Taking pictures in the rain

Raindrops captured on my macro lens at f22 for against someone holding a red umbrella and uncluttered background leaves no ambiguity as to what sort of day we are having.
Raindrops captured on my macro lens at f22 for against someone holding a red umbrella and uncluttered background leaves no ambiguity as to what sort of day we are having.

Rain in southern California is disorienting for a lot of folks.

Motorists may be lax about traffic laws and often defy them, but the laws of physics cannot be ignored so traffic collisions abound during even the slightest downpours.

As a news photographer, working in the elements was a given.

In fact, the first rains of the season often brought out the competitiveness in all the staff photographers vying to come back with the best weather-related picture.

To the winner went the cover the next day and bragging rights.

Inevitably there would be lots of pictures featuring umbrellas so over the years, there have been many many iterations of umbrella pictures each being better than before.

Whenever you’re out shooting street photography style, these tips will increase your chance of capturing something spontaneous:

Set the exposure beforehand

If you shoot on Manual exposure mode, getting your shutter and aperture set before you raise your eye to the camera means all you have to do is activate the autofocus and you are all set to trip the shutter.

Auto exposure mode users should learn how to quickly over-ride the camera if they find their settings off.

Pre-visualize your picture

Laura Quezada braved the rains to pick up her kindergartner
Laura Quezada braved the rains to pick up her kindergartner

This tip will help if your subject is camera shy and is the sort who will immediately stop what they’re doing when they see you hold up your camera to your eye.

So if that means putting on the right focal length lens, then do so.

Trying to capture spontaneous human interactions often mean being ready with the right lens and waiting at the right spot.

Pick a background or a foreground and wait

Low light during the day doesn't mean you have to automatically increase your ISO. You can use the slow shutter speeds to your advantage by stopping down the lens and shooting long exposures
Low light during the day doesn’t mean you have to automatically increase your ISO. You can use the slow shutter speeds to your advantage by stopping down the lens and shooting long exposures

In the case of the above picture, I had my foreground, the window of my car.

All that remained was for me to park my car at a good location and wait for someone with an umbrella to come along.

The background is as important because I wanted one without a lot of clutter and color.

If there was any red, the effect of the umbrella would be lost.

Remember great-looking locations

A stormy sky and a sudden part of the clouds was all it took for this great light to paint this house in beautiful light.
A stormy sky and a sudden part of the clouds was all it took for this great light to paint this house in beautiful light.

In this day and age of the smartphone, this tip is really easy because most smartphones have GPS tagging or you can always take a picture of the street sign showing the nearest intersection.

I drive by this house all the time, then when it rained recently, I decided to drive by and I was rewarded with this picture.

It helps to pay attention to which direction your location faces so that you can predict what it will look like in the morning and evening under different lighting conditions.

Precautions

Most modern DSLRs are fine with you getting it wet so long as you don’t immerse the body in water.

Those specialized raincoats are unnecessary except for those who routinely work in areas that rain frequently.

A clear trash bag with holes cut out for the lens and viewfinder is all you need.

Then all you need is a raincoat for yourself.

Juggling an umbrella and trying to hold a camera is too difficult especially if it’s windy.

Towel off  your camera and put it in a big ziplock bag and let it warm up to room temperature before opening it.

The ziplock will allow condensation to appear on the outside of the bag and not on your camera body.

Just because it’s rainy, doesn’t mean your camera needs to stay indoors.
Peter Phun Photography

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2 thoughts on “Taking pictures in the rain”

  1. HI Sabe,
    So you’re in the Pacific Northwest where it rains a lot and things get mildewy. Not so down this way. I bet you have lots of waterproof footwear. When I was working, miserable as it was to be working in the cold and rain, I had to have good attitude or else I wouldn’t be able to come back with a usable picture. I bet you have lots and lots of pictures of rainbows

  2. Rain, Peter, is all to common in my world. That is why we have a Starbucks or a a Peets on every fourth corner of the city. Sometimes they are so common there is even two or three of the same store in a single mall. It’s crazy, but it is required to keep the positive vibe going in between the times when the sun is clearly visible in the sky. I am over, for the most parrt, getting excited about going out in the rain to shoot. Before and after,however, can be interesting.

    Sabe

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