Recently we talked about creative shooting in the wintertime, the amazing light reflections and the beauty of the season. That was the Good reason to get creative in the rainy season. Today, we'll talk about the Bad and the Ugly - getting out there on a rainy day and getting wet, while still protecting your gear.
Here are our 15 tips for shooting in the rain, but remember, we're not talking about a heavy rain like in a hurricane or flood - you need extreme care there that goes beyond this story!
Do you have any wet-weather shooting-in-the-field tips you'd like to share? Please contact us on our Facebook page or post in the comments section below.
1. Protect Yourself: For many, the number one concern for rainy day shooting is getting the shot, the next is protecting your camera, but don't neglect your own needs. Your camera needs rain gear, so do you. Heat leaves the body fastest through the extremities: feet, hands and head, unless they're well insulated. Find gloves with open fingers, so you can operate your camera's controls, wear a hat, and water-proof rain boots. Keep a rain jacket - a REAL rain jacket, in the trunk, big enough to wear over your heavy coat, if needed. When I was shooting news, we'd shoot in every weather condition; snow, fog, extreme heat, pouring rain - nothing stopped us. My mom got me a large rubberized hooded emergency poncho that covered me well and I could wrap around the camera in a water emergency. Thanks, Mom! Best gift ever!
2. Protect Your Gear: Although most gear bags are padded enough, they aren't all waterproof in the pouring rain. The bigger heavier gear bags or hard cases are also too cumbersome to carry on a shoot in the wild. Double bagging your gear helps. Wrap your camera in a plastic bag before you place it in your camera bag, then keep the camera IN the plastic bag after you remove it from the photo bag at your location until you're ready to shoot. If you have a long trek from the car to the location in the rain, double bagging with two camera bags, or a bag and sturdy backpack, gives you extra protection.
Simple plastic bags from the grocery stores are fine in a pinch on a rainy day, but not very reliable. They are notorious for tearing at the seams. Better would be the heavy-duty two-ply trash bags. One step further is to buy a specialty water bag or cape, like those from ewa-marine, designed for gear support in a watery world. They can narrow your focus for size and camera body design, even down to the added accessories like mics and cables. The best weather-resistant rain camera cover is going to be a custom cover that allows you to access the controls, point the lens out the hood, and still see through the viewfinder. There are those that cover just the camera, while others cover camera and operator. There are many companies that provide rain covers for camera gear, check out Kata bags, too.
4. Waterproof Camera? Really?: Sensitive electronics and water do not mix! Nowadays, some features on a few DSLRs and camcorders include water resistant casing, but know and understand the difference between 'water-resistant' and 'water-proof'. I have an inexpensive water-proof camcorder that I use when I don't want to worry about my expensive rig. The videos aren't as crisp and sharp as with a DSLR or high-end camcorder, but it's only a $300 replacement if I damage it. While many newer lenses and camera have some water resistance, that doesn't include exposed electronic elements like a hot-shoe or mic inputs.
Check out this one from Radio Flyer, the makers of little red wagons for almost a century. For $20, this strong umbrella has a videographer's favorite strong clasp that will hang anywhere and can stand well in heavy rain.Lost Bwana Outfitters sells a very heavy duty umbrella that has a similar clamping device and they say the umbrella is tough and windproof.
6. Emergency Camera Kit: You can't carry everything with you at all times without investing in a production truck, but you can keep a few grab-bag items for those 'just in case' moments - you know we're not talking about road flares or tire-chains but cleaning supplies, disposable plastic bags, twist-ties, rubber bands, bobby-pins and other items that are non-essentials until they become very essential on a rainy day. I have been known to stop without warning to shoot birds congregating on a wire, mushrooms blooming on someone's lawn and all types of nature. My bag that stays year-round includes a few things from the Dollar Store that I can replace easily and inexpensively as needed. These include: garbage bags, shower caps, cheap plastic ponchos, compact umbrella, chamois and cotton hand towels.
7. Get Hooded: One of your best rain gear accessories to protect your lens from droplets of water is a lens hood. These help two-fold, they keep water drops from hitting your clean lens, and they help mask the harsh light flares from pointing directly into your lens. Some cameras come with hoods, but you can also secure tools from companies like Hoodman. This company specializes in all sorts of hooded protection, from loupes and eyecups to LCD screen covers for the GoPro and DSLRs - handy in bright sun!
