I live in Manchester, UK - notorious for its rainy weather!

I would like to achieve something like this

enter image description here http://www.flickr.com/photos/vlad259/4541663932/



What lens should I use? what settings? how should I set-up?

Luckily my flat is ground floor so I can get nice an low to the floor - which seams to be a common element - but that's probably because the splashing is the cool aspect and really what i'm looking to achieve

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    \$\begingroup\$ In this case - not the only way, note that the depth of field is narrow and centred around the front duck, making it and a band of ?water? sharp. Background ducks are blurred as much by focus as by rain. Rain that is seen is in focus band. A flash can help to make rain stand out sharply (as it freezes it) but be aware that system may tend to expose for rain exposure in foreground pushing background brightness down. Manual or semi manual exposure control will allow greater control. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 10:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Kind of offtopic, but annually it rains more in Preston than in Manchester. So I'm not sure why Manchester should be famous for it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 20:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, Manchester UK only gets 31.8 inches rain per year. Manchester in New Hampshire averages 39.4" plus 61" of snow, and Manchester Massachusetts (now pretentiously renamed to Manchester by the Sea) averges 45.8" plus 40.8" snow. I've been to Manchester NH and Manchester MA, and neither seemed particularly rainy to me. It's hard to imagine why the drier Manchester UK should be notorious for rainy weather. There are certainly some much much rainier places on earth than any of these. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 23:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ 'Useful' links added to my answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 16, 2012 at 1:48

3 Answers 3


Many options. What you consider looks best is very much a matter of personal preference, and experiment will tell you more than straight instructions, but the following may help.

In this case - not the only way, in the 1st image note that the depth of field is narrow and centered around the front duck, making it and a band of ?water? sharp. Background ducks are blurred as much by focus as by rain. Rain that is seen is in the focus band. Given the depth of field, a moderately long focal length and largish aperture was probably used - there is no way to be sure but maybe 100-200 mm and f5.6 ish. Maybe. A flash can help to make rain stand out sharply (as it freezes it) but be aware that your system may tend to expose for rain exposure in the foreground, thus pushing background brightness down. Manual or semi manual exposure control will allow greater control.

In the 2nd photo they have again used depth of field to give a sharp foreground with background blur being caused both by rain and defocusing. Really high speed will freeze drops so they are separately discernible - you'll find out that they are NOT drop shaped as usually drawn but fall in a much more flattened form due to air pressure distorting the drop. Slow shutter speed gets long streaks/runs with loss of drop detail. You need to play and decide how much you want the drops to be visible versus streaming. Careful use of flash, so the photo is not dominated by it but so it tends to freeze individual drops even when overall shutter speed is slow enough to cause "runs" to show, gives a mix of both worlds. Balance with flash level control.

Note that while the "gate" photo is monochrome, the above "duck" photo may appear almost monochrome at a glance but is far from it. Background foliage has substantial green in it. Front duck has lots of brown and white and colour variation.

Some good material here D Photo - Capturing images of rain
This describes a systematic investigation of the effect of shutter speed and aperture and more on rain images ! . Not much re rain on ground, but much else which is relevant.

enter image description here

Some useful links related to rain photography:

Not all these are 100% on target but all relate to rain and photography and add some value.

23 Inspirational Images of a Rainy Day

No explanations of how here - just examples of what can be achieved. But just looking through them with other advice in mind should help. Helped me :-).

enter image description here

Photographing Subjects in the Rain ~~

How to photograph IN the rain

User discussion some value.

35 Beautiful Examples Of Rain Photography

Pentax forum discussion

Rainscapes photo based artworks.
Not my favourite pieces, but of possible value in the context.

There are some useful thoughts in this PHOTOGRAPHING RAIN article - only the 4th photo down directly relates. (Nikon D50, 1/125s, f/5.6, 50 mm

enter image description here

but the 5th photo (bride and groom) and the associated writeup here provide some useful thoughts.

