Putting it into (rain) gear

Waterproof covers are made for cameras to help protect them from the rain. They can run in cost from around $50 up to $200. Kind of pricey for normally dry Central California, but considering the cost of digital cameras these days, some sort of protection is desirable, but it can also be done on the cheap.

I recently shot a football game at Calaveras High School in San Andreas against Amador. It wasn’t raining in Stockton but, on the 41-mile drive up to San Andreas, it rained off and on, though nothing too heavy. I had a rain coat and hat to keep myself dry. The professional grade cameras that we use at the Record are built to withstand a little inclement weather, but I thought I should get a little rain insurance for my camera — just in case of a downpour.

I stopped at the Mar-Val supermarket in Valley Springs to pick up a few items. I bought some large 33-gallon garbage bags (a box of seven), a bag of rubber bands and a Kit Kat (I was feeling a little peckish). The whole thing, including the chocolate bar, cost a little more than $5.00. The short detour only lasted a few minutes and I was back on the road again.

I arrived early at the school. I grabbed one of the garbage bags and stuffed it into my jacket pocket and wrapped one of the rubber bands around my wrist. (I had already eaten the Kit Kat on the drive up.) The fourth quarter of the junior varsity game had just started. A very light drizzle was wafting down out of the sky like tiny snowflakes.  The rainfall was so light the drops could barely be felt, nothing heavy enough to do harm to the camera. Maybe I might dodge a meteorological bullet and stay dry.

There was a 25-minute gap between games for the varsity to warm up. The rain increased a bit but was still within tolerable levels. Then just a few minutes before the start of the game, the skies opened up. It wasn’t a torrent, but it was enough for the spectators to break out their umbrellas and for those who didn’t bring one to get a soaking.  My hat and jacket kept me dry enough, but my camera and lens were in need of some protection.

As Eddie Rabbitt’s “I Love A Rainy Night” played over the stadium’s PA system, I pulled out the garbage bag and covered my camera, which had a 300mm lens mounted on it with a monopod for stability. A passerby joked that I wasn’t going to get many shots with the camera covered like it was. I then tore a small hole in the bag and stretched it to encompass the large salad plate-sized front element of the lens. I could have been fine like it was, but then I wrapped the rubber band around the end of the lens to make sure the bag was secured to it.

The rain continued throughout the first quarter, finally tapering off  in the second. The plastic bag kept he camera and lens mostly dry. A lens hood – normally used to shade the lens from direct sunlight – would have helped keep rain drops off the front glass, but this particular lens didn’t have one. I just used the handy terrycloth towel I keep with me to occasionally wipe it off.

The expensive rain covers not only protect the camera, but can also keep photographer’s hands dry and warm as well. If one spends a lot of time shooting in inclement weather, then they may well be worth the cost. But if you need some quick and cheap rain gear, then a trip to the supermarket is all you need.

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