Snow photography — rain photography

Pho­tog­ra­phy in Rain, Snow, or Hail

When water in any form is falling from the sky, espe­cially in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures, it’s time to call it a day, right? Well…no. Stop think­ing about your numb fin­gers and the water soak­ing through the seal in your cam­era for a moment and look around you. Dif­fer­ent than usual, right? Water (or snow, or hail even) can make a plain place fas­ci­nat­ing, cov­er­ing every strand of grass with sil­ver water­drops, or sub­limely, qui­etly reflect­ing the world. Some visual won­ders dis­ap­pear as soon as it stops rain­ing, so it’s well worth fig­ur­ing out how to pho­to­graph in the wet with­out get­ting wet yourself.

Like pho­tog­ra­phy in cold weather, how you dress in the rain or snow will largely deter­mine your com­fort and your abil­ity to con­cen­trate on your pho­tog­ra­phy. Of course, if it’s cold, dress for the tem­per­a­tures as men­tioned before. Since your hands will get the cold­est when they’re wet, make sure to wear warm, water­proof gloves. With prac­tice, it should be pos­si­ble to oper­ate most of the con­trols on your cam­era with even very thick gloves on.

Water­proof boots, jack­ets, and pants will all help you stay more com­fort­able in the cold. How­ever, even the best waterproof/breathable fab­ric won’t keep you com­pletely dry while you’re hik­ing fast and sweat­ing, so pre­pare for it. Wear clothes under­neath that main­tain their warmth when wet — wool or syn­thetic cloth­ing is best. Cot­ton will stay clammy and cool your skin, even on a rel­a­tively warm day. With rain comes mud, so be sure you’re OK with get­ting dirty!

The most effec­tive tool for keep­ing rain, snow and hail away from you and your cam­era is the hum­ble umbrella. I carry a pocket-sized one when­ever the weather looks uncer­tain. Pro­vided it’s not windy, an umbrella is the best way to keep water off of your cam­era and out of your cam­era bag. Also, under the cover of your trusty umbrella, you won’t have to use your jacket’s hood, mak­ing it eas­ier to look around for photographs.

If you do ven­ture out in the full weather with your cam­era, pro­tect it from the ele­ments as much as pos­si­ble, then for­get about it. I’ve pho­tographed with a vari­ety of equip­ment in pour­ing rain and dump­ing snow, and have never had any seri­ous mal­func­tions as a result. A lens hood will keep a lot of rain off the lens. If bad weather is the norm, try to find a sealed cas­ing for your cam­era and lens. Most impor­tantly, be very care­ful to not get any water in the cam­era when chang­ing lenses or film. When you’re not using your cam­era, point the lens towards the ground with your hand over the viewfinder. Before pho­tograph­ing in a snow­storm, try let­ting the cam­era freeze under cover. This will pre­vent snowflakes from melt­ing on con­tact and will keep your cam­era dry.

When bring­ing your cam­era inside, keep it in its bag until it warms up to room tem­per­a­ture. Take the cam­era out of its bag and remove all lenses, lens caps, fil­ters, and eye­piece cov­ers. Let every­thing dry com­pletely (8 hours or more) before putting it away. Some­times you’ll still see fog on the inside of a lens ele­ment. Before you panic and take it to a shop for repairs, try work­ing the focus or zoom rings back and forth for awhile. This will work air through the lens and can help dry inner lens elements.

Enjoy the crummy weather! After a day spent pho­tograph­ing drops of water on del­i­cate grasses, reflec­tions in a rip­pling pud­dle, or a clean blan­ket of new snow, you’ll feel the sat­is­fac­tion of a job well done that no warm fire can give. And you’ll have the soak­ing wet cam­era to prove it!

Arti­cle cour­tesy of Mark Ray­mond Mason photography