Stuck in the Rain

In case you have not heard the news, it’s raining in Austin. Now, this is newsworthy for a couple of reasons. For starters, Austin and Texas in general have been under a severe drought. So this rain, all of this rain, is actually good news. Well, it’s good so long as you don’t have to paint or work outside, right? This weekend, we got this nice soaking rain. It rained almost all weekend, both days, even raining really on Friday. A nice soaking rain. The kind the trees really like. I’m glad about that, we’re all, in fact, glad about that. But, as an artist, what to do? What to do? This got me thinking about doing a post about art, photography, and rain.

For starters, rain can really be an inspiration. If you don’t believe me, try taking a walk on a rainy day. Things look different. You will see different things and you will see some of the same things in different ways. And that really makes for interesting artwork, really it does. Try it out, just once, and you can see what I mean by this. You’ll see the world in entirely new ways and maybe even spot some things you hadn’t noticed before the rain came along.

But you don’t even really need rain to try this. No, you don’t. Just the idea of rain, just the “doom and gloom” mentality can add an interesting twist to your artwork. If you’re a painter, try painting what you think things might look like in the rain. Try substituting a different color palette, instead of your usual bright, sunny colors, try working with (or blending) paints to get tints and tones that look more like what you think the rain might look like. This could lead to some very interesting results, even if it isn’t raining where you live.

As a photographer, there are things you can do to protect your camera from the rain and, yes, rain can make an otherwise simple shoot very tough going. I often use a shower cap to protect my camera from the rain, they also make a sell waterproof pouches and, just this year for my trip to Iceland, I decided to get a dedicated camera “poncho” type of protective gear for my camera. These “ponchos” come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and allow you to work your camera in the rain. I starting use the AquaTech Sport Shield rain cover which looks something like this:

and I highly recommend it, as it’s used by a lot of sports photographers and others who really need to protect their gear.

Even if you aren’t doing a lot of shooting in the rain, and don’t want the added expense of getting a protective cover, you can use a lot of other techniques to continue shooting in the rain. Doorways provide optimal cover and allow you to shoot (or continue shooting) as do overhangs, eves, and awnings. Look for buildings with these features and duck underneath for an “instant umbrella.” Another point about doing this-you might think that you’re going to get horrible shots in the rain, that nothing will come out right. It might look that way at first but, especially if you like color photography, you can really do wonders in the rain. Rain makes for interesting light and gives you great shadow detail not to mention it can help you avoid a certain “problem” or “sticky point” for most photographers. Many photographers complain about the “too many tourists!” type of issues-that is, they can’t get a clear shot because people are walking through their shots a lot. One of the many benefits of shooting in the rain is that, when it’s raining out, you often find you have streets to yourself. No tourists! They are easily scared away by buckets of water falling from the sky. Who knew, right?

When it rains, you’ll find the water typically comes in “waves” that is, it might be raining heavily but then sort of “let up a bit” later on. Look for these brief “dry periods” (or, you know, “drier” as the case might be) and try to shoot in bursts during this time. There will be less water but the streets, sidewalks, etc. still will have that wonderful wet look and the tourists will still be hiding. It’s a win-win situation so try to make the most of it.

I often stuff my camera under my coat or jacket in the rain and this is pretty easy to do. Just put the strap over your head first, before putting on the outerwear and then open your coat in the dry bursts to take shots. This works well and can keep a lot of the moisture off of your camera and out of your shots.

If you are staying at a hotel, don’t forget to “steal” the shower caps and also a dry washcloth, which you can use to sort of “mop up” the front of your camera. I usually shoot with a filter on the front of my lenses (although I don’t do this for all lenses) so I have no issues cleaning off the filter with the washcloth. Filters are relatively cheap these days so I don’t even worry too much about scratching one, as it’s so easily replaced.

Another “tourist” related event is that, when it’s raining, people tend to gather indoors and, surprise! They are often easier to talk to when it’s raining. You might not think this to be the case but try starting up a conversation with somebody waiting by the doorway, waiting for the water to stop pouring from the sky. Who has not heard the words, “it’s really coming down out there!” more than once in their lifetime? This sort of “tourist small talk” might be just the type of conversation opener you can use to pounce on a waiting subject. “Hey, since it’s really coming down, would you mind if I take a picture of you while you wait for your cab?” You never know, but you just might find some interesting subjects who might not otherwise talk with you especially given those sunny days.

Coffee places, like Starbucks and the lot, tend to be more frequented when it’s colder and rainier too so don’t forget to hang out in your local Starbucks or similar place to try and pick-up some new models. I usually travel with business cards and, sometimes if I don’t have time to take actual shots in the coffee house, I’ll make the most of the time by handing out cards and asking people, “do you model? Have you ever thought about modeling?” This too is easy to do and it really can be a bit easier to strike up a conversation when it’s really coming down.

Finally, don’t forget about flowers. Flowers look great in the rain and tend to collect drops of water. This can really make for interesting shots. If you don’t have flowers handy, you can also use screen doors or windows (again, great look with water on them) drops falling off of leaves, even drops of water on things like grass blades look interesting with water on them. Try some macro shots of water drops in unexpected places for a new look and have fun with that lingering water while you can. The heat of summer will be here soon enough.

I’m sure there are lots more ideas for rainy days out there. Just put your thinking cap on, hey it’s water proof! and get to work.

Until next time…


  1. mythopolis
    December 5, 2011 / 8:25 pm

    Well, if you are a photographer, you do what you got to do. Personally. rain is coming in here too. It is lovely and I have no need to photograph that. I sip vodka, chase it with coffee in my pajamas, and dial up Netflix.

  2. Great Grandma Lin
    December 5, 2011 / 10:58 pm

    good info, now I'm ready for it to rain but it seldom does here…

  3. Carol
    December 6, 2011 / 12:39 pm

    Mythos, I would love some whiskeyed up coffee with a side of Netflix, really I would. In fact, it's really that time of year for Bailey's. Gosh, I love that stuff in coffee. Yum! You are making me thirsty. :~)

    Lin, even without "real" rain you can fake it. Try setting your camera's color balance or use a spray bottle filled with water to douse a screen door or window, then shoot through it. This works too and gives you that "wet look" without making too many puddles to jump over.

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