Sometimes the weather sucks. Heavy rain, strong winds, typhoon/hurricane/cyclone. Mist and fog. Blizzards. It’d be nice if the golden hour on a perfect day lasted all day – if it did, it’d be the golden day not the golden hour. And if the weather were perfect all the time, we’d still find something to complain about. Photography in bad weather comes with its own set of challenges.
Contrary to common belief, the first spots of rain are not a sign to put away your cameras and head home. In fact, those first spots of rain can sometimes bring about opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist. The changing weather will often produce some great lighting so you’d be wise to look out for it and make sure you have an interesting subject to photograph when it comes.
Specialist rain protection is available for purchase. Additionally, a growing number of camera and lens combinations offer some degree of weather sealing. In fact, cameras are surprisingly resilient – in years of shooting in poor weather and getting my cameras splashed, I’ve never run into problems. This doesn’t mean that you can immerse them in water but a few drops here and there can be easily wiped off with a cloth. Using a lens hood will also help to keep water off the glass. In most cases though, your bad weather photography will probably be done under some kind of shelter that keeps you out of the worst of the conditions. No matter how good a raincoat or waterproof clothing you’re wearing, most people simply don’t enjoy getting rained on. Positioning yourself under some kind of shelter and shooting out into the rain is easy in a big city or town, and you’ll still be rewarded with good images.
Condensation may be a problem, particularly if your gear is exposed to large changes in temperature. That could happen as easily as going from a cool environment to a warm one. In the topics this is a common issue, as it’s usually hot and humid outside during summer, and cool and dry inside thanks to all the air conditioners running. If you’re not in the tropics, you may be faced with the opposite problem of moving from the cool outdoor air into a warm home or car. Make sure you dry your camera as much as possible before changing environments and you’ll limit the opportunities for condensation to form. If you do need to dry out your camera, remove the battery and memory cards and place everything in a dry box. If you don’t have one, pack it into a sealed bag full of uncooked rice. This can help draw out any moisture. Whatever you do, don’t turn it on until the camera is completely dry.
At times the biggest issue you will face is not how to protect your gear, but how to protect yourself. Don’t take any unnecessary risks with your personal safety. If the conditions are hazardous, get yourself somewhere safe. Particularly during tropical storms or gale force winds, flying debris can be a real hazard, much more so than the rain coming down. If you see objects being blown around, play it safe. The same applies to flash floods – when the rain is really coming down, keep away from riverbanks, drains and streams. The aftermath of storms is often a great time for photography. As people venture out, grab your camera and join them. Don’t be afraid to lend a hand for any clean up necessary but take the time to take a few photographs while you’re at it.