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In the Rain
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In the Rain

A prediction of rain doesn't have to mean the end to photography. In fact, rain produces unexpected and pleasing picture possibilities. Because it paints smooth surfaces like leaves and pavement with a glossy sheen, it lends landscapes and city street scenes a bright, pearly glow and creates deep, saturated colors. Use a polarizing filter to further saturate colors by removing surface reflections. In the city, especially at twilight or night, puddles and wet pavement transform mundane street scenes into colorful, impressionistic tableaux with reflections of neon signs and other city lights. Bracket your exposures one stop over and under the camera's recommendation.

In heavy downpours, the rain itself can become the subject: At shutter speeds of 1/125 or faster you can halt the rain droplets; at slow speeds (1/30 or slower) you can turn them into long diagonal streaks cutting through the frame. Focus falling rain against a dark background to make it stand out.

Whatever the subject, it's important to protect your camera gear. If you don't have someone to hold an umbrella over you, carry a few locking plastic bags to use as temporary waterproof housings. With a DSLR or zoom camera, just put the camera into the bag, cut a hole for the lens to poke through, and secure the bag to the front rim of the lens barrel with an elastic band.

You can jury-rig a similar protection for point-and-shoot cameras; just be sure that the bag doesn't block any exposure or auto-focus windows on the front of the camera. In his book Landscape Photography, noted nature photographer John Shaw offers this unusual tip: Use a shower cap to protect a tripod-mounted camera and lens while you scout locations and then remove it briefly to shoot.

If you're traveling to a place where you're likely to encounter significant rainfall, you might also buy a plastic-bag-type underwater housing for your camera.

Next: "Lightning"

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