Friend of The Venturing Angler, Bryan Gregson, is no stranger to shooting in tough weather. Gregson has wisdom that has emerged from years of experience, and he now offers his tips for handling the rain (below). And for those looking to grow quickly as a photographer, Bryan Gregson is offering photography classes at destinations throughout the world. Learn more about his photography class here.
KEEPING YOUR CAMERA DRY
Do you bring a rain jacket when you head off to play outdoors or go on an adventure? Of course. Do you stop fishing if it’s raining? Of course not! So, why would your photography and camera equipment require anything less?
So what do you do if you totally spaced bringing rain gear and it rains? With a little forethought, those potential oh sh*t moments when the skies turn grey won’t happen often and won’t keep you from shooting.
Mother Nature is unpredictable, and staying dry isn’t always feasible, sometimes you have no choice but to push it and shoot in the elements unprotected. But obviously I like to keep my gear as dry as possible. Gear is expensive, so it’s worth it to own and carry some type of rain cover. The last thing you want to happen is something that was easily preventable ruin the rest of your work shoot or vacation.
When you apply the right equipment in the right environment, you’re able to shoot in any condition, from that moody light in the rain to the emotion of a torrential downpour. To capture those dramatic, raw, organic moments, you need to shoot when it’s happening – something you can’t do if your camera is stuck in the bag because of a little rain.
Below are general tools of the trade – the gear I use regularly and depend on. Everything will work with most current popular camera brands and any level of ability.
FLY FISHING PHOTOGRAPHY: RAIN GEAR
GENERAL GO-TO TOOLS FOR SHOOTING IN WET CONDITIONS
Rain covers offer key components that help make on-the-go outdoor shooting easier and more efficient. The AquaTech and the Think Tank styles use an easy-to-use eyepiece system to keep things in place. I’ve found when dealing with sporadic use, putting the cover off and on (which means switching my eyepiece), I usually swap it out in the morning and leave it on if I think it might rain all day. There’s a small pocket for the eyepiece so you don’t loose it. Both of these designs also permit horizontal or vertical use and can be accessed by its left or right sleeves. Additionally, it’s easily used when your DSLR is mounted to your tripod or monopod. Both of these products have their niche place in our camera gear. There’s room under both of these for a Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter.
AQUATECH ALL WEATHER SHIELD
The everyday workhorse. I’ve used all of them. This one takes the best parts of them all and puts them into one. I use the medium size, as it gives me a range of use from short/wide-angle lenses all the way to the Canon 70-200 2.8L IS II. I also use it for my 100-400mm. It’s a tight squeeze, but it works, and for my weight needs it’s better than bringing two. This is a high performance rain cover: it’s lightweight, compact, and fast to get on and off. Due note that the neck straps are an after-market purchase: AquaTech quick clip camera strap.
THINK TANK HYDROPHOBIA
This is my heavy lifting go-to rain cover; it’s a very dependable staple in my gear rack. A unique feature we like on the Think Tank is the end cap: it fits right over the end of the lens barrel, which is nice when you’re billy-goating over uneven ground in a wet rainforest and trying to protect the front element of your lens. This also has a camera strap built-in. This rain cover is a bit heavier and more bulky than that of the AquaTech but both have their niche place in my gear bag. When you need all the bells and whistles, this is it!
OUTEX: UNDERWATER CAMERA COVER
The “before” and “after” elements are often overlooked when thinking about shooting in the rain. The getting ready part and breaking down while in the field seem to slip right past even the sharpest of minds. Trying to keep your pack dry while putting your camera body and lens together and putting on a raincoat never really works that efficiently. If the rain stops for a minute, or maybe even an hour, do you take off the wet cover, put the camera away in the (hopefully) still dry pelican/backpack, and repeat the process another 20 times through the day? Or…?
If I know it’s going to be pouring all day, then I know that my camera will be going in and out of my backpack all day, making things drenched. So in this scenario I put my camera in this handy little tool, and I keep it out all day ready to shoot – fully protected and fully submersible. It’s not the easiest to use at first, so it really pays to know where your camera dials and buttons are located (you should be able to use your camera in the pitch dark and know it by feel anyway, right?!).
It’s lightweight and takes up little room in the pack. It’s also a great option for when you need to travel with lighter camera bags because of weight or size restrictions. You can add a dome – and you can even shoot with this underwater. Yep, underwater. Kill two issues with one purchase.
The LensCoat RainCoat is a great affordable rain cover. It provides protection for your camera and lens from the elements like rain, snow, salt spray, dirt, sand, and dust while allowing easy access to the camera and lens controls. No bells and whistles, only what you need. The RainCoat Standard is designed for use with DSLRs with telephoto lenses up to 100-400/400mm f5.6. This is a great bang-for-your-buck piece of gear. It’s lightweight, waterproof, and breathable, and it has taped seams. The RainCoat is quick and easy to use, and the cinch strap allows you to adjust the length of the cover to keep it snug around your lens. It has a fold-out arm sleeve from its integrated pocket for access to the camera controls. You can use it with a tripod, and it doesn’t require an eyepiece. But there’s no camera neck strap.
