Genealogy: Wet-weather photography

Wet-weather photographyBy Barry J. Ewell

Bad weather doesn’t mean bad pictures. It just changes your options and sets the stage for some unique photographic opportunities. In fact, rain can be a photographer’s friend, intensifying colors and adding drama to just about any subject. These tips will help you get the most out of wet-weather photo shoots.

Taking the plunge.   Before you put on your rain gear and embrace the elements, follow these tips:

  • Always keep your camera inside your jacket or sweater to protect it during a downpour.
  • For added protection, use a plastic bag to waterproof your camera. Just cut a hole for your lens to poke through.
  • Keep a soft, clean cloth handy to wipe water droplets off the lens. Don’t use a tissue directly on the lens.
  • Consider getting a waterproof case for your camera.

Gray skies, great photos. Overcast skies can be used to your advantage. Color contrasts are muted on a gray day, and colors seem richer—creating the perfect setting for photos of trees and plants. And fog can subdue colors and soften objects in the background, making a lake or your neighborhood park look ethereal and mysterious.

Digital cameras feature special shooting modes that adjust for lighting (i.e., beach, snow) and situation (i.e., macro for close-ups, portrait). Experiment with the action mode to freeze raindrops hitting a puddle, or a car’s speeding tires flinging water. You can also capture wet scenes beautifully with black-and-white photography.

After the storm.  Storms and heavy rain intensify an image. A particularly good time for dramatic landscape pictures is right after a storm: the sun is beginning to break through, and billowing clouds can be seen in the distance. This combination of bright sun and dark skies creates an extraordinary backdrop: colors seem deeper, and objects glisten under the emerging rays of light.

To capture it all, try using the landscape shooting mode on your camera—it provides great range and sharpness.

Capture a rainbow.  Rainbows always make stunning subjects. They’re formed by the refraction of light through raindrops, and you’ll usually find these conditions before or after a summer storm. Act fast when you see a rainbow—a storm can recede quickly, and the moisture that creates rainbows can vanish in an instant. Rainbow photos are especially striking with other dominant objects in the frame, such as a mountain, body of water, or other natural feature.

Portrait in a puddle.  And what about the water at your feet? Think of all the interesting reflections you can capture in a puddle: trees, clouds, city lights. Include surroundings in the shot, too, like the soccer field and bleachers that the puddle reflects. And puddles attract kids like magnets—a great opportunity for candid shots and another reason to keep your digital camera handy.