Shooting Wet

In GEAR, Travel, Tutorials &Technique by David24 Comments

Me. Shooting in the driving rain in Iceland. Cold. Wet. Deliriously happy.

I’ve never shot in the rain, drizzle, dew, fog, and general “water coming out of the sky in every possible form” as much as I did in Iceland the last couple weeks. There were days my boots were so wet I thought they’d never recover – they were soaked right through, and they’re the expensive GoreTex ones. But as wet and, at times, miserable as I was, there were also times I could have stayed out for hours. See the shot above? Wetter than I’ve ever been outside of a lake or swimming pool, but I was shooting images I was excited about, one which particularly captivates me, and if I’d not got out of the truck, thrown my rain gear on and braved the elements, I’d still be dry and wouldn’t have those images. I didn’t go to Iceland to be dry, but to make photographs.

No one likes shooting in the rain. OK, some do, but they’re unreasonable and suspicious. I’m closer to the “I might have rabies, that’s how much I dislike water” end of the spectrum. But I’d rather make beautiful photographs than stay dry and since the worst weather makes for some amazing environments to make beautiful images, we can either suck it up or find a way to tolerate it.

Worried about shooting in the rain? Scared your $3000 camera will die the moment the first drop of water hits it? It’s a genuine concern, but most cameras these days are pretty resilient. The only failures I’ve had have happened out of the blue on a sunny day, not when covered in water, so statistically I’m probably better shooting in the rain. So my first recommendation is this – stop freaking out about it. Bring a small towel or bandana and wipe the camera off as you can. I use Buffs, a brandname bandana/tube thingy that you can wear on your head (but I put them on my cameras). Protects from elements like dust and rain, comes off fast, and dries the water nicely. I always have one or two of these. Very handy.

I carry a small trekking umbrella in my bag, and that’s come very much in handy for keeping the rain of the lens while shooting, as has the pocket of large lens cloths I always carry. The big worry for me is not my camera dying – because it hasn’t yet – it’s the worry that I’ll get a great photograph only to later notice big rain drops on the lens are noticeable in the image.

I also carry a Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia – and while it’s meant for a camera with a 70-200 lens, it works well with some fussing around for almost any lens shorter than that as well, and while I loathe rain covers, this is the best one I’ve found, far better than the fussy, pain in the butt Kata one I also own and never use. Make sure your camera bag has a good rain cover too – all the Think Tank Photo bags come with one, and my Kiboko bag also has a built in cover as well.

Lastly, a pair of good rain pants and a good rain jacket. Well, I thought they were good until I spent so much time in the driving rain. Now I’m thinking a yellow rubber rain slicker, pants, and wellington boots wouldn’t be such a bad idea. if you wear glasses, a baseball hat works well to keep the drizzle of the lenses in a light drizzle. If the wind picks up, ain’t nothing keeping those specs dry.

Don’t be reckless with your gear, but if you’re wanting to get out and shoot in some really great light and weather, there’s more mood on a rainy day than ten sunny days put together. Stop freaking out, bring an umbrella, put a bag over the camera if you have to, but my tactic for shooting in the rain is to stop fussing, keep the lens dry, and wipe the camera when I can, and go make some photographs.


  1. Check with Gore-Tex, David. They might replace your boots. I had a Gore-Tex surface fail on a Marmot jacket years ago and they paid for a top of the line replacement. Never hurts to ask. Great idea about the buffs, considering I own several (mostly for keeping my hair out of my face in the shower). I’ll now toss a couple in my camera bag.
    I’m also one of those reluctant to traipse around in crappy weather but my shots are often more interesting when I do. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  3. Or use Olympus Weather sealed bodies amd lenses and not worry about it as I did in Iceland. Evertything got wet and not an hick-up on the equipment.

    Still it has pretty hard to keep front lens element clear of rain drops (or waterfall drizzle for that matter) with the crosswinds of Iceland. Specially the rounded front element from my UWA lens.

