Sports Photography Class: Shooting in the Rain

October 30, 2020  •  1 Comment

SHOOTING SPORTS IN THE RAIN 

Sports Photography Class with Philip G. Pavely/Pavely Photography

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) falls to the wet grass near Columbus Crew midfielder Robinho (18) and midfielder Wil Trapp (6) at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports Mar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA;  Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco (8) falls to the wet grass near Columbus Crew midfielder Robinho (18) and midfielder Wil Trapp (6) at MAPFRE Stadium.  Philip G. Pavely (USA TODAY Sports)
 

Nikon D3S 300mm f/2.8  1/800 sec; f4; ISO 6400  Manual


How do I prepare and execute while working in the rain?

I am often asked, “Should I take pictures in the rain?” “Will my camera still work?”

And I reply, “How bad do want the image?” “What type of camera do you have?”

Sometimes you have no option. Sometimes, you really want to capture moments at an event, whether it’s inclement weather or not. Sometimes, you’re caught red-handed.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh PiratesMLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh PiratesApr 6, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates releiver Edgar Santana (37) delivers a fifth inning pitch against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 6, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;   Pittsburgh Pirates releiver Edgar Santana (37) delivers a fifth inning pitch against the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. Philip G. Pavely (USA TODAY Sports)
 

Nikon D3S 300mm f/2.8  1/800 sec; f4; ISO 6400  Manual
 

A lot of the DSLR camera bodies are water resistant and the more expensive lenses have coatings that can withstand rain for a period of time. I am a Nikon shooter and all of my bodies and lenses are “weather resistant” to a certain degree. With proper coverings, you can shoot in the rain all day. 

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Atlanta United forward Hector Villalba (15) moves the ball in thesecond half against the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports Mar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA;  Atlanta United forward Hector Villalba (15) moves the ball in thesecond half against the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium.  Philip G. Pavely (USA TODAY Sports)

Nikon D3S 300mm f/2.8  1/800 sec; f4; ISO 6400  Manual
 

Plan Ahead

If you know you’re going to be shooting in the rain, how can you prepare? 

I keep rain gear in my car so I am always prepared. When I know I will be outside covering a game, I always look at weather prior to grabbing my rain gear, if needed. I personally like to look at the radar on www.wunderground.com but there are many other options.

For starters, I am a Gore-Tex guy. I know there are other choices, but their products have been consistent and served me well over the years. I wear a hat, have a waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, and most important…shoes! You have to have dry feet as long as possible. Gore-Tex shoes have been a game-changer for me.

If I am covering football, I use knee pads. I like to kneel for the angle, but I also take up less space which in turn has less rain hitting me. Most kinds of knee pads that are for contractors or Dek hockey will work. I prefer plastic (so it doesn’t absorb water or wet ground) with velcro straps for a quick on or off.

Also, make sure you have a clean disc and fully charged battery for the camera as you do not want to open any parts in the rain if you can help it. The inside is not weather resistant! Also, make sure you have a lens hood and it is on before you go in the rain. This will give you an extra layer of protection from keeping out moisture as much as possible.

 

Coverings for Cameras and Lenses

If you have a long lens then there is a cover you can get. Common brands used by professionals are AquaTech, Op/Tech, and Think Tank just to name a couple. 
The more expensive ones can fit a specific camera body and lens size.

If you do not have a lens cover, I’d recommend getting one. In the meantime, you can make your own. You can use a plastic bag. On the bottom seam of the bag, make a small slit and put that over the from element. Screw on the lens cover if you have one to keep it in place. The open end of the bag will be by your camera. Fold it over so you can see and use some tape to keep it in place. The best tape if gaffers tape and I could do a whole article on my favorite tape.

 

Shooting in the Rain

Now that we’ve properly planned, we can shoot in the rain. 

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Artur (8) and Atlanta United forward Romario Williams (9) play the ball in the second half at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports Mar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew midfielder Artur (8) and Atlanta United forward Romario Williams (9) play the ball in the second half at MAPFRE Stadium.  Philip G. Pavely (USA TODAY Sports)

Nikon D3S 300mm f/2.8  1/800 sec; f4; ISO 6400  Manual
 

I have shot shot many, many games in the rain. The wettest I think I ever was 1996 in Baltimore for a Steelers-Ravens game. The Counting Crows song “It’s Raining in Baltimore” took on a new meaning as it rained…the…entire..time…in.Baltimore. This may be the only time in my life I got pelted by horizontal rain...for hours  

I love the images made in the rain. Not always though as I have been wet and miserable more than once when shooting in the rain. But, I love when the droplets fill the frame (especially with a dark background. And I love when a player goes sliding across the grass leaving dirt, turf, and water flying through the air.

