Photography in the Rain

It's Springtime and the gardens are starting to bloom with all those gorgeous springtime flowers. Tulips, daffodils, Iris, daylilies, Easter lilies, and so much more. These are beautiful flowers and great photographic subjects.

What could be better than photographing such a garden in a gentle springtime rain shower? Of course, you don't want to lay down on the muddy ground or get your equipment soaked. But think about those potential images! There must be a way to do this and not suffer the wrath of Mother Nature. 

Well, yes there is. We can cheat a little. Thanks to a technique that I discovered in one of Bryan Peterson's books many years ago, you can photograph spring flowers in the rain - in style.

Let me explain how I do this - but remember, there can be many variations on the theme. I shoot late in the afternoon. The sun is nice and low in the sky and I shoot with the sun backlighting the flowers. And yes, it's a bright sunny day. The rain is courtesy of a garden hose.

I stand under a large tree in my front yard. I use it for shade, but more importantly, I use it to block the sun from directly striking my camera. I also like to work with the camera on a tripod holding my Canon 5D with a 70-200mm lens.

Now, I'm lazy. I don't want to be writhing on the ground framing my shots. So, I have a tall barstool upon which I place the flowers. I like any long stem flower that will stand up well. Tulips and lilies work especially well. In some shots, I only want the flowers but I've also found a nice galvanized watering can that makes a great prop.

The best fake rain I've found is from an oscillating sprinkler. The holes are small enough that it seems to make nice small raindrops. You'll find it easier if you have an assistant that can handle the sprinkler. Make sure you wet the flowers and then when you shoot, have the water fall directly behind the flower. Also, I bought a cheap sprinkler and cut the mechanism that makes it oscilate. Now I can aim it right where I want it. 

This was shot as part of a summer youth photography program and I had no control over the time to shoot or the weather. Mid day sun and it still looks great. 

Start out shooting at ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/8. The most important value here is the shutter speed. 1/60th of a second seems to give a nice blur on the raindrops. 

For some shots, I'll use a reflector to bounce light back in on the flowers to fill in the shadows a little bit. But don't use a flash. Remember that a flash will freeze the motion of the drops and it's the streaks of rain that really make these images pop.

This should get you started. Remember to try variations on the theme. And if you get some nice shots we'd love to have you share them with us. This technique really can add hours of enjoyment to your day.