Bad Weather/Large Format Tips : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Over the years, some of my best photos have been taken in bad weather, rain in particular. I do not mind using my 35m or medium format gear in the rain. I just put a plastic trash bag over the camera and poke the lens out of a small hole in the bag. I do not really worry about getting water into the lens, because only a small portion of the lens sticks out of the plastic. In contrast, I have been concerned with using my 4x5 in rainy conditions, because I have not wanted water to get into the shutter. The lenses (for the most part) are so stubby that seems quite hard to keep the shutter from getting soaked.

Am I being over concerned about this? Any tips on working in the rain would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

-- Dave Karp (, May 21, 2002


Get a "studio" type clamp-on umbrella. It can be clamped on to a tripod or a stand next to the camera.

Or prepare the camera inside your car or tent. I would not shoot if the rain was pouring down, not because it would damage the camera (which it most likely would not), but instead I would be concerned about getting water into film holders.

-- Per Volquartz (, May 21, 2002.

A few questions about this recently, so there are some archives around to read. I think shooting a Graphic by speedfinder would be a little easier than trying to compose on the GG of a field. By own thoughts are to stick my graphic in a square tube of cardboard which has been coated in something like varnish with front flaps for a lens rainshield. A shower cap on the back would keep the filmholder dry, but getting it in and out and dry would be trick unless under cover of doorway or umbrella; Another thing to carry. Carry a cloth or wear a terry cloth t-shirt to dry the darkslide as well. A Grafmatic would be the nuts for foul weather.

-- Wayne Crider (, May 21, 2002.

A few weeks ago I was in process of setting up a shot, when I felt the first drops of rain. I covered the camera with a small plastic tarp I carry for just this occasion, making sure that the glass and shutter were covered. To be sure, I extended my Lee shade as far as it would go, to make sure the lens would remain dry. As the drops turned into a pour, I made my exposure (2.5 minutes!), and ran back to cover. After developing the neg I realized that I had forgotten one thing--the darkslide had gotten wet, and left nasty little marks on my film! So, next time I know, keep the darkslides as dry as that lens.

-- jason (, May 21, 2002.

When shooting under the rain I have had several shots ruined by blurr probably resulting from drops hiting the bellows or front standard. Then covering the camera with plastic bag does not solve the problem: use of an umbrella is mandatory. Be aware that standing under trees can be worst : drops falling from trees are even bigger!

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (, May 22, 2002.

I keep a filter over the lens while focusing, composing, etc., then remove it at the last second before making the exposure, then quickly put it back on. That keep rain drops off of the lens. A skylight or UV filter is best but any filter will work. Of course this does nothing for the shutter but it does prevent a photograph from being ruined by rain drops on the lens. I carry around a plastic garbage bag with cut outs for the straps on the back pack and try to keep it over the camera and bellows but that doesn't work perfectly by any means. Large format in rain is just generally kind of difficult I think, if you're at all concerned with your equipment. If I have my medium format system with me, I use it instead of large format in rain.

-- Brian Ellis (, May 22, 2002.

Hi Dave. Here are some thoughts on working in the rain, in fairly random flow-of-conseiousness order. I have extensive experience working in the rain with 4x5-- I live in Seattle and photograph almost exclusively on rainy days because that's when my favorite light happens. I use a very large umbrella-- one of those golf umbrellas that's about four feet in diameter. Mine is white and black-- I avoid colored ones because it could throw unwanted color into the image, especially if the subject is close up. The only two things that I care about keeping dry are my lens and my film; everything else gets fairly wet when I'm working for a long time in the rain. All my equipment (film, loupe, light meter, etc.) are kept in a small 35mm-type camera bag that's attached to my tripod, so everything stays close under the umbrella. I have a home-made clip arrangement to clip the umbrella to the tripod when it's not too windy (umbrella handle goes in the bag and the shaft clips right to my camera); otherwise if it's windy I have to try to hold the umbrella with my chin while working with two-handed operations like focussing and tilting the camera back. Working a view camera one-handed while holding an umbrella is slow and painstaking, requiring a lot of patience especially when your lens and/or glasses start to fog up. When the lens fogs I take it off and put on the lens caps and put the whole thing inside my shirt for awhile to warm it up; on cold foggy days I usually start with the lens in my shirt for a few minutes so it doesn't fog as soon as I take off the lens cap (metal and glass will fog when they get colder than the surrounding air). Another big problem is the film warping inside the film holder when I remove the slide, due to the much higher humidity of the air inside the camera bellows. So, when I'm ready to expose I always remove the slide and wait a minute or two before starting the exposure; otherwise if the film "pops" during exposure then I get a double image effect that ruins the photo. I use a metal field camera, and take care to keep it well oiled. I keep lots of cotton balls in my camera bag for wiping off the occasional water drop that lands on the lens; I also always check the front of the lens before exposing, to make sure a drop hasn't gotten on the lens; when the lens is stopped down, a water drop can cause a whole section of the image to look fuzzy. If you get lots of water drops on the lens, it can actually produce a very cool luminescent effect in the image-- the highlights tend to glow like they do in Atget's images. I have an old Kodak Ektar lens with broken shutter that I sometimes use for such exposures; the shutter is permanently open so I just use the lens cap as the shutter and make long exposures. Polarizing filters do wonders in the rain for taking the glarey sheen off of rain-soaked surfaces. And, be careful to get your tripod well seated in whatever surface you're working in-- if it's muddy, the tripod can easily move during exposure. Be careful about moving around too-- your shifting weight can cause wet ground to move slightly and cause the tripod to move. Even a millimeter of tripod movement will ruin the photo so take great care in this department. I remember one time I was in the rainforest perched on top of a huge log, and I realized as I was setting up that every time I shifted my weight, the whole log moved ever so slightly. So I had to stand perfectly still for an 18-minute exposure. I made two just in case and they both came out tack sharp! It was pouring rain at the time, and as you will discover if you shoot in pouring rain, the image came out looking as if there was no rain at all, except for the water drops on everything and a very slight fog effect.

Best of luck in the rain-- feel free to e-mail me privately if you have more questions or want to share. And, if you're interested, you can see my work at

~chris jordan (Seattle)

-- chris jordan (, May 22, 2002.

The concern about the shutter is valid. I've had one of mine begin to rust inside. What I do to prevent the lens from getting wet is use a compendium shade and put my hat to fill the space between the shade and the camera. As other have mentioned, the camera body itself has nothing to fear.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, May 22, 2002.

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