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SCL Photo Podcast 23: Bad Weather Photography!

SCL PodcastFancy going out in the rain and cold? I didn't either, but here's a few hints and tips to get you "shooting in the rain!"

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Show notes:

Featured Posts:

Fujifilm S5700 S700 Focal Lengths Explained.

Beach Macro - Set.

Photowalk 51 - Portsmouth In The Rain.

Great Podcast to Listen To: Photonetcast. Make sure you download the previous episodes, there's great content there.

Photographing In Cold / Wet Conditions

My Notes:

Now, I don't normally go out to take photographs if its raining, or looks like it might rain. I'll pop my head out of the back door, have a look at the sky, and think "maybe tomorrow". It's because I'm worried that my camera will get wet (it's not waterproof), and that because the visibility when its raining or overcast is poor, and the light is bad, so I'll have to use a high ISO or get my tripod out more often. The cold doesn't bother as much - I'll just wrap up warm and keep moving, and in fact cold, sunny mornings have often given me my best photographs, with crisp blue skies, visibility for miles, perfect polarizer weather.

However, after my recent Macro Beach Post, of the ring on the simulated beach for the S5700 Flickr group photo assignment, Andreas Overland, a photographer from Oslo, Norway, made a comment that he enjoyed going out in the rain and taking photographs, so I shouldn't be wary of this.

Spurred on, I went out on Saturday and did a Photowalk around Portsmouth in the rain. Ok, i wasn't subjecting my camera to direct heavy rain, I was waiting for gaps in the downpours, looking for cover, or taking quick grab shots, but it was a great photowalk, I got some OK images, and best of all there were less people around than normal!

So I thought it would be a good idea to talk about the things you might want to think about if you're going to go out shooting in bad weather - rain, snow, or just cold conditions, what you should think about in terms of protecting yourself, your kit, and technical problems that photographing in less than ideal conditions will bring.

First up, ourselves. If you get cold and wet while out on a Photowalk, at best you'll get tired, disillusioned, not take enough time and care with your photographs, at worst you could put yourself at serious risk from hypothermia and death.

So I guess the first tip would be that if you're going out into really bad weather - heavy snow, storms, never go alone, always tell other people where you're going and when you should be back. Take maps, GPS with a proper map as a back-up, phones, and don't worry about pulling out if the weather gets too bad.

Ok, assuming we're not going out into really bad weather, maybe it's just cold and or wet, we need to wearing a nice wind-proof, waterproof coat, but breathable coat that can wick away the moisture from physical exertion, gore-tex is always nice, then a couple of layers underneath to trap in the air to keep us warm. Waterproof trousers and boots if we're going out in the snow, or wading through water, but always remember it's best to use wind-proof and breathable, otherwise you get just as wet from your own sweat, then the wind-chill will cool you down.

Warm hat, water-resistant if it's raining, remember that most body heat is lost out of the top of your head, and maybe a brolly if its not too windy. Gloves are a must-have in cold-weather, and again you can get very nice breathable wind-proof examples from hiking and biking shops - try before you buy, you'll want them thin enough to be able to use with your camera, or easy enough to get on and off if you want to shoot with your bare hands - but again, if it's really cold and windy your hands will get cold very, very fast, and you won't be able to operate your camera properly.

Scarf is a must to pull up to protect your face, or maybe a balaclava in extreme weather. When I used to go mountain biking in the snow I swore by a fleece headband that I could pull over my ears - keeping my extremities nice and snug.

Bring enough food and drink to keep you going, avoid chocolate bars and go for water, fruit and some nice sandwiches or cereal bars, but remember to take all your rubbish home with you and keep the countryside tidy. Being on a Photowalk in a town or city is a good excuse to have a break and visit your favourite coffee bar, but leave your camera in the bag - we don't want to get cold kit out in a hot environment where condensation will appear on the outside and might very well make it's way inside!

So, that's us sorted out, what about our kit? First up we need to realise that extreme cold can affect out cameras performance, particularly battery life, so bring spares and keep them as close to your body as possible to keep them warm. We don't want to be getting our cameras wet either, even if its supposedly weather sealed, so avoid shooting in direct rain or snow - use a brolly, some cover, a camera jacket, or just a clear plastic bag wrapped around the body, held in place with an elastic band around the lens.

For DSLR users I guess it's best to take one really good focal-length zoom, so you don't have to worry about changing lenses in the bad weather, but if you have to, I'd practice doing it blind inside your camera bag, or at least make sure the body is pointing down when you remove the lenses.

If we're taking a camera bag with us, we've got to ask ourselves if its water proof. Are the seams sealed, will moisture get in through the zips? what happens if we put it down for a few minutes, could water get in through the bottom? Will it stand up to driving rain or just a light downpour? Maybe your camera bag comes with a rain cover. I use a Gelert ruck-sack, with my camera inside it's own padded bag inside the main bag, double protection.

Bring several lens cloths to clean your camera, and maybe a larger towel to dab it down or dry your hands before using it.

Maybe you've got enough room for one of those kneeling pads you use for gardening, if you want to get down low without getting filthy, but remember to store it in a separate bag so it doesn't contaminate the other things inside.

Shooting in the rain or cold is tricky. If its dry but cold you've just got your fingers to worry about -lack of grip and feel, so always use your cameras neck strap in case it slips out of your hands. Metal tripods will get really cold, so watch out for skin sticking to those parts in extra severe weather. If it's raining, use a brolly, look for cover or use something to shield your camera like a dedicated case or a clear plastic bag. Watch out for water entering your camera bag when you're opening it, and if your camera does get seriously wet, turn it off, take the batteries out, and go home.

