Photography for a Rainy Day
Rainy day walks aren’t for everyone. Particularly if you’re a photographer, grey skies and wet, sloppy sidewalks aren’t something that spark the imagination. Time to leave the camera at home - right?
That’s, of course, one way to look at it. But think back to when you were a kid. Rainy days were full of opportunities - times for adventure and downright having fun! So toggle back to that time again and give the creative photographer in you a wet-weather “go” at capturing something stunningly different.
There are a few precautions to be taken before splashing out, however. Although many digital cameras these days are sealed against the elements and can withstand light amounts of moisture, they’re still not submersibles. Some care should still be taken. And some easy ways of doing this, include:
- Carry an umbrella. Granted, holding something other than your camera is more of a hassle than anything else, but it’s a “basic” in terms of camera protection. In a pinch, you’ll be happy you stuck a foldable one in a coat pocket or camera bag.
- Carry a raincoat. This seems obvious, but todays smaller system cameras (especially the mirrorless ones from Fuji, Sony, Olympus, etc.) stow nicely beneath the zipper. When a photo opportunity presents itself, simply unzip and pull the raincoat a bit higher to provide a "canopy" for putting your camera to your eye and clicking off a few exposures. A bit cumbersome, perhaps, but it's simple and works.This seems obvious, but todays smaller system cameras (especially the mirrorless ones from Fuji, Sony, Olympus, etc.) stow nicely beneath the zipper. When a photo opportunity presents itself, simply unzip and pull the raincoat a bit higher to provide a "canopy" for putting your camera to your eye and clicking off a few exposures. A bit cumbersome, perhaps, but it's simple and works.
- Carry a raincoat for your camera. There are many on the market these days, made specifically for cameras. Camera protection is available in a variety of shapes and sizes, capable of covering not just the lens and camera, but attached flash, too. If you don’t want to buy one, just stick a few medium-sized clear plastic bags and some large rubber bands in your bag. Place the bag completely over your camera and secure the open end of the bag around the end of your lens with several twists of the rubber band (note that this does work best with lenses featuring internal focus). A bit of work, of course, but you can still see and work the controls need to capture the shot you're after.
- Take shelter. Depending on where you are, you might be able to locate a store awning or some other overhang to stand under while you shoot. Parking garages work and even photographing from your parked car will give you the protection and maximum photo opportunity you need.
So now that your "covered," what's there to make pictures of? Well, the possibilities are really quite endless. Photography in the rain is a process of transformation. Shooting in the rain produces dramatic atmospheric and softly romantic scenes. It can render familiar landscapes completely unrecognisable, while bringing out a wide range of emotions from the people caught in it - from enthusiastic school children dashing through sidewalk puddles to pedestrians sporting exuberant smiles or even long, drippy faces. Practically nothing remains untouched and unaffected in some way, by either a warm or not warm, rainy day. And here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Candid photos of people or animals playing in the rain or trying to protect themselves from it.
- Reflections in puddles of water.
- Plants and foliage adorned with beads of water.
- The range of emotions displayed on people’s faces, in reaction to the rain.
- Water flowing from roofs, pipes, drains.
- People at work in the rain.
- The rain itself on windows, car surfaces and pavements.
Fact is, rain can be surprisingly tricky to capture effectively and pleasingly in photos. Here are some tips on just how to avoid those dull, grey rain images that so often make their appearance on your digital camera back:
- Focal length. Any focal length lens is appropriate for rainy day photography. Just keep in mind that the longer your lens, the more compressed (i.e. narrower the depth-of-field) and magnified will be the effects you are attempting to capture.
- Aperture. Including the surrounding environment ("context") typically enhances rainy day images. To achieve this, choose a "standard" (i.e. 50mm lens) to wide angle focal length for a more "expansive" view of the scene. Set your aperture at f/8 for starters, to capture the rain and its immediate surrounds, in relatively sharp focus. Then if light level permits, stop down even further (e.g. f/11) to include greater detail from immediate foreground, clear to the furtherest horizon of your scene.
- Shutter Speed. Shutter speed will be of major concern when photographing in the rain. Beginning with the obvious - rain is a moving subject and it is moving much faster than it appears to be. So therein lies your creative choice. You must decide just how you creatively with to portray it. If you want to blur its motion in smooth, flowing style, use a slower speed. A setting of 1/15th or 1/8th sec. will do the trick nicely, but be sure to either brace yourself firmly for the shot - or use a tripod, otherwise camera shake will result in a less than desirable capture. If on the other hand your intent is to “freeze” rain drop action, you'll need a fast shutter speed setting (e.g. 1/500th and higher) to create your expressive vision.
- Backlighting. Rain is more clearly defined when it is backlit. Try to find a suitable light source and photograph towards it. Whether it be the sun peeking through the clouds or a streetlamp beaming down from above, such light sources enhance the action and appearance of rainfall. Take care, however, photographing directly into such a light will cause overexposure, so the key is to move around to find the best angle to shoot from.
- Flash. Applying flash is often frowned on these days by photographers, but by turning down the power (e.g. by half or three-quarters) can result in a pleasant degree of “pop”and sparkle to raindrops in your scene.
So there you have it, a multitude of good reasons to keep your camera creatively at hand - even as the rain falls.
Want to learn more about just how good you can become as a photographer. Why not explore with The Compelling Image, the many skills and genres that can take you there. Stop by and check out our exciting lineup of photography classes online, taught interactively by our award-winning faculty of professional photographers and supportive, inspiring instructors. TCI - the online photography school.