Photographing sporting events in the rain can be challenging for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t want to wreck your expensive gear with water damage. Second, it is difficult to get a decent action shot while shooting through falling rain. Often, the autofocus will zero-in on the water drops and you get out-of-focus images.
 
However, with a few precautions and tricks, the rain can become your friend as the element of water can sometimes make a picture more memorable.
 
I usually cover my cameras with specialized “raincoats” made by AquaTech. They are made from waterproof fabric that fits over each specific make of camera. There is a pullover “hood” at the body of the camera that an eyepiece fits over so the camera is totally protected. Such rain gear can be quite expensive, but there are good alternatives. At last Saturday’s FSU game at Doak Campbell Stadium, many of the seasoned professionals used garbage bags that were duct-taped over their cameras and lenses. It does the trick just fine, though it’s a little more bulky. Another option is to take a one-gallon ZipLock bag and cut a corner out of the bottom. Put the hole over the front of the lens and keep it in place with a rubber band. Then use the open end of the bag as a hood to shoot pictures while keeping your camera and lens dry.
 
I’ve included some of my favorite rain pictures from sporting events. These are examples of how rain added compelling visual elements to the pictures.
 
One of the best rain pictures I remember was taken by my co-worker Gary Green of Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in Tallahassee in 2008. The precipitation had caused paint from the field to smear all over Tebow and it created a very dramatic moment when he beckoned to the crowd through the rainfall. Another Gary Green picture of Tebow in the same game, looking for a receiver, is also one of my favorites.
 
My favorite rain sports picture that I took is from a pro soccer game at ESPN Wide World of Sports earlier this year. The rain is just pouring down and the soccer player, from Toronto, heads the ball while the rain trails off his head. That picture would not have been nearly as good without the water!

smdowell@tribune.com Follow Stephen M. Dowell on Twitter @dowellstephen. Like us on Facebook: Orlando Sentinel Photography.