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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