What to Do on a Rainy Day?

Even though this weekend is predicted to be the best weekend of the year here in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest is ever changing and it shouldn’t be long until things change.

Rainy days are some of my absolute favorite days to photograph.  Sure it would be a lot easier to shoot through fog to create that soft mysterious air to your images,  but fog is unpredictable and typically rather temporary lasting only for an hour or so in the early morning. However rain in the Pacific Northwest is both predictable and persistent.

People are often surprised that I don’t run outside with my camera on a beautiful blue sky day. The clouds on an overcast day act like a huge softbox to soften the light, reduce contrast, and open up the shadows to details that would be completely lost on a bright sunny day. Falling rain diffuses and evens out the light even more. Some of my favorite images have been captured on gray rainy days.

You’ll need to check your lens frequently for spots but with a little care you can use the rain to your advantage. Use a tripod, polarizer, small aperture and long shutter speed to keep from recording individual falling drops of rain and maximize atmospheric softening. Additionally, the polarizer removes the shine from foliage for the richest colors possible. It’s rare that I don’t have a polarizer on the front of my lens.  With standing water in your frame the falling rain will ripple the surface.  The long shutter speed will blur movement the same way a waterfall can be rendered as a soft ethereal white drape over rocks.

6 Responses to “What to Do on a Rainy Day?”

  1. I am reading (and re-reading) my second copy of “The Art of Photographing Nature” by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill (I wore out the first copy. It is the best technique book I have ever read! If you ever update this book please let me know….. My second copy is do eared and filled with markers and highlighter pen!

    • Avatar photo Art Wolfe says:

      Funny you should ask. We are in the process of preparing a new revised edition that will be available in April 2013.
      Keep duck-taping for a little while longer and then you will have a whole new one to wear out.
      Thanks for your kind words and support.

  2. Great idea Art, looking forward to more tips and techniques as well as your latest offerings. Keep up the good work and I hope to meet you some day at one of your workshops.

  3. I moved from Vancouver B.C. to get away from the rain!

  4. James Saxon says:

    My wife and I went to the Skagit Valley last month and it was rainy and overcast but the photography was outstanding. Had the same type of light at the Japanese garden in Seattle and have to agree with you this light is fantastic. My camera and lenses now get wiped off frequently and not placed in the bag on a rainy day.

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