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Beat a Rainy Day With a Polarizer and One Tool That’s Practically Free

Today was rainy, and then it was rainy and windy, but what else can I expect in the winter in the Pacific Northwest? Trouble is, I still have to make a living even when it’s raining. Fortunately, I had a willing client and two tools that helped me make the most of the situation.

Twist to Enrich

My client was going to meet me at my office where I had a decent background of greenery available and a covered porch to shoot under. However, things changed, and we ended up going to a different spot. Changing locations can be really terrifying. As you can imagine, I was hesitant when Rick took me to an different place. Good thing Rick is a photographer, too! It was the perfect place–Rick runs this trail with his clients all the time, and it was the right blend of tree trunks and leafy bushes, which are not common in the winter time. There was a big problem though: the sky was cloudy and the leaves were wet.

Wet leaves are shiny, and a cloudy sky is like a soft box straight overhead, and while this would be a great situation to photograph a sports car, it’s the worst thing for my photography. Those shiny leaves reflect the sky, which is white, so the leaves all appeared white, too. Here’s a picture of what I saw with my eyes.

It’s kinda lackluster in the back, and doesn’t do justice to the powerful greens we have up here in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. I used a polarizer to turn this around, though, and ended up with a rich green backdrop for Rick’s new portrait. Here are the unpolarized and polarized pictures side by side; click to view them and use arrow keys to flip back and forth. The only difference is that I twisted the polarizer 90 degrees between pictures.

Didn’t you say it was Raining?

Yeah, water was coming out of the sky, and had to make a photograph. Lots of people like cloudy days for the soft flat light you get…I’m just not one of them. Especially when I have a subject like Rick who has deep set eyes–that big soft box in the sky just makes shadows of Rick’s eyes with no catchlight to show off his twinkle. I’ve gotta use lights lights to show off Rick’s bright eyes. Water from the sky and electronic lights don’t get along, however.

On the way out of the office I grabbed the perfect tool to save my flashes on a day like this, and you should always have some in your camera bag: transparent garbage bags. Yep, my janitor leaves one or two in my waste basket as extras, and I swiped two of them to drape over my speedlights. The bag fit over the flash and modifier on the backlight, but only over my flash unit on the front light. That’s okay, my softbox will dry out, and the important stuff was covered.

A word of caution: when the flash fires, it puts out a lot of heat close to the lens. Keep some open air space between your flash and the bag to ensure the bag doesn’t melt to the front of the flash.

Conclusion

I just can’t let rain ruin a shoot, and neither should you. Use a polarizer on your lens to enrich the foliage in your photo, and cover your lights with transparent bags to keep the water off and you’ll be good to go. Just make sure to set all your softboxes out to dry and extend the light stands back at home, too, so they can dry out as well.

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