For a lot of the United States in winter, conditions are wet. In Southern California, this is our rainy season, but the season has been far wetter than it normally is. I was just in Costa Rica earlier this month, and I feel like I am back in the rainforest! The wet black-bellied hummingbird below is from Costa Rica (and it really does have a very black belly and chest).
A lot of photographers put their cameras away when it rains. That's not for me. Even when I lived in Minnesota and spent a lot of time outdoors throughout the whole year, I refused to let my camera hibernate. There are many opportunities for interesting photos when the weather is bad. Anyway, if I really want to photograph nature in all of its glory, I need to at least shoot a little bad weather nature. And I know I can get photos that other photographers don't have because they have put their cameras away.
The photo below is a rainy day in the chaparral of the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California.
But I understand the worry about damaging gear. When gear gets wet, it can fail. Here are some things I do to keep my camera gear dry:
1. Use an umbrella. I carry a small, black umbrella that folds up small enough to fit inside my camera bag. With my camera on a tripod, the umbrella keeps the camera and lens dry without fighting with (or even needing) a lot of special waterproof protection. Doing this is sometimes a bit awkward, but it does work, and a little practice makes the use of the umbrella much easier.
2. Use a shower cap. Whenever I travel and the hotel has shower caps in the bathroom, I keep them for my camera bag. They fit a camera and a moderate-sized lens very well. I brought some for my group in Costa Rica and our cameras often sported these handy accessories. Locals sometimes laughed at us, but our cameras were dry!
3. Bring along a pack towel. Go to an outdoor store such as REI, Sports Chalet, or Bass Pro Shops, and look for a small pack towel made of microfiber. These pack nicely in your camera bag and help dry gear as it gets wet.
4. Try waterproof protection from a commercially made brand, such as OpTech. OpTech makes an inexpensive, plastic cover for cameras and long lenses that is designed to fit and cover them well.
5. Bonus tip for winter photographers: Beware of another sort of wetness - condensation on your camera. Cold cameras brought into warm interiors (including cars) can act just like that cool glass of lemonade on the counter in warm, humid summer conditions. You can get water condensing both on and in your camera. It is the "in" that can be really bad because it can damage your camera. Avoid it by never bringing an exposed cold camera into those conditions. Put the camera into a zipped camera bag or into a closed plastic bag while it warms up.
NOTE: Outdoor Photographer columnist and author Rob Sheppard teaches many outstanding online photo courses at BetterPhoto.com, including Creating Storytelling Photos, Impact in Your Photographs: The Wow Factor and The Magic of F-stops: Choosing the Right Aperture.