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Let me lay out my credentials: I live in Seattle. Yes, it’s a bit of a stereotype, but it’s that way for a reason. While we don’t get the torential downpours during monsoon season in some hemispheres, we are pretty good at getting out when the weather is waterlogged to take photos. I have been shooting for 20 years and, while I am surely not perfect, I have some experience with different techniques for shooting in the rain.
Before you even grab your camera out of your bag, carry it in something that keeps the water off and out. Many bags come with a rain cover and a spot to stash it. These will work wonders in keeping your gear dry while in transit to a location. If your bag doesn’t come with one, they cost all of $5 on the cheap it-will-last-one-season end to nicer covers for $20 or more to last a few years. A simple search of Amazon.com or your local sporting goods store will find you what you need. On the super cheap end, a plastic bag works if they are still availavble where you live.
One step further is to wrap your camera itself in plastic to protect it while inside a bag, especially if you have no outer cover.
Check your user’s manual to see how well your camera is sealed. Just about across the board, the more money you spend, the better the seals are on your camera. By seals I mean all those openings in the body for buttons and screens and the like. In the highest end cameras, these seals can be found everywhere and do a tremendous job of keeping out most rain, as long as the water doesn’t pool up on the equipment. But on the less expensive DSLRs meant for consumers, there are less seals to keep out water.
From a small travel umbrella to a larger golf umbrella, these tools do wonders when shooting, especially with a tripod. There are even attachments to clamp an umbrella onto a tripod leg for hands free dryness. Shooting with an umbrella takes a bit of practice, to be able to hold the pole of the umbrella under one arm while shooting. I would suggest practicing before heading out into the elements.
The problem with umbrellas is their size. Go for the largest one you can under your circumstances. Too small of an umbrella and too long of a lens leads to
Don’t have an umbrella or the more specific options listed below? Cover your camera with just about anything to keep the weather off. A coat, scarf or spare shirt. I know it seems obvious, but so often I see cameras without some simple cover when they could be covered and I cringe a little. Yes, most cameras can take a bit of drizzle, but they are costly to replace when they can’t take any more.
There are a number of options in this category, from the simple plastic bag with a hole cut in it to a more fancy folding unit. OP/Tech, for instance, has a whole line of options. I’ve tried the Tenba before and was happy with the equipment, although it often requires attaching velcro to the end of a lens hood.
Some covers only cover the camera and don’t offer a sleeve to also cover your controlling right hand. These are cheaper but speaking from experience, harder to use. All controls, easy to use on dry land, now become less tactile when covered by plastic. The options with sleeves to also cover your right hand work best but take some practice to use well.
Your camera getting dripped on or slightly damp from rain is not the biggest issue. Water falling on your lens is. With water on a lens and rain falling, it is difficult to dry off the lens to continue with clear shooting. In this case your lens hood will help a bit, especially if it is solid and not the flower petal shape. The hood will keep drops off the front element in most cases when the camera is pointed straight or slightly down.
Did you know they make housing for your DSLR that will keep the elements out? They aren’t cheap, I’ll let you know that right now. Most are gear toward SCUBA and are rated far deeper than you’ll need on land. I would suggest one of the sport housings that is only good to maybe 10m, but is perfect for use on land. If the rain is not going to let up and you are going to be in prolonged raining conditions (or close up to waterfalls) these housings can help.
I have previously reviewed one such housing here on DPS. It is the Aquatech CO-7 and was borrowed from BorrowLenses.com. It’s perfect for forgetting about the elements for a while and shooting what you like when you want, especially when having to look up often. Certain point and shoot cameras also have a housing built specific for them. Again, they can be spendy but often offer underwater protection for your next trip to the tropics.
If you don’t need your large DSLR along on all your adventures, or don’t’ want to take it out when the rain is falling, consider one of the ‘Adventure Proof’ cameras on the market today. Such as the Nikon Coolpix AW100, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX5 or the Pentax WG-1 GPS. These cameras are good to 10m or more under water and can take the rain and mist and downpours. While not up to the same quality as a nice DSLR, they are an option for certain situations when you still want to get out and shoot.
The rain need not keep you from shooting outdoors. With a little perseverance and motivation, shooting in the rain can produce unique images fair-weather shooters will never find.
Do you have a particularly useful technique or device for shooting in the rain that might benefit others? Share it below in the comments section.