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How To Cope With Bad Weather - How to cope with bad weather so it doesn't spoil your day of photography.
I suppose my first bit of advice on bad weather photography will always be: There is no such thing as bad weather – only different types of lighting. 90% of photography is in the mind, and if you set out with the view "it's so dull, I won't get any good pictures" then that's a guarantee – you really won't. I do my best to keep myself in a positive frame of mind, in fact, I've done such a good job on my positive mental attitude, that I quite enjoy photographing landscapes in the rain.
Living in the Lake District, we get more than our fair share of rainy days, and there are certainly steps you can take to make your day easier and more pleasant.
Step one has to be protecting yourself, waterproofing from head to toe keeps you dry, and in a better frame of mind. So decent jacket, with hood, or wide-brimmed hat, waterproof trousers / over-trousers and boots should do the job. Hands are always an issue in the rain, fleece gloves simply get soaking to the point you can ring them out! Some people like fisherman’s neoprene gloves, which work well, others simply make sure the sleeves of their jacket are long enough to go over their hands. Personally, I just accept wet hands, as I don't particularly feel the cold. Some people like working under an umbrella – to me, it's an added encumbrance, it blows around in the wind and takes a hand to hold it – I'd love three hands normally, so to use one of my only two is, for me, a non starter.
Step two – camera bag: Most camera bags are pretty waterproof, and many come with a waterproof cover built in. If yours doesn't, a waterproof rucksack cover only costs a few pounds and can stop your bag wicking water in over the day.
Step three, protecting your camera. Nikons generally are remarkably well sealed against water penetration, particularly the more professional bodies; with many of the lenses also having a rubber seal around the lens collar, I've seen Nikon's of all specifications return from days out looking decidedly soaked with no ill effects at all. Despite this, I would always recommend an added stage of protection on the form of a waterproof cover. How sophisticated your cover might be will depend on the amount you are likely to shoot in the rain, a supermarket carrier bag is the cheapest, and will work at a pinch. The next stage up at only £6 for two is the Optech rainsleeve, which fits over your camera and lens, tightening round the lens with a drawstring, and with a hole to fit round the camera's eyepiece; it won't last long, but is amazing value. At the other end of the scale, think tank make covers at over £100, but they are serious bits of kit. I use a cover made by Cameramac which for £45 is made to measure for your camera model and lens and folds into a tiny pouch. (I bought one for my D700 / 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which fits all my shorter lenses easily as well). It's important to realise that waterproof covers really aren't designed to fit round camera straps, but with lower than usual levels of lighting, a tripod really is the best solution.
I always carry a few lens cloths, as rain on the lens spoils so many rainy-day pictures. I invariably check and dry the lens just before taking the shot, and check the picture carefully after. The problem is exacerbated if you're using graduated filters, which give you two more surfaces for raindrops to gather on, but when dealing with overcast skies, grads are a huge benefit. Perseverance helps!
So onto photography. Landscapes can often look moody and impressive when photographed in bad weather. Similarly, they can also look pastel and delicate – particularly when shooting over lakes or bodies of water. I generally try to include some foreground interest or dark element within the picture as a contrast to the overall light tones of a drizzly day. Make sure your expose "to the right" - firstly, it will maximise your data, and secondly, it will give you a high key feel rather than a dull, grey overcast look; that alone will make your thumbnails on your computer more appealing.
Rain is wonderful at creating recession in landscape pictures. Using a telephoto lens to compress perspective along with the recessive nature of the weather can create some truly striking images. Heavy rain can totally obscure background elements in a landscape, changing the emphasis from the overall landscape to elements in the foreground, which can so often get overlooked.
"Bad" weather is often an ideal time to consider working in black & white. With overcast conditions and rain, much of the colour is taken away, and removing the rest by working in monochrome, allows you to concentrate more on texture and tones, reinforcing the feel of the mood and the elements.
The important thing to bear in mind when shooting on rainy days is to go out with an open mind – you're going to have to work with the conditions, rather than battle against them. Provided you learn to do this, you'll return with more unique images and been able to capture a feeling of the elements.
Article by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays - www.lakelandphotohols.com