Don’t make the mistake of staying at home on a rainy day and thinking that there is nothing to photograph. Rainy day photography might not appeal to many, but it can be quite rewarding, and you’d be surprised what is out there.
While my wife would fervently disagree, there is beauty in the rain. You just need to know where to look.
Here are a few tips on how to make the best of those wet days:
Head to water
When it rains hard, rivers flow hard. Also, you have the advantage of low light allowing you to use long exposures without the need for an ND filter. Plus, after prolonged periods of heavy rain water levels are likely to be high, creating effects you might not often see.
The Soteska Vintgar gorge, Gorje, near Bled, Slovenia.
The water level here is usually much lower than this. But this was in June after a long period of heavy rain. I arrived here on my way back from Lake Bohinj, where I also had the fortune of photographing the lake after a massive storm had blown over. See those photos here.
Blejski Vintgar gorge, Gorje, near Bled, Slovenia.
The fast flowing torrent of white water against the bleak rainy dark background makes great black and white photos too.
Use a faster exposure
Very long exposures smooth out the water and create a smooth milky white effect like the photos above. But to add drama and really give an impression of speed, increase your shutter speed to get an effect like below.
The 1.6 km long Vintgar gorge was carved through the vertical rocks of the Hom and Bort hills by the Radovna River.
Look for bright colours
This is especially easy when it’s autumn. Here in the gorge I had a couple on a workshop. It was pouring with rain so we walked straight through heading for the waterfall, and at the end of the gorge I spotted this view. Now when it rains, all the leaves are wet and so the colours are actually more vibrant.
Use a polariser
Although most people might think a polariser is just for those harsh sunny days, you can actually use them on overcast and rainy days in situations like this. Not only do they control reflections on the water, but they boost contrast too.
Bring an umbrella for the camera
My students are often surprised when I tell them this, but you really don’t want your camera to get wet. Mostly importantly though, you don’t want your lens to get water droplets on as it will ruin your shot. The photo below was taken with my student holding an umbrella over me. I reciprocated of course for her shot.
Vintgar gorge in autumn
Lake levels rise
Bohinj Lake flooded after weeks of storms and heavy rain. This image was taken just after a massive storm blew over the Bohinj valley, Triglav National Park, Slovenia.
Check your lens for condensation
When it’s raining and also after the rain has stopped, always keep an eye on your lens for water droplets and also for condensation. This is especially important at dusk or dawn when it’s hard to see. Have a torch with you so you can check every now and then. Also, keep an eye on your photos on the backscreen. You will see when there is condensation because the image will lack contrast, like the one below:
Once the condensation is removed you can see a huge difference in contrast, like here taken just after I cleaned the lens:
With the condensation removed the scene looks much more vibrant.
Just because it’s raining, doesn’t always mean the light is bad
Even on a rainy day there are patches of interesting light. Again autumn and water are our friends. Even in the bleak evening the autumn colours on Bled’s island are still vibrant, and the contrast of grey and white sky is also reflected nicely in the lake. Notice how I have focused my attention here more on the water than the sky. That’s simply because the light reflected across the water was far more interesting the rest of the sky.
View across Lake Bled to the island church and clifftop castle in all it’s autumn glory, Slovenia.
Look for contrast in the sky
Okay, pure white skies are just as boring as blue cloudless skies. But just like clouds can liven up a boring blue sky, clouds can also liven up a white sky. Clouds aren’t always pure white. While it’s true that many rainy days consist of pure white or grey overcast skies, often the sky can be quite dramatic in places. On days like this, look out for great black and white photos.
Use a long exposure to add drama to those moving clouds:
Morning at Lake Bled’s island church of the assumption of saint mary and hilltop castle after a night of heavy summer rain, Slovenia.
Beautiful light across to the beautiful Lake Bled’s island church as a storm blows in and produces a rainbow right over the church and surrounding hills, Slovenia.
Rainbow right over the church and surrounding hills, Lake Bled.
Head to the city and look for colourful umbrellas
Colourful umbrellas make good subject for selective colour and black and white images. When I had a one to one workshop with a student once it rained the whole day. So this is what we did:
Holding a red umbrella and standing on The Butchers’ Bridge looking over the Ljubljanica river towards the Trznica (market) Triple Bridge on a rainy day in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
British man with union jack flag bag standing on The Butchers’ Bridge looking over the Ljubljanica river towards the Trznica (market)
Or colourful characters
Man with umbrella with E = MC2 written on it in Kongresni Square, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
And kids don’t care if it’s raining
Kids are brilliant for rainy day photography. Just make sure you set your ISO up high. Kids don’t stay still and you’ll need a fast shutter speed, which isn’t easy in low light.
So be like the kids, and get out there for some rainy day photography and have some fun. Just don’t forget your umbrella; for the camera…….
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Ian Middleton: Photography
I am a freelance travel and landscape photographer and writer from the UK, author of three travel narrative books, one travel guide to ancient Ireland, Mysterious World: Ireland, and one photography book, A Practical Guide to Photography. I have also written for several magazines, including Mysterious World, backpacker Ireland, Walking World Ireland, the Slovenia Times, Landscape Photography Mag & Wex Photo Blog. My photography has been published in Mysterious World: Ireland, Lonely Planet, The guardian, Bradt Travel Guides and Eyewitness Travel Guides. I also run regular photography workshops in Slovenia and the UK.