We live in Florida. It rains a lot here. Especially in the spring and summer, we get pretty regular showers, thunderstorms and sometimes downright deluges, like the 2015 summer of epic flooding and a recent tropical storm that swept through this June.
I love rain, and the muted colors of a rainy day. I love the wet sheen on leaves and palm fronds,the way rain cascades in rivulets or drips off branches and flowers. And I love trying to capture those things with photographs.
But rainy days present challenges to creating images that accurately represent the look and feel of rain, or the essence of what makes a rainy landscape appealing.
With all the rain we get though, I've learned a few things over the years, though, and hope some of these tips can be helpful to other rainy day shutterbugs interested making the most of liquid sunshine.
Step 1: Stay Safe and Dry
In order to take good rainy day photos, first and foremost, you, your camera and your lens need to stay dry. Creatively shooting from under umbrellas, overhangs, cars and other sheltering areas can give the impression that you're out in the shower, without actually being in a position that will damage your equipment or endanger you.
It should go without saying, but I'll say it here: Don't be out in the open during thunderstorms or shelter under trees when there's lightning.
Step 2: Look for the Light
I don't like flash photography, especially in outdoor environments where natural light reveals things more along the lines that I actually see them. But even on a rainy day, you don't need a flash to get a good photo.
It might seem counter intuitive, but in the flat light of a cloudy day, and even in the rain, there is often still some light to be found, either reflected off leaves, roads, walls, or water itself. Take a few moments to look for the spots that stand out, and aim your lens that way.
Move around in your dry spot to position your subject of choice against that light for back lighting or contrast, as in the palm fronds at top, or so that it picks up rain drops or a contrasting color, like the red in the caladiums in the center. Sometimes either some nearby artificial light, or just a change in cloud cover or rain slant can illuminate rain drops or streaks of rain, as in the last shot.
Step 3: Find the Color
When you find the light, you can highlight color, even in the rain. Plants like caladiums ,orchids, and daisies, or the bright colors of umbrellas, can stand out against the muted tones of gray that usually accompany a rainy day.
Take your time finding the right angle and background. To best accentuate a spot of color or a point of interest, make sure your background isn't busy. Off-setting bright or colorful subjects against the gray backgrounds, rather than framing them in the middle of your shot, can make them stand out even more.
Step 4: Capture the Drips
You don't need much beyond a single streak of rain sometimes to illustrate what's happening. But if you can get a combination of things to suggest the motion of active rain, like with the fountain, where rain is streaking in the background and the water in the fountain is dimpled, that's even better.
The faster your shutter speed, the better your chances of getting an image like the last one, where the rain drop is just about to let go of the leaf edge, and you can also see evidence of rain behind the leaf, as well as dripping all around.
Step 5: Capture the Drops
Rain drops on leaves or branches or eaves can make for wonderful images, but by themselves don't convey the action of rain. When you find the light, you can often find the rain drops and streaks or impressions of rain.
Seeing rain fall can be magical, or ominous. In the photo of the alligator, the rain drops in the lake create something like sparkling stars around the gater, making for an interesting, and somewhat conflicting image.. Capturing droplets of water along stems and petals along with the hash marks of steady rain all illustrate the active experience of rain.
Step 6: Tell the Story
The best photos tell stories.Finding some iconic image - like the sculpture of the girl with the umbrella on the water fountain, glistening with rain and rain streaking around it - provides some framework for what would otherwise just be leaves in the rain.
The images of the benches tell two different stories The one of the two side by side benches, framed around with tropical plants in the foreground and in baskets on the wall, tells a peaceful story of a garden in a gentle rain shower.
The other two images tell stories of a flood, one with someone in the distant background, sitting on the top edge of another bench, beneath and umbrella, and the other framed by trees and bushes against rising waters.
So next time the heavens open up, find a dry spot and see what kind of story you can tell between the rain drops!