One benefit from shooting in the rain is consistent lighting. Unlike a bright sunny day, you shouldn’t have to manage your settings too much. There will not be harsh shadows. Instead, it will be pretty consistent lighting. A good cloud cover is like a “giant soft box” and helps with photographing faces because there isn't too much contrast.

Steelers Dolphins 36Steelers Dolphins 36Philip G. Pavely/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Steelers Dolphins 36
The Steelers Nate Washington is brought down by the Dolphins Jason Allen during second quarter action at Heinz Field Nov. 26, 2007.

The Steelers Nate Washington is brought down by the Dolphins Jason Allen during second quarter action at Heinz Field Nov. 26, 2007. Philip G. Pavely (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
 

Nikon D2Hs 400mm f/2.8  1/640 sec; f2.8; ISO 800  Manual
 

If possible, I put the wind to my back to protect the front element just a little bit more. 

I do tend to move less less in the rain. I prefer to hunker down instead of constantly running for a different spot during rain game. Also, when moving around, you increase the chances of getting water on your front element of the lens. 

Steelers Dolphins 30Steelers Dolphins 30Philip G. Pavely/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Steelers Dolphins 30
The Steelers Larry Foote celebrates a first quarter tackle by kicking the soggy grass at Heinz Field Nov. 26, 2007.

The Steelers Larry Foote celebrates a first quarter tackle by kicking the soggy grass at Heinz Field Nov. 26, 2007. Philip G. Pavely (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
 

Nikon D2Hs 400mm f/2.8  1/640 sec; f2.8; ISO 800  Manual
 

Make sure you do not shoot up or you will get a wet front element. Try to keep the lens straight or lowered down a bit. If you are shooting up, be thankful you have a lens hood.

You can wipe it off, but be careful not to scratch the glass. If there is just water, I use a dry microfiber rag that I keep in an inside dry pocket. If you do not clean the water spots off of the front lens, it will show up in the pictures as each drop will leave out of focus parts on the image.

One of the biggest challenges to shooting in the rain is focus. The auto-focus on your camera may jump around as it is picking up the rain between you and the subject. Plan on having some out of focus images, especially if there is a heavy rain. Sometimes, I use auto-focus to lock in on my subject if they are standing still. Then, I flip over to manual focus to wait for a moment to happen and I get the shot...in focus.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMLS: Atlanta United FC at Columbus Crew SCMar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen (23) shields his face from the rain in the second half against Atlanta United at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports Mar 30, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen (23) shields his face from the rain in the second half against Atlanta United at MAPFRE Stadium.: Philip G. Pavely (USA TODAY Sports)
 

Nikon D3S 300mm f/2.8  1/800 sec; f4; ISO 6400  Manual
 

Use as fast of a shutter speed as you can. This will freeze the water droplets and sprays as well as any turf that may go flying. If it’s raining, it’s darker. So, bump up your ISO so you can have a shutter speed above 1/000 sec. for starters. Again, I like to keep my aperture in the range of f2.8-f 5.6.

After Shooting in the Rain

Once we have finished shooting in the rain, it is important to dry off all of your gear.

Make sure you wipe the outside (once again, I use a micro-fiber) getting in all of the cracks and crevices. Get the eyepiece and remove the lens. Wipe where the connections and make sure there is no moisture on the camera or lens. Make sure there the area where the battery is kept is dry.

So, next time there is a game going on in the rain, do not be afraid of the elements. Have some type of covering for your gear and go have fun!

PGP-Pirates1-08PGP-Pirates1-08Pittsburgh Pirates Jason Kendall gets drenched on second base in the ninth inning moments before the game was suspended for a rain delay Sept. 7, 1998.

Pittsburgh Pirates Jason Kendall gets drenched on second base in the ninth inning moments before the game was suspended for a rain delay Sept. 7, 1998. Philip G. Pavely (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)
 

If you have any idea, question or topic you would like me to discuss, please leave a comment on Pavely Photography social media, email me at [email protected], or leave a comment in the blog post at www.PavelyPhotography.com

 

Thanks, and happy shooting!

 

-Phil

 

 

 

 

 

 


Comments

Sophie Wesson(non-registered)
Thank you for the nice blog post. Sports time photography is the best memory,
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