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Rain, Rain, Don’t Go Away: Tips For Photographing Before, During, and After a Storm

by Jessica Ford on February 28, 2011 · 10 comments

When it starts to rain, do you head inside with your camera and wait for the sun to come out? If so, you’re missing out on many opportunities to capture some spectacular images. If it weren’t for a photography class I took during a very rainy winter, I would never have been forced to go out and see exactly what a rainy day can bring. Rain brings out beautiful colors, reflections and patterns that disappear when the sun comes out. It’s not hard to find some spectacular sights just outside your front door. You just have to know where to look.

Different Moods
The calm before a storm can bring stunning cloud formations. The brewing of a storm can imbue scenery with moods that you’ll never see on a sunny day. I took this picture on a misty morning, when the fog was low. In bright sun it’s not very interesting, but the heavy fog makes the trees feel cold and mysterious.

People who are out in the rain are also in different moods. Park yourself under an awning in a city or in an outside shopping area and see what kinds of moods and expressions you can capture on people’s faces. If you’re good at multi-tasking, throw an umbrella over your shoulder and venture out to see what you can capture.

Adults tend not to like the rain, but kids do! Dress your kids in rain clothes and take them out to play. It sounds like a lot of work, but the opportunity to capture some special memories is just outside the door. Thanks to colorful rain coats and umbrellas, the images of little ones splashing around in puddles are priceless. Definitely worth the clean-up effort.

Reflections and Patterns
If you love macro photography, then you already know what beauty you can find in a single raindrop. Flowers and leaves almost always have some beautiful pattern of raindrops on them.  Get up close and really look at a drop or two of water on flower or a leaf. There is a lot to see! Look for reflections in the drops. Look for the picture inside the picture. Those extra little surprises will give your images that “Wow” factor.

Patterns also come to life during and after a storm. Take a good look at those puddles you are stepping over. What do you see in them? Trees? Buildings? Flowers? The sky? Puddles are fun to photograph. This one was taken in the street just outside my front door. Make sure to view them from more than one angle; the scenery will change.

When The Sun Comes Back Out
One of the most breathtaking moments in a storm comes when the sun starts to peek through the dark clouds. Sometimes you have to get in your car and scout around to find a great place to shoot from, but you will definitely end up with some very dramatic images when you find it. Hopefully you’ll even find a rainbow or two! If you can, use that sun to backlight your subjects. The effect is unlike anything else.

After a storm, even places you drive by every day look different. This is a picture of my son’s baseball diamond after a heavy rain fall. The rain carved the sand into different shapes, and whenever I show it, no one can guess what it is!

Protect Your Gear
Don’t forget to keep your gear safe from the elements. You can pick up an inexpensive “raincoat” for your camera at most camera stores, or you can even use a Ziploc bag. Umbrellas are also good, as long as the wind isn’t blowing! You can sometimes even use them to frame your picture. A black one will keep unwanted reflections out of your images.

When you’re prepared and know where to look, taking pictures in the rain can be lots of fun. The images you come home with will be worth the effort it takes to suit up. If you need more inspiration, you can always check websites like Flickr for ideas that will encourage you to grab your camera when it starts to rain.

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