He agrees with my observation re flash (always nice to know :-).) He says:

  • As for taking the first photo, keep in mind that although long shutter speeds can add a cool effect to a photograph, shorter shutter speeds can stop raindrops right in their tracks. (first article) and

  • The backlight will illuminate the rain and freeze it giving you this amazing backdrop of raindrops. (second article)


Len's comment got me to view the flickr version of the ducks and EXIF data is available here.
1/250th s exposure. f/4 and 500mm! The modest but not too narrow depth of field indicates that the subject was some distance away but not vastly so (no to mention the subject size). Maybe tens of metres.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Pedantic note: I'm pretty sure that's a goose, not a duck. If that picture was taken in North America, it's almost certainly a Branta canadensis, commonly known as the Canada goose. They are common around here (New England), and apparently spend most of their time pooping on soccer fields. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 23:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Amused and flattered to see my pic here. Yup, they're Canada geese in the foreground and right at the back, I think the three in between are mallards. The rain was extremely heavy, torrential. I'd normally use 1/160th when trying to catch snow or rain, but that lens is heavy and I probably was just resting it on the window in the hide. f/4 is wide open for that lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – vlad259
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @vlad259 Almost 7 years on! :-) - I hope the level of attribution and use was OK. (It's quite "fun" to discover an image you have created appear on an unexpected site - hopefully legitimately. My most stolen image is in use on 50+ sites - no attribution, certainly no payment :-). My original - click image twice for full res and Many examples of its use here \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2019 at 6:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RussellMcMahon nice pic! You must be pleased with that. I love a nice aerial photo and that is excellent. No wonder it's been stolen so much! Thank you for your attribution on mine, that's perfect and sadly quite rare. \$\endgroup\$
    – vlad259
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @vlad259 The usage of my image is almost wholly due to "politics". The fact that it is about the best available is secondary :-). The Paracel Islands are the northerly of the two most contested island groups in the South China Sea,ownership of which is claimed by at least 3 (or 4) nations. Basic intro in the Wikipedia article that I cited.Almost all uses are related in some way to the issues involved. I took the photo in 2008 afair - about 14 years after the 1974 "Battle of the Paracels" between Vietnam & China. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 20:07

The first picture is taken with a Canon 40D, a camera with a myraid of options. The second picture however is the product of a point-and-shoot type camera. This should tell you that for what you consider good rain shots, you don't need any special lens or camera, just a good understanding of how to use it. In this case I'd go for an all-round lens, in my case, the kit lens I got with my Nikon.

The exact settings are hard to give as it depends on your camera's capabilities, the lens you are using and the available light. Generally, at shutter speed above 1/60th of a sec, it is hard to prevent camera shake, so you would want to use a tri-pod.

If you want the stopping-type picture that the Fujifilm S5800 made, you are looking for a fast shutter speed, probably around 1/125. If you want the more motion filled and softer rain from the image of the Canon, you are looking for a slower shutter speed, 1/60 or slower. Adjust ISO and aperture to get the right amount of light in, or shoot in Shutter Priority mode.

To get a better understanding of exposure, I'd recommend the book "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson, it's not to big of a book, doesn't cos you a fortune but provides a nice introduction into exposure and how you can use it to create great photographs. The rest is experimenting, don't shoot just one photo, shoot 10, or 20, all at different settings.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Am I just being paranoid or does the book "Understanding Exposure" get a bit too much exposure on this site..? \$\endgroup\$
    – SoftMemes
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 11:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe, I have to tell you, honestly, I'm new to this site. I suggest the book cos it was recommended to me by a friend. I didn't know it had so much exposure on this site when I posted this comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – len
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 11:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Freed — I think it's just popular in general. There's no agenda on the site to push it. I personally think there are better options for beginners (*cough*), but it does seem helpful to many people. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm -- thanks for the addition, I didn't know about that explanation, very helpful :) \$\endgroup\$
    – len
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 13:49

You will want very fast (short) shutter if you want to render shapes of separate water drops as they hit the ground, as is seen in the 2nd link you provided.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Using slower shutter speed will emphasize motion, it adds drama to the scene. 1/2000s is too fast and will freeze everything making it look static/boring. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alen
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Alen Well what is boring it is highly subjective. If you want to see separate water drops hitting the ground and their amazing shapes, as in the 2nd link in the OP, photograther needs very short shutter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andrei
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1/2000s is overkill \$\endgroup\$
    – Alen
    Commented Apr 14, 2012 at 21:33

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