If there’s one thing that outdoor photographers have, a love/hate relationship with, it’s Mother Nature. Sometimes, she’ll provide some much appreciated clouds, creating a magnificent soft box for shooting botanicals or to provide just enough of a neutral density effect at sunset. Other times, she provides amazing challenges with stream-swelling downpours or gale-force winds. No matter the weather, we can still come back with amazing shots, as long as you’re properly prepared.
Preparing for my annual Day with the Whales workshop last week, I received numerous calls from participants, who were tracking the weather radar north of Hawaii. This time of year, it’s not uncommon for weather to develop to the north-east, and then drop into the Islands, and several people were wondering if the workshop would be rained out.
I too kept a close eye on the weather. Not to worry about rain, but big swells that would turn into a small craft advisory, which would mean the boat would stay in the harbor. Fortunately, the day proved calm, bright and beautiful, but even if it was rainy, it doesn’t mean you can’t shoot.
A few weeks ago, I was shooting with a client in Kula. The day started with scattered cloudy skies. As we progressed through our macro flora workshop, the skies darkened, and my student expressed concern about the weather. I told her not to worry, pulled a few clear wastebasket bags from my Lowepro backpack, along with a 32-gallon monster for his camera bag.
A few minutes later, a few rain drops appeared. My client asked, “Should we start packing up before the rain really starts?”
“Naw,” I smiled. “Dunno about you, but I don’t melt in the rain.”
“But what about our gear?” He said, a bit of tremor in his voice.
“I’ve got you covered,” I said, and proceeded to poke a hole in the bottom of the clear waste bag, gently stretching the plastic over the end of his lens, then draping the rest over the camera. “Okay, now your camera’s ready for the rain. You can still shoot and see your controls.”
I then grabbed his camera bag, and placed it inside the outdoor waste bag. “All set.” I noted.
A few moments later, I had plastic over my lens 5D MARK III and 50mm Macro, then I deployed the integrated rain cover over the Pro Trekker 400, just as the skies opened up.
“Really, we’re going to shoot in this?” my pupil asked as he donned a poncho.
“You bet we are, and I’m hoping it gets a bit heavier,” I noted.
I took my student’s arm, and pulled him towards a throng of blooming Black Mink Protea. His eyes flew open at the sight of the delicate hairs on the petals, holding onto the rain droplets and reflecting other parts of the flower.
“Now, point your 100mm macro into the bowl of the bloom, and focus on that droplet,” I said, pointing into the flower.
For the next thirty-some-odd minutes, he shot a variety of protea in the rain, sloshing through soggy grass, while I shielded the business end of his lens from the elements.
“This is great,” he exclaimed! I would have never thought to shoot macros in the rain.”
“Our first instinct is to get out of the elements.” I told him. “But if you use the inclement weather to your advantage, most of the time you’ll come back with even better images that if it were a bright sunny day.”
I went on to tell him about a trip I did to Hana many years ago with my Hanai Mom, Wendy. Like that day at the arboretum, it had been raining, and I wasn’t about to get my camera wet. She finally turned to me and told me to put on my big boy pants and deal with it. So I covered my camera and shot some amazing images. Since then, whenever the weather’s bad, I remember her big boy pants comment, and I happily trudge into the rain.
We shared a laugh, and agreed that although our big boy pants (and the rest of us) were wet, our gear was not, and our images captured that day were special, with the water enhancing the colors and water droplets reflecting the inner beauty of the blooms. We were thankful for the rain, and I was even more thankful for the waterproof seat covers in my truck.