording as longer streaks of rain.
Now I'm as lazy as anyone else on wet days. I love kicking back on the couch and letting my mind wander. But processing photos and creating blog posts are some of my other favourite things to do when it’s raining.
But travel is different. Due to time and budget constraints I find it hard to stay inside on rainy days when I’m travelling the world.
My approach is to consider inclement weather as providing perfect opportunities for interesting and unique images.
By reframing the notion of a rainy day the mindset I cultivate for myself motivates me to get out from under the covers and head outside with my camera.
The good news is that this mindset turns into reality soon enough and I’m always thrilled by the experience of making rainy day pics.
That said, I always try to dress with the weather in mind and I never travel anywhere without packing a high quality goretex jacket.
Keeping Your Camera Dry In The Rain
There’s a variety of ways by which you can keep your camera dry and free of damage when photographing under inclement weather.
This photo was made, while sheltering from heavy rain and gale force winds, inside my hire car in the town of Vidareidi in the Faroe Islands.
I did get out numerous times to make photos and took a beating as the car door slammed into my body each and every time I got in or out of the car. But it was exhilarating and, as I made some good photos, well worth it.
But this photo was different as I liked the effect of the rain running down the car’s windscreen and the impressionistic feel that was produced by photographing through glass and rain.
I’ve tried several approaches to keeping my camera and lens dry while undertaking rainy day photography. I remember buying a special purpose, heavy duty plastic water resistant housing which I took with me on a trip to South Georgia Island.
It kept the camera dry, but I found it very hard to work with and, as a consequence, making photos was no fun.
It also filled quite a bit of space in my camera bag and, after a single outing, I decided not to pack it again.
There have been other times when I’ve had to poke a hole through a plastic shopping carry bag.
The camera and lens sits inside the bag and the end of the lens protrudes through the hole in the bag.
Pop your hands through the bag’s carry handles to access the various controls on the camera and lens and you’re off and running.
It’s okay at a pinch, particularly when the rain’s not all that heavy, but it’s an awkward system with which to work.
What’s more if you end up wrapping the bag quite tightly around the camera you end up creating a rather humid micro environment.
As a result moisture is likely to form inside the bag which can work its way onto and into your camera. This can stop your camera from working, either temporarily or longer term.
Do be careful to ensure you let air into the bag regularly to prevent humidity-driven water droplets forming on the inside of the bag.
What To Do After Photographing in the Rain
Over the years I’ve taken the trouble to bring a Tupperware container and some silica gel sachets with me when I travel to wet and humid environments.
After a day photographing in the rain, or in a rainforest for that matter, this is my normal procedure.
Remove the lens, filter and lens cap from the lens
Take the lens off the camera’s body
Remove the battery and leave the battery compartment cover open
Remove the memory card and leave the camera’s memory card slot uncovered
Place all these items, separately from each other, into the Tupperware container with the silica gel sachets overnight
I can’t guarantee this procedure will dry up all the moisture, but it’s helped keep all the cameras I’ve used on rainy days over the years going without any trouble.
A Word Of Warning And A Disclaimer
Most cameras and lenses are not designed for making photos in the rain.
It’s important to understand and accept that you do so at your own risk.
Not all cameras are designed equally in relation to water resistant properties, so do be careful.
How I Protect My Camera From Rain
There’s all manner of protective cases and covers designed to reduce the likelihood of water coming into contact with your camera.
Some are clearly better than others, but there’s also personal preference as to which one is the best solution for you and the particular camera and lens combination you’re using.
Spray from a waterfall, such as you see in this picture of the magnificent Skógafoss in Iceland, can be atmospheric but it can also make photography really difficult.
The Peak Design Shell comes highly recommended. A few photography buddies of mine tell me it offers great protection and still allows you to access the controls on most DSLR or Mirrorless cameras quite well.
A simple solution that’s worked for me is a small, thick hand towel. You know the kind of one you often find in a hotel bathroom.
I’ve successfully draped one of these towels over my camera and lens, for short periods of time, in relatively heavy rain.
This simple solution does a good job at absorbing the rain and keeping the camera body and the lens casing dry.
To ensure the front glass element of the lens or filter remains dry it’s important to point your camera downwards and then quickly raise it when it’s time to make the image.
You could, of course, drape the hand towel over the front of the lens in between making photos.
I simply bring the hand towel in and out of my camera bag or, alternatively, from underneath my waterproof raincoat when required.
The hand towel can then be used to dry the camera off after each use.
The hand towel will also help protect your camera and lens if you insist on making photos in the rain, with your camera mounted onto a tripod.
I’ve done it, but be prepared to move your camera gear back and forth between tripod and camera bag under such conditions. And make sure you’re mopping up water whenever you do.
An alternative to a hand towel is a fleece beanie, which I’ve used to cover my camera and most of the lens when photographing in rain or snow on numerous occasions.
This is my preferred option and one of the reasons why I never travel without a fleece beanie.
Needless to say you may also need to employee a lens cleaning cloth or lens tissues to constantly wipe the front glass element of your lens or filter.
Under conditions of relatively high humidity you might find moisture forming on the front of your lens when there’s a filter in place.
It may then be necessary to remove the filter for the duration of the session. At times like this it’s important to have a spare filter case in which to temporarily store your filter.
How To Fill In A Rainy Day On The Road
So there I was on a grey, rainy day in Salzburg, Austria. I'd already spent a bit of time, in better weather, in some of the city's more picturesque open spaces such as the beautiful Mirabell Gardens.
It seemed like a good day to explore the old town's narrow streets. I reasoned that the overhanging buildings would provide my camera and lens with a degree of protection from the falling rain.
The plan worked a treat and I was able to make photos without too much trouble.
I like the amount of information within the scene and the slight sense of compression resulting from the use of a 65 mm focal length on my full frame camera.
The sweep of the street leads the eye through the photo and suggests what might exist beyond the edges of the frame. And that's kind of interesting, don't you think?
Next time you experience a rainy day, it’s worth considering grabbing your camera and raincoat and heading out to make photos.
And don’t forget a hand towel or beanie and a lens cleaning cloth or lens tissues.
It works for me.