Raindrops on Roses: Working With Weather & Photographing in the Rain

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Photography | Comments


As a landscape photographer, working with the weather, including photographing in the rain, is all part of the game. The best photographs are often made in the worst weather. Rain showers, or the under the threat of it, is no exception. With proper precautions, there’s no reason a little rain should keep you and your camera inside. In fact, an approaching storm and the possibility of rain are all the more reason to grab your camera and get outside.

Dramatic weather can mean dramatic photographs: Discover how to capture amazing photographs in rainy weather.

Some of my favorite photos have been captured while dodging raindrops, like the image below of Rocky Gorge along New Hampshire’s Kancamagus Highway. Peak foliage season in New Hampshire is short lived, and since my day job limits my shooting to weekends, I wasn’t about to let the rain keep me from a planned trip to the mountains to shoot the spectacular fall color. The gloomy wet day made the colors pop, and had the waterfalls really flowing, well worth getting a little wet for I think.

Rocky Gorge along New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway in the rain

Forecast: cloudy with chance chance of showers

If the weather forecast calls for rain, but there’s a good chance there will be openings in the clouds near the horizon at either sunrise or sunset, you can bet I’ll be out with my camera in hopes of creating some dramatic photographs. I’ll take storm clouds and drama over the blah of bluebird skies any day.

The forecast for the morning I made this next photo was for an 80% chance of rain. However, one look at the weather radar showed that there was a slight possibility of breaks in the clouds towards the horizon right around sunrise. Initially I didn’t think my chances were good for the photograph I wanted, as I left my house it was already raining, and it was raining when I arrived at the coast.

It was raining when I pressed the shutter.

Break in the clouds along the coast just before a thunderstorm

Petals and precipitation

Flowers make outstanding subjects to photograph in the rain. First off, the even lighting created by the overcast sky is great for getting good exposures. Unlike on a bright sunny day, there won’t be any harsh shadows and overly bright highlights to deal with. Second, the raindrops are a nice touch to your flower photos.

Raindrops on a tulip petal  Raindrops on periwinkle flowers

And then there are raindrops

The raindrops themselves can make interesting subjects as well. The water beaded on the roof of your car for instance can yield great photographic potential.

fresh rain on a blue car

Staying dry in the wet: tips and gear for keeping your camera dry when working photographing in the rain

1. Keep it dry.

If I’m only going to be out in a light sprinkle or occasional passing shower, I carry a small and absorbent pack towel such as one of the Sea To Summit Tek Towels. Available at many outdoor retailers, these towels are highly absorbent and reasonably priced. The size small I use, at 16″ x 32″ (40cm x 80cm) is easily large enough to completely cover my tripod mounted camera in the event of a passing shower. Often on days where the rain is on and off I’ll just keep the towel draped over the camera until I’m ready to shoot.

2. Use a lens hood.

Assuming you’re using a DSLR, most lenses, even if they didn’t come with one, have the ability to accept a lens hood. Lens hoods are primarily designed to help prevent lens flare, but having the front element of your lens protected inside a hood will also go a long way towards keeping falling rain off your lens.

Think of the lens hood as an awning for your lens.

3. Carry a microfiber lens cloth.

You’ll want to regularly check the front element of your lens for water drops. And I do mean regularly when you’re shooting in the rain. The last thing you want to do is to get home only to find that winner shot you thought you had is unusable because you missed the great big raindrops in the middle of your lens. Also, don’t let rain dry on your lens. The minerals in the water could leave a rings on the lens that may be very difficult, if not impossible to remove.

Lastly, carry several, in different places, whenever you head out in the rain. Having switched to a lighter coat for my hike in to Ripley Falls for the photo below, I realized once I arrived at the falls that I had forgotten to grab my microfiber cloth from my other coat. I was only able to get to take two shots before getting water on my lens. With nothing to safely wipe it off with I was done and had to hike all the way back out to my car. Now I keep one micro fiber cloth in my camera bag at all times, as well as one in my coat or pants pocket. Lesson learned.

waterfall in the woods during a rain shower

4. Keep it covered.

If I know I’m going to be out in a steady rain, I use a weather-proof camera cover like the KATA E-690. The OP/TECH Rainsleeves are another, inexpensive alternative that also works well.

For the truly cost conscious, plastic shopping bags are a great, and free, way of keeping your camera dry. The only drawback is that you need to remove it to use the camera.

Bring a small umbrella. An umbrella goes great with the shopping bag trick. Keep the bag over the camera while moving from one location to another, then remove it and hold the umbrella over your camera while you get your shot. In a pinch you can use a ball cap to cover your camera while you take a picture.

Get a different kind of coverage — insurance. All of my gear is on my home owners insurance, which removes much of the worry of taking my expensive camera and lenses out in inclement weather. It doesn’t make me carless, I still tend not to venture out in a downpour, but knowing I’m covered should any damage result from moisture entering a camera or lens gives great peace of mind. 

Working with weather, such as photographing in the rain, should not be a hindrance to getting out with your camera. With proper care and precautions a rainy day can be as productive as any other when it comes to taking pictures.

Learn more about how to capture stunning technical and artistic photos of the great outdoors in the Craftsy class Landscape Photography: Shooting From Dawn to Dusk.

Tomorrow on the Craftsy blog, we’ll share tips for improving your landscape photography!

What types of dramatic shots have you taken in the rain? Share in the comments section below!