It beats on our rooftops. It makes us turn on our windshield wipers. It creates puddles on the sidewalk and wreaks havoc with landslides. Rain can be dramatic or it can be subtle, and as a photographer, it makes for unique photographic opportunities that most people don't think about until they see it in an image.
Often, too many people are afraid of getting their gear wet…or even themselves. But, with the right precautions and coverage, the results are worth the undertaking. Other than staying dry, there are several things to consider... let's explore them.
Obviously rain is going to be a moving subject, and with that the first thing to come to mind would be your shutter speed. In order to stop the raindrops in action, you want to use as fast of a shutter speed as possible. If you can bump your shutter speed to faster than 1/500, you're much more likely to stop the drops! Try shooting at as many different speeds as possible until you get the image you want. Depending on the lighting, you may not be able to go too fast without bumping up your ISO. That's okay. It's better to have a higher ISO and risk of some grain than to miss out on a great shot.
On some cameras, you can set it t o automatically bracket your shots to adjust the f-stops along with the shutter speeds you select. This will give you even more variety. You can set bracketing with the Exposure Comp./AEB Setting. You can adjust how high and low you want the bracketing to go, be they a fraction of a stop or a full stop or more. If you're shooting in shutter priority mode, I wouldn't go too much more than a full stop since your camera is figuring a lot of it out for you. However, for edification purposes, it's worth playing with the higher stops just to see the different results. Naturally, in some cases it may be needed. Often, stopping up or down is helpful with creating definition in the sky. If it's raining, you may or may not have a dramatic sky. A passing thunderstorm could make for a compelling sky, whereas a gloomy rainy day probably wouldn't.
Your shutter speed may also vary depending on if you're shooting into a brighter side of the sky or not. If the storm is passing and it's darker on one side than the other, this could be the case. The lighter side, of course, will allow you to shoot at a faster shutter speed.
Raindrops can be emphasized quite dramatically with different light sources that may come into play. If you're on a tropical island with some of those passing storms, the sun breaking through the clouds can make for some great backlighting.
The image at the top of this post is a good example of dramatic lighting. The way it illuminates both the raindrops and the tree makes it a spectacular image. Another good example would be a street light. Much like the old black and white detective movies, a black and white image of rain falling in front of a street light at night is a classic shot. So, when it rains, the key is to look for the light!
Some of the best times to capture water is when it hits the ground, puddles or other bodies of water, or an object. In the image above, some drops are still falling and some are bouncing. The light hitting the two bigger drops in the air is a nice touch as well. Consider being close to the ground for some of your shots. Pavement, puddles, rocks, and more make for great opportunities to capture water landing on them.
Puddles are wonderful opportunities to catch a reflection while it's raining. They're often easy to find, too! Just take a walk down your street during a rainstorm.
This image of the little boy stomping in a puddle is a great childhood capture. Who doesn't remember stomping in a puddle as a kid? The clouds in the reflection also work quite well. They're both reminders that when you see a possible image, take note of it from different sides to see how it changes. Likely, if the shot was taken from the other side of the puddle, the reflection would be quite different.
While I wouldn't recommend risking your life to catch an image during a hurricane, I would say that when it's safe to venture out, there will be many photo opportunities between flooding, fallen trees, and more. If you live near a beach, the piers are always a great subject. Take care to not get in the way of emergency workers, and don't travel to a flood affected area just to take photos. You'll only get in the way.
Your Camera and Gear
I've written articles on how to protect your gear from weather elements. In a nutshell, keep a dry chemise cloth handy and don't try to change out your lenses! Dress in layers so you can hide gear in pockets beneath a quality raincoat. But, by all means, don't pass up an the chance to capture unique photos just because of a few raindrops.
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