Photographing In The Rain – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens – Sarasota, Florida

As we near the rainy season here in Florida, I thought this would be an appropriate post on how to use bad weather to your advantage. I have attended many seminars over the years and it seems as if all of the pros are saying the same thing, the worse the weather, the better the photos. I really haven’t had a chance to try this until a month ago when we were getting substantial rain. I’ve always been a fan of overcast days since you can’t take a bad photo in a lighting situation such as this….as long as you’re not taking a photo of the sky!

Here is what happened, a good friend of mine, Susan Beausang who is an award winning photographer, called me and said her macro lens was getting some dust on it and we needed to go out and shoot. I’m always up for this, we happen to have the same lens so we both know what is possible. We decided to go to Marie Selby botanical gardens in Sarasota, Florida to capture the greenhouse and what ever else we would come across. I charged the batteries and made sure my camera cards were all cleaned off for the big day. I woke up and took our Golden out to find that the sky was angry looking. I knew we might get rained out. No matter, we could always shoot inside if it turned out to be a total down pour.

I loaded everything up in the car and started out for the hour drive north to Susan’s house. As I made my way up there, the sky was getting darker and darker. Once I arrived, we then compiled everything into one car and headed over. We got to the gardens and the sky was holding, but it was dark and looking like we were going to get soaked at any minute. We were troopers, we weren’t going to let some water get in the way! We discussed about going in and paying the admission fee and only being there for ten minutes before the flood came. We thought we would check out some of the flowers outside the fence and see if the weather would start to clear.

As for the equipment, I took my aging Nikon D300 with my Nikon 105mm macro lens. This is a prime lens, meaning that there isn’t a zoom on it. I love this lens, it’s really sharp, and you can use it for general photography as well as macro. One of the things that I look for when buying equipment is weather sealing. Note this doesn’t say water proof. A little sprinkle or even light rain isn’t going to turn this into a door stop. One of the best pieces of equipment that I keep in my bag at all times is an extra large zip lock bag. I got mine at Lowe’s and it’s big enough that I can put the whole camera in, as well as my wallet, car keys and phone. I might be soaked and look like the most expensive homeless person going down the road, but all of my gear will be safe. I was caught out in the rain once and that is all it takes.

It had rained the night before so everything was covered with water. Knowing that I was going to be focusing on (like that pun?) parts of the flowers and not the plant as a whole, this was going to take some setting up. Granted, I should have had my trusty tripod and cable release, but Selby prohibits tripods on their property so that was out. It’s just Susan, me and our cameras.

Spencer Pullen photographed this yellow flower outside of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, FloridaBlack-Eyed Susan – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

How fitting, we found some Black-Eyed Susan’s while I was with Susan….I’ll let that sink in for a minute. When shooting macro, it’s all about setting up the camera properly, or your result can be less that what you desired. Here’s what I stick to when I’m shooting, the closer the lens is to the subject, the higher the f-stop has to be to keep things in focus. This shot was taken with f/11. I had my spot focus on the brown center. If I wanted the whole frame to be in focus, I would want to be at f/32. Do you see the little ant crawling up one of the petals?

Spencer Pullen photographed these water drops on a leaf outside of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, FloridaWater Drops – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

Here is another thing to consider, it was really overcast. Kind of like one of those days where it’s almost dark outside in the daytime. Shooting at higher f-stops, means smaller hole in the lens and the shutter speed will be much slower. Hand holding at these speeds can be a real issue without a tripod. I raised my ISO to 1600 which is usually a death sentence because of the age of the camera and it also has a APS or crop sensor. A sharp, noisy photo is better than a blurry, noise-free image! No worries, I’m tight with Nik’s Dfine!

Spencer Pullen photographed these beautiful purple flowers outside of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, FloridaPurple Delights – Spencer Pullen © 2015 All Rights Reserved

One thing that we did do was use the wall and what ever else we could find to lean on to help steady ourselves. This coupled with the higher shutter speeds created my the higher ISOs, we came home with some keepers.

After we were there for a little while, it did start to rain. Glad we didn’t pay the admission, only to be rained out. We headed back to her place and looked at what we did get. It was a great day even though the weather wasn’t perfect, one makes the best of what is presented to them. What if it was full sun out, this would be perfect, right? Not exactly, then we would have to contend with harsh shadows and highlights. For this I do keep a 12” diffuser in my camera bag that folds up to about 3” round. This makes flowers glow as the sun is diffused and creates soft beautiful light, but we’ll save that for another post. Just remember the zip lock bag!

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Spencer, As always ~ such beautiful works of art! Thank you for sharing the beauty and for sharing your secrets.

  2. Always a pleasure to spend time with you and taking photos. My pictures always seem to be a bit better when you are on board.

  3. You are inspiring me to become a lot closer to my camera. Love your class at FGCU in PG.

  4. Lots of technical tips…and I heard (learned???) quite a few at Lakewood Ranch over the weekend. That diffuser sounds really long… Going out to try a macro shot right now. Thanks for all the help!

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