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Photographing a City in Wet Weather Using Your Digital SLR

As long as you protect yourself and your digital SLR camera and gear, you can capture some wonderful images when it’s raining, or after the storm has cleared out, including wonderful reflections of city lights in wet pavement.

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Don’t be foolish enough to venture outside during an electrical storm, but if you’re inside and hear a gentle rain failing, you can make an impromptu rain cover for your camera out of a shower cap or plastic bag and duct tape. The second story of a parking garage is a nice, protected vantage point.

Your lens may fog over as a result of humidity changes. If you’re in an air-conditioned car, turn off the air conditioner and open the windows a bit before you start taking pictures. If you’re leaving an air-conditioned building, place the camera in a baggie and then seal it up. Condensation gathers on the outside of the baggie and not on your camera. After several minutes, poke a hole for the lens to see through and snug the baggie to the lens with a rubber band.

Camera settings for photos of rainy streets

Use Aperture Priority mode with a medium aperture between f/8.0 to f/11.0 for a depth of field adequate to capture all the details, including the distant clouds. A wide-angle focal length of 28mm is good for distance shots; You get a slightly shallower depth of field when you use a focal length of 50mm. An ISO range between 400 and 800 gives you the latitude you need to take pictures in the low light that accompanies an overcast stormy day. Image stabilization is useful because you’ll be shooting lots of images with a slow shutter speed.

Taking pictures of rainy streets

When you take pictures in stormy weather, look for things that appear different than they do on a bright sunny day. You can get interesting shots through rain-streaked windows and windshields:

[Credit: Photo courtesy of Roxanne Evans, www.dougplusrox.com]
Credit: Photo courtesy of Roxanne Evans, www.dougplusrox.com

Use the viewfinder to be sure that you don’t include anything more than absolutely necessary to create a good image. Also make sure you don’t have any distracting elements like garbage cans or dumpsters unless they contribute to the story you’re telling with the picture.

Moving objects turn out blurry when the ISO setting and aperture combined with low light yield a shutter speed that’s too slow to stop moving traffic. But as long as the rest of the image is sharp, the blurred vehicles add drama to an otherwise static image.

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