How To Take Great Landscape Shots When It's Raining

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When people first get involved with photography, especially landscape photography, they tend to gravitate towards nice weather shooting. If it’s rainy or stormy then just put their cameras away and wait for another day. Perhaps this is partly to do with cameras and water not mixing too well. Perhaps it’s also because they don’t realise what great opportunities there are in poor weather Rain and bad weather can offer the photographer some of the most atmospheric shots if you know where to look and how to protect your equipment.

Yewbarrow near Wastwater

Take this shot of Yewbarrow near Wastwater in the Lake District. I was out walking in stormy conditions when the clouds started to break and the low winter sun broke through to light up the hills. This sort of dramatic lighting tends to be common when a storm is clearing but in order to take advantage of it you need to be in location before the storm breaks. You also need to have your camera with you which means protecting it against the elements.

This particular shot was taken using a Sony NEX-5 and 18-55mm lens. This is a small camera/lens combination so I can easily carry it in my backpack and even in the pocket of some of my jackets. I also used a 0.6ND graduated filter on the front of the lens to help darken the sky. Whilst I normally use Lee filters, if I am minimising my equipment for walking or bad weather shooting, I use the cheaper and smaller Cokin P series. When it’s raining you find you need to regularly wipe down the filters and this can cause scratches. I don’t mind needing replacing a Cokin Filter every 6 months or so but don’t like the idea of replacing my Lee Filters this often.

As for carrying my equipment, I use an "Exped Drybag" which can be purchased in various sizes from many outdoor shops or on the internet. These are waterproof (not water resistant) bags which have a strip along the top with a clip at each end. Turn the top over 3 times and clip it together and it is supposed to be water tight to around 10 meters (but I won’t be purposely testing this claim). I use two of these bags, one for the camera and one for the filters. Even if I am carrying the camera in my pocket I will still use these bags. If it’s raining you can also keep the camera in the bag for protection until the moment you take the shot. This will minimise rain on the lens or in the camera itself (which can be a bigger problem).


While Landscape photography in poor weather can be very dramatic and satisfying, the city can be really exciting. My tool of choice here is a Panasonic Lumix LX5. It’s a tiny compact camera but has a high quality lens and shoots RAW, but there are lots more options in this segment of the market. The main reason I like this camera for urban work is that it’s small and can easily fit in my jacket pocket. Because of its size and ease of use I can use it in ways that just aren’t practical with an SLR. Take a look at this shot. Had I been using an SLR I am sure it would have attracted attention and the man in the shot would have avoided me. Instead he treated me as one of the many tourists snapping away.

City shot in the rain

The small size of the camera was important in being ignored by people but it’s also important in helping keep your equipment dry in the rain. It’s easy to stuff a small camera inside a plastic bag or hide it under your coat.

Protect you and your gear

The other accessory you might find useful is an umbrella which has a number of benefits. Firstly you can use it to shelter and keep your camera dry. Holding an umbrella (or having your other half hold it – sorry Sue) over you whilst shooting can prevent this. To some extent it also helps you hide a small camera as well so you can blend into the crowd. The city images you see here were all shot with the camera in one hand and the Umbrella in the other.

Brolly city shot

I would also suggest you carry at least one soft cloth you can use to dry off the lens or the camera itself in case it gets wet. I usually carry two cloths as I find one can quickly get wet if I have to wipe down the camera body to put it back in a water proof bag.

Work quick

When shooting in the rain speed becomes important. It’s good to be able to pull out the camera, take the shot and put it away again. This means having the camera ready to work as soon as you pull it out. Give some thought to the levels of light available to you. Because rain and bad weather often restrict light you might find yourself shooting with a higher ISO, wider aperture or possibly both. I usually shoot in aperture priority as its quick and I only need worry about achieving a fast enough shutter speed. Take a few moments to check the shutter speeds/exposure every so often to ensure you don’t need to make any adjustments.

Another tip to help improve your speed of shooting in the rain is to use the camera in Manual Focus if you have the option. My approach is to set the focus point at 2 meters and select an aperture that gives me sharp focus through to infinity. Once I have set this I can switch the camera on inside my jacket and when I take it out I can immediately start shooting without worrying about the focus. I also like to couple this with a continuous shoot mode so I can take multiple shots, one of which should come out as I had hoped.

Back at home

When you have finished your shooting and return home remember to remove your camera kit from your bag and allow both bag and camera to dry naturally. Avoid the temptation to return the camera to the bag within 24 hours as it’s quite possible the bag will still be wet.

Words and images by Robin Whalley -


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