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Rainy day photos, Part 1 (07/11/2004)
By Tom Hirsch

One of my favorite pictures was taken on a very rainy day. I took it through the front windshield of a car in which I was a passenger. The shot shows the wipers going full speed, the hood of the car in the foreground, a car coming toward us on the left, a bridge in the background, and an old Texaco gas station sign on the right. Something is going on in every part of the picture, and everything is fuzzy because of the rain.

Another favorite is a shot taken on a similar day of a bicyclist racing for shelter as he rode into the oncoming rain. This one I took from the open door of our garage.

One summer day at a county fair, I had my camera along because I planned on shooting some young relatives as they received blue ribbons for their livestock. While we were there, a sudden and violent cloudburst forced fairgoers to scurry for cover. I happened to be in one of the buildings at the time, and got several shots of the rain-drenched fairgoers from just inside the doorway.

I'm not the kind of person who relishes the thought of getting out in the rain just to take pictures, so I don't. But if I can be protected from the elements by remaining inside a car, garage, house, or any other form of protection, I'll take all the shots I can.

But there is a more practical reason why I don't venture out in a drenching rain - the camera. Water is one of a camera's worst enemies. If you have to go out into the rain with a camera, protect it from any moisture by keeping it inside a camera case or coat, or shield it with whatever means is available. If the camera gets wet, wipe it dry immediately after getting under cover.

Even high humidity can mess up a camera's electronic mechanism. If you live or will be traveling to a humid climate, get a packet of silica gel to put in the camera case. This substance absorbs moisture. Most cameras come with a packet or two in the packaging. If you threw it away when you disposed of the box the camera came in, you can probably pick some up at a camera shop or chemical supply store.

You might be the kind of person who enjoys getting close to nature and don't mind the elements while taking pictures in the rain. If so, you might want to get an older, non-electronic everything camera. These cameras are less at risk from humidity, but you must still keep them as dry as possible.

There are commercial housings for taking pictures in the rain with an SLR, and some compact 35mm and digital cameras, or you can improvise with a waterproof plastic bag such as a gallon size zip-type bag. Cut a hole slightly smaller than the diameter of the lens in the bottom of the bag, then slide the camera into the bag so the plastic just covers the lens. You will have access to the camera controls through the open end of the bag.

If you have an SLR, place a haze filter over the front of the hole and tape it over the lens. Tape a lens shade in front of this to provide more protection. But the most interesting shots are taken when the wind approaches gale force velocity, and this type of homemade device doesn't really give a camera much protection under extremely severe conditions.

If you would rather not take the chance of getting your camera wet, you might want to invest in an inexpensive, or even a relatively expensive, all-weather camera. With these waterproof or water-resistant cameras, you can throw caution to the wind, and rain, without fear of damaging the camera.

There are a few more ideas that will almost guarantee good rain shots. These will be covered next time. 


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