Mother Nature: Photographer's Friend or Foe? :: Digital Photo Secrets

Mother Nature: Photographer's Friend or Foe?

by David Peterson 1 comment

How many times have you planned a photo shoot only to put your camera back down because the weather wasn't conducive? Fear of rain drops pelting your camera, being struck by lightning, thundering waves, climbing snow-mound obstacles, or dodging puddles in the streets. They're all excuses for skipping out on a photo shoot. But, are they good reasons? Simply put... no! Amazing photos have come out of some of the most Mother Nature deterred photo shoots. It all comes down to a bit of common sense and being prepared.

Be a Boy or Girl Scout

Preparedness is without a doubt the most important part of doing a photo shoot in bad weather. There's no point in risking damaging your equipment or safety by not being prepared or not using common sense. Let's walk through this storm and see how we can be better ready to fight Mother Nature's not so nice days.


A camera's two biggest enemies are moisture and dust. Unless you're in a wind-blown desert, it's more likely you'll be dealing with the foe of moisture. There are, of course, ways to protect your gear. Some photographers wear oversized raincoats and tuck their cameras underneath while shooting. They also buy plastic sleeves that create a tunnel over their heads and cameras. There are pros and cons to plastic, as it can protect, but it can also entice condensation if you don't let it breathe.

Using a lens hood isn't just for protection against sun and glare. A lens hood also helps extend the area of protection from elements past the glass, but only to a limited degree. It just takes a few raindrops on the lens or filter to create a blurred spot on your image. Keeping a clean and dry cloth on hand is a good idea. After wiping, wait for the glass to clear before capturing the next image.
Be careful not to seal the camera off in such a way that would create condensation. Covering it is one thing, sealing it tight is another. The plastic around the camera has to breathe in order to not build up moisture that would create a rainforest inside what's supposed to be protecting your camera.

If you have a DSLR, or a camera where you can change lenses, one of the times your camera is most vulnerable is when you're doing just that - changing out the lenses. Having more than one camera body will help a lot so that you can have a variety of lenses on hand is ideal. But, naturally this isn't in everyone's budget. So, when changing out lenses or filters, go to a protected place to better ensure the elements don't invade and wreak havoc on the insides of your camera.

Bagging It

Besides your camera, keeping your camera bag dry is a consideration. If you can, set it up on something other than the ground, perhaps a log or a bench, and cover it with a garbage bag or a weather protecting clothing item, like a raincoat. Lay the protective layer over your bag fairly loosely so that you'll still have easy access to your gear without having to untie or unknot something to get to it. Obviously, if it's windy, use a weight on the corners to keep it from blowing away.

The Forest for the Trees

Oftentimes a forest provides some level of protection, say compared to a beach. A canopy of trees will help to shield you and your gear to a degree. This could be a good time to focus on the macros in a forest. Maybe a colorful, red mushroom or a knot in a tree. Go for some color and texture to contrast the dreary weather. It's also easier to protect your camera if your subject is close at hand in a more confined spot.

Beaching It

If you do go to the beach or another open area during a storm, the odds of getting some great shots are increased by virtue of intense cloud cover and the potential for lightning. This brings up a worthy investment if you're a storm chaser. There are several lightning sensors on the market. These slip into your hot shoe and connect to your camera's electronic cable release. It then does just what you'd think... when it senses lightning, it triggers your shutter. A good one usually runs about the price of a decent lens, so if you can budget it in and know you'll use it, it's worth it.

Home Sweet Home

Ironically, after the photo shoot is when you're camera is at jeopardy. A drastic change in temperature is likely to cause condensation. If you drove to the location of your shoot, your car should be about the same temperature as it is outside, giving it time to adjust without creating condensation. I also recommend that you keep your camera bag open and let everything breathe while driving home. However, if you go from outdoors to immediately being in a warm coffee shop or house, be careful. Wipe down your gear with a dry, clean cloth if moisture starts to build.

Testing the Waters

Camera gear is built to be tough to a degree. A few raindrops aren't going to hurt them. Instead a drop of common sense, a clean cloth and the adventurist spirit is all you need to get out the door when Mother Nature meets inspiration.

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  1. Regina says:

    I love the little hints and find them easy to pick up .
    I have a canonEOS 600D but find I still use it on Automatic as none of the other stuff makes sence . But used the P setting the other day when taking fotos on dusk and got a nice result . I so wish I couild get the hang of things but names etc just wont stick in my head . Thanks for all the hints , help and info .
    tc Astrid

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.