Coping with the rain

(Stefanie, this one’s for you!)

It rained a lot over the weekend in Torridon.  A LOT.  Even by damp Scottish standards, there was an excessive amount of rain, and rain in Scotland, as I suggested in my second post about the weekend, has magical properties.  Waterproof raincoats are sometimes tested to their limits in Scotland (perhaps it ought to be a legal requirement that all jackets sold as ‘waterproof’ need to have spent at least a couple of days in a proper Scottish downpour before they’re allowed to be described as ‘waterproof jackets’!).  But even if you have a jacket that is waterproof, eventually, water still manages to get everywhere – if it’s not rain, it’s rain and sweat!  This summer I walked up Ben More on Mull, and it rained almost continuously all the way up and all the way down – about 5 or 6 really miserable hours.  I was quite literally soaked through to the skin, to the extent that after I drove back to the house, the car seat ended up being rather damp (but most importantly, both my cameras were safe… I had them wrapped in plastic bags!).  Whenever I felt the downpour ease off a bit, I opened my jacket to take a camera out and catch a photo (none of which were any good!).  This naturally let in rain, and combined with sweat, the waterproof jacket really couldn’t help me.  In Torridon at the end of October, I found that my jacket was ok, but water ran up my sleeves every time I reached out to adjust camera settings – despite the jacket’s elasticated lining on the wrists.  And water came in through the pocket area of my waterproof trousers (ha! damp-proof trousers would be a more accurate description!), and and and… like I said, magical properties!

But one of the things that the weekend confirmed for me about cameras in the rain is that rain really shouldn’t be something to stop you creating photographs: although there are special waterproof camera housings that allow easy access to the camera controls whilst allowing the lens free access to the open air, I have found over the years that for most circumstances, a completely clear plastic bag and some strong elastic bands also works: put the camera inside the bag, put the elastic bands round the front of the lens just behind any filters that you’re using, if necessary tear a small hole in the bag to allow the tripod mount to be used (I can just jam my tripod head into the camera holder without doing that – it tears the bag by itself), and you’re done!  If you are using a zoom lens, make sure it can move forwards far enough, and you can then take your photographs (if your lens doesn’t have internal focusing, the front of the lens will probably turn when you focus – make sure your elastic bands don’t prevent this, especially if you’re relying on the delicate autofocus motors).  The viewfinder will be blurred by the bag, but you’re mostly using it for rough composition in such circumstances: precise cropping can be done later.  Take care when removing the bag after the rain – you don’t want to spill water from it onto the camera, defeating the object of protecting the camera in the first place!

The other thing you will need is very absorbent soft tissue for wiping down filters/lenses.  Using very soft paper towels from a hotel bathroom works well, or try very soft kitchen roll (the key thing is that you need to avoid using anything that might scratch the delicate glass).  I find that if the rain is heavy, I wipe down the filter and – using my remote control – immediately take the photograph.  If you haven’t got a remote control, get one – my Nikon one was about £10 and it is invaluable; I’m sure Canon offers something similar.

Why bother with all this?  Very simple: when it’s raining the light is often really soft and gentle, with lots of gradual changes in tone and colouration.  I think it is such a shame to miss it that for a long time now I have always had a clear plastic bag and elastic bands with me in my camera bag.  Especially useful in Scotland…

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