Technically shooting in difficult weather can be testing. Overcast days are surprisingly dark. To avoid camera shake or blurred subjects you'll have to use a higher ISO, wider aperture or a tripod with a longer shutter speed. A custom white balance will help with colour, shoot a grey card, white piece of paper, or maybe you've got a preset in your cameras white-balance settings.

I don't really need to talk about how dangerous lightning can be - if you're out in a rainstorm, and thunder moves overhead, dismantle your tripod, get inside as soon as possible, and maybe think about trying to capture some lightning shots from inside. The accepted method is to figure out where the lightning is, point your camera in that direction on a tripod, then use long exposures to hopefully capture any lightning strikes.

If you're shooting snowscapes your cameras automatic exposure will definitely be fooled. Again, you may have a custom scene position mode for snow, otherwise you'll have to use exposure compensation to stop the snow from becoming under exposed and looking grey, or switch to manual and experiment.

Before we get home, going from a potentially very cold environment to a warm one, we need to take steps to avoid condensation forming on our camera. The best way is to seal it inside a zip-lock plastic bag, or at least leave it inside your camera bag, to let it acclimatise for a couple of hours in your house. If you want to have a look at your pics as soon as you get home though, like I do, remember to take your memory card out first.

Once your camera is acclimatised, take it out and let it breath. Empty out your camera bag and let that dry too. Mine always has a few sachets of silica gel in the bottom, the stuff that ships with electronic goods to keep it dry, but its always worth letting your bag really dry out - open all the pockets, take out the liner if its got one, and hang it somewhere to breathe. Its worth opening up the pop-up flash, memory compartment, battery compartment and anything else that could have trapped some moisture while you're out in the wet weather. Don't put it on a radiator or other heat source, just let it dry naturally.

That's about it on the subject from me, so I'll end this bit of the show with an email from Andreas Overland, the chap who encouraged me to go out and shoot when the weather isn't too great, this is his email in response to when I asked him things you should consider when going out taking photographs in cold weather (Don't worry,I won't try an accent!):

Cold weather. Yes, that's something I know about :) First thing is clothes. Don't wear too many layers, cause then you can end up
squeezing out the air that actually holds your warmth. Wind proof on the outside, fluffy and roomy in the inside. A must i a long t-shirt or similar that does not crawl up your back leaving your upper buttocks naked when you bend down to take pictures from low angles.
If your clothes are good, you can stay out longer and concentrate on getting the photos.
When it comes to the gear itself, it worth noticing what happens when taking cold glass (lenses) into warmer air. Batteries, should perhaps be removed from the camera when you are not using it, and be placed inside your clothes to keep warm. Extra batteries are also very useful, so you can exchange the cold on in the camera for a warm one from your warm clothes. I've been on photowalks/trips where photographers, including me, have had extra pockets on/in their underpants to keep batteries. However, as with cold glass entering warm air, cold metal will also cause condensation when entering warm moister air, so keep the batteries in a small plastic bag, airtight-ish if possible. A couple of those crystal-salt-bags that accompany cameras and electrical things can be added to the bags to keep the humidity of the warmer air at a minimum.

Also remember about condensation when you get back in after hours in cold weather. Consider a gradual warm up of the camera and other electrical gear.

Other than that, its not much to think of, other than that when it is really cold, you get lots of new motifs to shoot, so get out there :)

Thanks for that Andreas, and I hope this section today has encouraged you to prepare for, then go out shooting in conditions you normally wouldn't!

New End of Year Photo Assignment - "Shape Interrupted!"

We haven't had a photo assignment on the group flickr photo pool at, but I thought it was time for a new one. If you live in the Northern hemisphere the weather probably isn't all that good to be going out shooting - but maybe this will give you some ideas for new photographs.

The theme will be "shape interrupted", so shoot any two photographs on that subject, and upload it in medium size on the thread I've created on the robnunnphoto Flickr group.

Just for fun, no prizes I'm afraid, and we'll run it until the end of the year.

Technique challenges (No Time Limit):

No Sky Landscapes

Fill The Frame!

Dawn / Dusk shots

A Landscape Style Shot With Strong Foreground Interest

Remember to email me your photos if you'd like to me work on them for the Photo Workbench.

To contact me, just click on the link near the top of the page under the big picture.

Thanks for listening, see you on Flickr!

Join the Flickr Group!

Cheers, Rob.

Reader Comments (2)

At a first glance your 'photographing in cold/wet conditions' may appear over the top to a lot of readers. I like the fact that you have spent some time on looking after yourself as well as the camera. (Yourself ultimately being the priority issue here!)

It is estimated that 30,000 people a year die in the UK as a result of hypothermia. That's more per head of capita than anywhere else in the world.

Why? Because as a nation we tend to disregard the cold & wet and instead place emphasis on our personal look rather than our personal well being. (I'm sick of trying to tell my daughters to wear a proper coat in poor weather, their 'fashion statement' being a priority!)

As a matter of fact more people suffer from hypothermia in the spring than winter. A sunny day and time to get the new 'spring collection' out doesn't normally account for night time temperatures plummeting!

Well done Rob, very informative and enjoyable.


December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVictor

Hi Victor,

Glad you enjoyed the podcast, thanks for the great comments!

Cheers, Rob.

December 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

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