How to Prepare to Shoot Sports in the Rain

How to Prepare to Shoot Sports in the Rain

A rainstorm and a muddy field can make football look great, but if your camera gets soaked, you might miss some great shots. Being inadequately prepared to shoot in inclement weather could be a really expensive mistake. 

I keep a bag of my rain gear for shooting outdoor sports in the rain permanently. Unfortunately, I don't often get to use that equipment.Yes, unfortunately. I love shooting sports in the rain — kind of. I love the images I can create in the rain, but I hate the hassle of shooting in the rain. 

Shooting in the rain is a huge hassle because it can be really uncomfortable depending on how soaked you get. There are some really obvious things I carry and some maybe not so obvious things. Let's start with the obvious things in my bag for these circumstances.

Think Tank Hydrophobia 300-600: This is the most expensive thing on the list and the most important for me. In heavy rain, I will often go down to just one camera and lens and it will be my Nikon 400mm 2.8 on my Nikon D4. Rather than risk my other cameras getting wet when not using them, I will opt to put them away. 

A picture of a Think Tank Rain Cover installed on a camera.

Think Tank Hydrophobia Rain Cover 300-600 V2.0, image from B&H Photo

OP/Tech Rain Sleeve: At just $8 for two, these are too cheap not to buy a couple packs. I put this around my 70-200mm on my secondary body. Because there is not a place for your left hand to grab the lens, zooming is a bit more work than without it or with a more expensive one like the Thank Tank. If the 70-200mm is your main lens, go ahead and get the Think Tank 70-200 cover, because it is much easier to shoot with. 

Ponchos: I actually carry multiple ponchos, and yes, there are different styles for different needs. My main poncho for shooting is one with side snaps like this Totes side snap poncho. The reason being is I always shoot sports with Black Rapid double harness and my secondary camera goes on my right side. With the snap poncho, I can easily pull that second camera up if I needed, but keep the camera hidden under the poncho the rest of the time

Football players run in the rain

Blondes vs Brunettes Dallas football game in the rain at the Cotton Bowl to raise money for Alzheimer's Research.


Ponchos #2 and 3: Yes, I carry more. I find ponchos do a better job covering my bags than the included rain gear. Also, in a pinch, you can use the poncho to cover your gear or let the unprepared photographer friend use it to cover his. Pack a few of these, because they are cheap and so very useful. 

Gaffer Tape: This might be obvious because photographers should always have gaffer tape. I will use this to secure the aforementioned poncho to my camera bag, but also for some other uses. 

Towels: You probably already have some. I will gaffer tape a towel to the bottom of my 400mm's foot where it meets the monopod. That way every time I put my hand inside my Think Tank Hydrophobia, I can dry my fingers off a little. Now I have a somewhat dryer hand on my camera rather than one dripping water everywhere. My cameras are weather sealed, but they also aren't brand new. I don't know how well those seals are holding up, and I would rather not find out. I also will put a small towel around my credential holder to dry off my fingers as needed. I keep a large towel in my camera bag to dry my gear off before putting it away at the end of the night. 

Wide brimmed fishing hat: I am old and married and don't really care how I look. You know, typical Dadtographer. But a hat like this helps keep dry better than a ball cap or the poncho hood, but it is also flexible enough to be able to easily shoot with it. I wear it on sunny days too, because Dadtographer. 

Kellen Mond of Texas A&M runs in the rain against Albert Huggins of Clemson.

Kellen Mond of Texas A&M runs in the rain against Albert Huggins of Clemson. Photo by Thomas Campbell


Sea Gold Anti-Fog Gel: No, don't put this on your lens. I put this on the plastic of the Hydrophobia. With the rain comes steam and that thing will fog up so you can't see the back of your camera and a little rain shouldn't stop you from chimping. 

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser: The back of the plastic will sometimes get foggy with some kind of film over it, and I don't mean Kodachrome. This Magic Eraser will clean that stuff right off. So when you need to clean the plastic in your credential holder or lens covers — this is the thing to buy. 

Nikon Micro Fibers: I can't recommend these things enough. I keep one attached to my credential holder and one attached to each camera bag (which is a lot of bags, thanks to my Think Tank addiction.) Lens and eyepiece fogging is a constant problem when shooting in heavy rain, so I keep a few of these with me so I can wipe my lenses and eyepieces down. 

Nikon lens cleaning cloth

These Nikon lens cleaning cloths are perfect for wiping off your wet lenses and eyepieces. Also, they have a clip to clip to your camera strap or press credentials.


Don't forget to prepare for the ride home. I leave a beach towel in my car along with a complete change of clothes right down to a new pair of shoes and socks. There is no need to be miserable on the drive home after standing, kneeling, sitting, and running in the rain for a few hours. 

Preparing to shoot sports in the rain is pretty easy and not all that expensive if you consider how much the gear you are protecting costs. Put together a bag that is always ready to go, just don't forget it! 

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7 Comments

Got the Think tank cover for my 300mm 2.8 (and Aquatech for my 70-200mm and 16-35mm). I got a seperate rain bag I keep my all my rain covers plus my Northface shell in. If I know I shooting outside with wet weather (gulf coast resident for 16 years so often) I throw it in my truck.

Also by disposable ponchos in a 5 pack. Keep one in every camera bag, pouch, backpack and roller I own in case Im caught off guard.

Didn't know about the optech sleeves. Might get some of those and do the same thing I've done with the ponchos. Also thanks for the tips on the Anti Fog gel and magic eraser

Really useful, informative post but I didn't read it right away because I don't shoot sports. Everything you've written easily applies to nature, wildlife and landscape photography as well!

Thomas Campbell's picture

Most of it certainly would. But in sports photography you often are swapping cameras very quickly, so that poncho with snaps comes in very handy. I've never needed that type of thing in wildlife or landscape, but I don't do a whole lot of that type of work, especially in wet weather.

Actually, I liked the poncho with snaps because I could keep my camera out of the rain but then quickly pull it out, Clint Eastwood Style, for wildlife shots. :-)

William Howell's picture

I wouldn’t take my gear out in the rain, you know, because fear! But this article give a good guide as to what to use to protect one’s camera and lenses.
Also I have read that inclement weather makes for beautiful portraits.
Anyone with knowledge of this, please chim in.

Thomas Campbell's picture

I could do an article about how to take inclement weather portraits if you would like. Last year my daughter's first day of school was rained out due to Hurricane Harvey, but we went outside during the hurricane to take the traditional first day of school picture.

https://twitter.com/thomasgcampbell/status/905862385524670467

John Skinner's picture

The anti-fogging can be reproduced with tiniest dab of FOAM shaving cream applied and rubbed in until gone.

The ponchos are a good idea, but cumbersome if you have optics to swap out. I do the full on rain pants and jacket, along with a ThinkTank PRO speedbelt and the holders which have the rain covers built into them. I've owned one Aqua-Tech product and it fell apart. So no more of that jazz.

The ThinkTank Hydrophobia is class A working kit for the 300 and 400 glass here, and I also use a sling with the 70-200 ThinkTank model for those downpour days. I've taken to keeping those tiny packets you get inside electronics that absorb moisture and keep them sealed in a jar. If I'm headed out on a wet day, I include one inside each lens pouch on my belt, and remove them once I'm back home to attempt to mitigate any bit I can.

Some of the most dramatic images are caught in the rain.. there's nothing like it.