    Since this is my first post here congrats on your books, “Within The Frame” and “Vision and Voice” were excelent reads.


    João from Portugal

  4. David, once again have to thank you for the hi-res versions of your blog images. 🙂 Really enjoying the enhanced clarity of them. Weird, though, that there is a noticeable color-cast difference between the small and big versions.

  5. I just came back from a music festival that got flooded. I still love my 2,50 euro rain poncho. It keeps me and my slingshot with gear clean (dancers seem to like mud) and dry, and I can hide my cam under it if necessary.

    And transparant plastic (bags, shower caps, lunch bags, etc) with rubber bands protect my gear. To keep rain from hitting the front lens I use the lens shade. Too bad the shade of my wide angle lens is very shallow.

    Don’t forget to dry your gear afterwards. It’s a big no-no to leave it soaked in your bag.

  6. Author

    Scott – You’ll just have to wait, man. I’m releasing my Iceland monograph in early September, the images are in there. But you never know, I might cave in and show it sooner. Keep an eye open.

  7. I was once shooting for a week in the pouring rain in Tofino in October. A photographer I was with stuck the hand-grip of an umbrella down the neck of her gore-tex jacket into her sports bra. Worked incredibly well. Suggest you try it David 😉

  8. If you want to look for some good rain clothes check out higher end golf rain gear. It’s designed to keep you dry and still allow some room for movement (for golfers to swing). Nike golf makes some great rain paints and jacket, also makes great gear as well. If you get the good stuff it does a wonderful job!

  9. I’ll second the baseball cap for your specs. I’m actually NOT too paranoid about my camera in rain – I do a good job of keeping it dried off as I need to. And yeah, cleaning the lens. But when you can’t even line-up your shot because of your glasses, well, I wish I had windshield wipers for them.

  10. In Iceland right now. In Husavik precisely. We’ve had one day of sunny weather. The rest? Tons of rain and fog. I don’t mind it. We’ve been soaked to the bone, my gear although weather resistant was drenched. But those rain drops (or should I say puddles?) on my lenses’ front element remain a problem. I can barely keep them dry for one shot. It’s a definite challenge but loving every single minute of it!

    Please excuse any typos, writing from my iPhone.

  11. I always carry an umbrella for baby-cars within my tripod bag and if you get one that is silver coated inside you can use it as a reflector for your flash. And it’s cheap, costs only a few bucks.

  12. One big misconception about Gore-Tex is that it will last forever. You have to treat it, especially after its first big soaking, with either a spray on or wash in treatment. It’s also a good idea to re-treat every 3-4 months depending on use. I have done this with all of my Gore-Tex products, and they have performed incredibly well, even after a 8 hour shoot in constant rain!

  13. Great points as always. Be extra careful if you’re shooting with a 5dmk2. I had to replace one earlier this year that Canon said got wet and was fried but I don’t remember shooting in the rain with it. It doesn’t have the weather proofness of other bodies

  14. Hello
    I’m happy with all these tips in the rain, I miss a good trekking umbrella, I’ll try to procurer.Thank you, thank you and thank you! Have a good day!

  15. Thanks for the tips! I have little nightmares that my days in the Tatras will be rained out in a few weeks.

    Now I just have to figure out what filters to bring…

  16. One of the best rain covers you can get are usually free in the hotel: Shower caps. They work great at protecting the camera body and modest lens.


  17. Funny you should post this today.

    I was out with some photographer friends on Saturday in a glorious part of the Peak District in the UK called Mam Tor. Its basically a high long narrow ridge joining several hills together.

    In the valleys to either side of us huge storms were raging and we often got wet and windblown too. The point about water spots visible on images is spot on and I had a few shots I really liked but which visible droplets ruined.

    However the light in these situations can be superb – dark moody clouds in the background but (relatively) sunny and less rain in the foreground. You just don’t get this if you’re a fair weather photographer!

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