OP/TECH USA RAINSLEEVE
The cheapest and lightest camera-cover option of the bunch is basic plastic. It works great in a pinch, and it’s very lightweight and easy to store. There’s no real way to use a neck strap without compromising the integrity of the material, so if that matters to you, then buyer beware. It’s durable to a point; in really rugged terrain it’s going to get beat up. But you can bring a few of them for the fraction of the price and the weight. For those really lightweight trips where every ounce is scrutinized, this is great option.
That said, I suggest you look at these as more of a disposable piece of lightweight gear that is very niche specific. It will and does work, but it’s not my go-to. BUT this IS something I always have in one of my bags — it’s a great accessory to always have on hand and as a back-up.
On more than a lot of occasions, I’ve used the trusty umbrella. Some might say it’s the standard rain gear photographers have used for decades (along with a jacket). It’s a great tool when operating a static camera. But in a run-and-gun style of outdoor action photography, it really isn’t that easy to use in a single shooter situation. It’s been done, but ideally umbrellas are used when there’s an assistant available. And in some occasions, it’s been used as a giant camera cover between thunder showers.
A fellow photographer, Sean Kerrik Sullivan, showed me golf umbrellas. They’re sturdy, have a great surface area, and many have wind vents, which is key. They’re built well. So far, I haven’t had to buy another one.
DESICCANT SILICA GEL PACK
I stick these handy little things in my pack and underwater carrying case to absorb any moisture that I might bring in. These also help prevent rust, mildew, mold, and foul odors. The manufacturer recommends one pack per three cubic feet of enclosed space. On the top face of the desiccant pack there’s an orange indicator dot; this turns white when it absorbs moisture and lets you know its time to change. Maintenance is easy: simply heat an oven at 300°F and bake for at least three hours, or until the orange color returns to the silica beads. The gel will turn back to the orange color again when it’s ready to reuse.
POOR MANS RAIN COVER
FREE HOTEL SHOWER CAP + ELECTRICAL TAPE + RUBBER BANDS
If you open my backpack or pelican case, you’re bound to find a few shower caps crammed in there somewhere. (I learned this trick a long time ago from Jim Klug, who has extensive time behind the lens in off-the-beaten-path global locations.) Shower caps come in handy to outdoor photographers, so I can’t seem to leave a hotel room without taking them. They’ll work great in a jiffy, especially if you use a little electrical tape and rubber bands – just like that, a disposable raincover.
These items also come in handy for video monitors and keeping other electronic gear dry when it’s wet out and production can’t wait.
<+> Tip <+>
Remove the eyepiece before you pull the plastic over the camera, then use the tape to seal the open ends of the shower cap to the glass of your camera (leaving the camera back open), and poke a hole for the lens. Use the rubber band to seal the plastic to the lens sunshade. Make sure you’re zoomed all the way out when you rig it up, that way it’ll flow when you work the zoom of the lens. There’s no right or wrong way to rig this, just about any MacGyver method that gets the job done will work great!
REMOVING WATER FROM YOUR LENS
KINETRONICS ANTI-STATIC TIGER CLOTH
I’ve seen more melt downs from having terrible lens cloths than anything combined from the smudge that can’t ever be un-smudged. To save on hair being pulled out, I use the Tiger Cloth. It picks up most very well. This is also an anti-static, microfiber cloth that’s specifically engineered for cleaning photographic films. The cloth has strips of effective conductive fibers built in the knit; this dissipates or drains off static charges. Yeah, it’s not cheap, but it’s only a couple bucks more than the other lens cloths that suck. NOTHING is more frustrating than trying to clean your expensive lens with a cheap lens cloth you bought to save a few bucks.
GIOTTOS ROCKET BLASTER
This amazing product is a staple in my bag, every day for every shoot. Most people use this to safely eliminate dust from sensitive or hard-to-reach surfaces. Another application for these air blasters is to blow water off the lens. Unless you have a pocket full of 10 lens cloth ready to go, the air blaster works fast and easy and keeps your lens cloths drier for a lot longer when working in wet conditions. This gem has a one-way valve on the bottom that brings in clean air and does not redistribute dust or water. A nice design feature is that the blaster stands up on its own and can be set on its side on a flat surface without rolling around, meaning it’s not going to roll off your cooler… as easy.
Disclaimer: There are numerous ways to get the same thing accomplished. My working photo kits are designed for me, a single shooter with no assistant (usually) working in the outdoor elements who needs to be mobile and able to carry all my own gear. Of course, everything is subject to change, cost, technology and what works for me, might not work for you. After years of trial and error, mostly error, this is my current method to the madness.