Photo by: Connor Chance

October 14, 2020 / Fall 2020 / Photography / Picture This

Shooting Through the Storms

Written by Kathy Beers

Sure, we’d love every outdoor event to occur during a 70-degree golden hour with a light breeze that fades into a magical sunset, but the reality is that rain happens. And this year in particular, we must take advantage of every opportunity to get sports photos, rain or shine. Just because you feel a few sprinkles doesn’t mean you get to pack up and go home. It’s time to protect your tech, switch gears and look for a different kind of shot.

Stay Safe

We all know this, right? When a game is halted for lighting, even the press needs to take shelter and wait for the all clear, but that doesn’t mean you should stop shooting. Some of our best images happen in unexpected situations. Where did the band go? Are they running for the buses to wait it out? Follow the band director and see what ensues. Is the drill team creating TikToks under the stands? Cheerleaders trying to salvage their hair under the hand dryers in the bathrooms? These are the moments! KEEP SHOOTING PHOTOS!

No Fair-weather Photographer. Even in Texas, a Friday night can get cold and rainy. Gloves, pocket hand warmers and camera rain sleeves kept photographers on the field and shooting. Photo by Peyton Lea

Be Prepared

Before you even hear about the chance of rain, gather a few items so you CAN keep shooting. You know those free drawstring backpacks you get at every convention? We filled one with all our wet weather gear, and now we just call it the “rain bag.” If there’s a possibility of wet weather in the forecast, someone grabs the rain bag, and everyone benefits.

What’s in our rain bag module? Trash bags, camera rain sleeves, raincoats, lens cloths, hand warmers and carabiners. Many students have these items at home, so you can also have photographers set up home rain bags if you are not meeting in your classroom.

Protect Your Bag

We have a variety of camera bags that our photographers can choose from when it’s time to pack up. Whether it’s a small over-the-shoulder or a giant backpack, they all need to be protected from drenching. If your camera bag comes with a plastic protective cover, be sure everyone knows it’s there and how to use it. If it doesn’t, a trash bag works great! It folds up tiny and can be stuffed into a pocket. It will get the job done and keep your camera bag dry.

Invest in a carabiner for every bag. Even when it’s not raining, we use these to hang the bags from the fence or railing at every game. It keeps our bags in sight and there’s no chance of them being swamped in pom poms or discarded jackets.

Protect Your Camera

For as little as $4 each, rain sleeves are a very economical way to keep the water off your electronics. Simply stick the lens in the end, tighten it to fit, and pull it down over the camera. If you can locate any lens hoods, those help keep the drops off the exposed end of the camera and give the sleeve a little something more to grip. It takes a little work for your hands to get used to fumbling with buttons through the plastic, but the sleeve needs to stay in place until you’re sure it’s safe.

Protect Your Photographer

As the stands clear out because the home team is losing and everyone is cold and wet, we don’t want the photographer to follow them, so we do our best to keep them warm and dry. In our rain bag, we have a few giant hooded raincoats. They fit everyone and are long and heavy enough that they don’t flop around in the wind. After a moldy experience, the kids have learned to take them inside and let them dry out when they get home. Then they can fold them back up and repack them for next time.

Since frozen fingers are the enemy of the photographer, we also added hand warmers to the rain bag. Those little air activated packets are a game-changer (literally). Bought in bulk, they’re less than $1 a pair and everyone can keep shooting that game!

Rain on My Parade. During a lightning delay, always stay safe and take shelter with the other participants, but keep your camera ready to capture those iconic images that your students will remember forever. The combination of lightning and raindrops made this unplanned moment a showstopper image. Photo by Taylor Deker

Switch Up Your Settings

Finding the right balance of settings to freeze the rain and still get enough light is the key to great shots. Start with a 1/1000 shutter speed and play around until you’re able to freeze (or slow) the rain AND get enough light. Keep an eye on your ISO as anything above 1600 on a night sky can start to look noisy. Every stadium and lighting situation is different, so some experimentation is needed to figure out what works best for you.

Worth Every Penny

If you don’t have access to funding, try building an Amazon Wish List. I make one at the beginning of each year and share a link with the yearbook parents and on all our social media. I’ve even had coaches, teachers and the parents of athletes gift us items on our list as a thank you for the great photos we’ve captured for them. With just a few dollars and a little planning ahead, you can keep your photographers shooting through the storms.

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Kathy Beers

Beginning her 20th year in education, Kathy Beers has taught photojournalism and yearbook at Timber Creek High School in Fort Worth, Texas since the school opened in 2009. Prior to that, she was the yearbook adviser and art teacher in Indian Springs Middle School in Keller, Texas. She guides her students in class and at summer workshops to push the boundaries in theme and design. Her staff has won numerous awards, including a CSPA Gold Medal and Walsworth Gallery of Excellence.