8. Beware of Thor - the Thunder God!: Be smart. Be safe. Remember, lightening storms and umbrellas don't mix! You don't want to get hit by lightening, and your camera might not like it, either! These times are best shooting inside a car or under the safety of a porch or awning. Even a hand-held camera can become a lightening rod!
great moving shots! Vans can be your rolling production truck: they have big wide doors that open to let you shoot the heavy rain from the comfort and safety of the back seat, without the car door getting in the shot. A very cool thing about most mini-vans is they have the large back gate that opens high to accommodate most average-height people, giving you a traveling awning. There's room to keep you, a camera on a tripod, and maybe even your on-camera talent dry while still capturing the rainy day ambiance.
10. Left out in the Cold: As soon as you get to your shoot, you should acclimate your camera to the temperature difference between the warm car and cold outside to prevent your lens from fogging up. Often, the lens might be OK, but the viewfinder fogs up, so you're shooting blind. Position the car so you can open a window that is safe from rain and let the car's interior cool down. When shooting news, we used to let our gear acclimate for about 15 minutes, if we could. (Hint, if your lens still fogs up, a small battery-operated personal fan blown right at the lens might help clear the fog and cool down the lens.)
11. Battery Charge: Taking care of your batteries will always assure them a longer life, but batteries will fail faster in cold weather, so make sure you pack extra and keep them in a dry container - not a warm thermal container, it won't like going into the extreme cold after being warm and cozy inside. Just sitting inside your jacket pocket can be warm enough.
12. After the Shoot: You should always clean your gear after the shoot, but it's crucial after shooting around water. Whether shooting in a heavy rain or light, always dry your camera thoroughly, and wipe down your tripod, especially your tripods leg joints. Do this right away, even before you take care of your own needs! Use a clean very absorbent cotton cloth on the camera body and a micro-fiber cloth on the lens. Don't remove the lens until the camera is dry, but dry the exposed parts of the battery then take it off and check to make sure the connecting elements on both the battery and the camera are moisture-free. Don't use cotton balls or stick-swabs, they can leave tiny fibers in your casing, but here's a woman's tip: At the cosmetic counter at your local drugstore, look for long-tipped spongy eye shadow applicators. They're disposable, come 5 or more in a pack, and will help reach into those places your fingers can't.
13. Condensation: Here we go! This is the Ugly - condensation not only stops you from using your camera at the moment, it can render it useless over time. My trusty Sony VX-2100 began giving me an error message regarding condensation following a rather humid week at the lake two summers ago. I've never been able to resolve the issue, and the camera is now gathering dust with other electronic "Boat Anchors" in storage.
14. Tip: To prevent condensation from ruining your electronics, try putting the camera in a zip-lock freezer bag after shooting in the cold before you go inside. Dew and condensation should then collect on the outside of the bag, not inside. But make sure you put the camera in the bag before entering the warm house, or you're allowing the opposite: condensation to collect INSIDE the bag!
15. Raindrops are Falling on my Lens: A deluge on an unprotected camera can render it unusable. But when it's just a drop or two every so often, you might venture away from the car without protection. Bits of raindrops on your lens won't hurt it, but they are annoying. When I carry my camera in a surrounding where it's not raining, but drops still make their way down from above, I always walk with the lens pointed at the ground, so a rogue drop of water won't hit it.
Amateurs and those without vision are fair weather shooters. But not us, right? We're creative artists, and we need to find the shot where it lives - come high water or not! Shooting in all seasons takes courage and perseverance, but don't let rainy days keep you from shooting outdoors - sometimes the best shots are those that have water in the scene - water provides reflections, washes dry dusty buildings and brightens the streets and rooftops.
Wet buildings shine better than ever following a heavy rain. And the real beauty of shooting in the rain? You're alone in the elements. Consider a well-known architectural site that attracts dozens maybe hundreds of visitors a day. Tourists go inside when it's pouring rain. Walking paths in the local parks - all tourist free. Go out and get wet!
Do you have any wet-weather tips you'd like to share? Please contact us on our Facebook page or post in the comments section below.
Jennifer O'Rourke is Videomaker's Managing Editor