How To Photograph Rainbows
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Few things in life draw as much universal admiration as a rainbow streaking across the sky with its vibrant colour spectrum, I don't know a single person who doesn't love a rainbow.
Rainbow over Chesil Beach, Dorset.
They are prized amongst landscape photographers and non photographers alike, its one of the few things that evokes a universal emotion from all people, instant joy and happiness and gasps of awe.
I have seen numerous times in the past people who are not photographers come to screeching halt whilst driving to jump out of their car and capture a rainbow on their phone.
I don't know of another single subject that has quite the same effect on the general public, sunsets can be ignored but never a rainbow, everyone wants to capture that special moment and rightly so.
Perhaps the fascination of a rainbow is the fact you never really know when or where one will appear ?
And when they do they can be fast and fleeting, here for a few seconds and gone the next. On rare occasions they will be there for longer periods of time and I have personally witnessed rainbows lasting as long as 30 minutes before, but these are few and far between.
Perhaps the only guaranteed time one will come out is when I'm at work stuck in the office without a camera and have to stare through the windows with that slowly sinking feeling on missing out on something really special, unfortunately this happens way too often.
Rainbow over Portland, Dorset.
So this illusive sky spectre is indeed prized most highly by landscape photographers and it happens to be one of my favourite things to shoot and I've learned a lot about them during my years of chasing which will hopefully help you to capture a few of your own, alas I can't help with the pot of gold at the end of it though, That, in my opinion is the capture itself of these wonderful visions.
The thrill of the chase is also a factor with this type of photography, Nothing gets the adrenalin flowing more while chasing around after one and the feeling of expectation that something might just be about to happen, Simply wonderful !
Some of the mystery of a rainbow is the fact that you are rarely seeing all of the masterpiece, only half the arc due to the way the light is refracted but those who have been lucky enough to witness a rainbow from a aeroplane for example can be treated to the full circle on rare occasions revealing the unrivalled beauty of these teasing mistresses of the sky.
I chased this shot for four years before I finally got what I was after, Horton Tower, Dorset.
So what can we do to improve our chances of capturing these illusive wonders ? Understanding them is the first step, how are they formed, what conditions are needed, what in fact are they ?
Education about rainbows starts at an early age, I still remember learning some 35 years ago at school the rhyme Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain which was the easy way to remember the order of the colours of the rainbow.