How to shoot a rainbow?


How to shoot a rainbow?

You might think that here in the UK you’re unlikely to be able to shoot dramatic weather conditions, but Mark insists that one of his favourite topics remains the rainbow. We’ve all seen one, but how many of us have ever captured a really great photo of one? Although it’s tricky to predict exactly where a rainbow will appear, we can increase our chances by checking weather maps for a rainstorm with its edge nearing your location. Bright sunlight is also a must, so spring and summer are best and, finally, the sun needs to be at a low angle so that its light can refract through the water droplets, so early morning or late afternoons are ideal.

Finally, in terms of composition, you need to be facing the edge of the rainstorm with the sun at your back. ‘Rainbows can be very rewarding. Most of my images have tended to be reactive, but it is possible to foresee and plan a rainbow shot. To capture a rainbow I would choose a day with isolated rain showers forecast,’ says Mark. ‘This allows a combination of light and water to generate the rainbow. I wait until the sun is lower in the sky (towards end of day), then using a radar app on my smartphone I intercept an isolated rain shower or storm. As the dark black clouds pass and the sun appears, the chances of witnessing rainbows are good. Positioning myself between the sun and storm (with the clouds moving away from the sun), I always try to capture the entire arc of the rainbow using a wideangle lens, and also a close zoom shot of where it touches the ground. A circular polariser will help to distinguish the colours.’ With weather photography like this, you are unlikely to get a second chance, so you need to be ready to take a photo at any moment. For this, Mark recommends a few simple techniques: ‘Extreme weather photography generally offers a small subject time window. I find it very useful to think ahead in terms of camera settings and composition. The very nature of this genre induces an adrenalin rush and it is so easy to forget the basics during an exciting storm chase. It is at these crucial periods when more reliance must be put on the camera and less on human instinct. ‘Set your camera to aperture-priority mode with a mid-range setting of around f/5.6, then compose with the land in the bottom third of the frame and sky in the top two-thirds. Use foreground neutral colours (wheat, corn, dry grass fields) and include an object (building, vehicle, tree, road sign) for scale, as otherwise it can be quite challenging to portray the intensity and size of the storm. Including a vehicle, person or tree in the frame works well, and gives a sense of ‘man vs nature’. Finally, there will be little or no time for bracketing, so expose for those neutral foreground colours.’


To capture the strength and vastness of an entire rainbow, the key elements are a short focal length (you’ll need 20mm to capture a full rainbow) and a good location. Often in England, obstacles such as trees and buildings obscure the skyscape, so finding a location that is fl at and open is paramount. As rainbows occur in environments that include sunlight and water, metering can be a challenge. Typically, set your camera to underexpose the shot; too often large areas of white cloud can appear bleached out if not metered correctly. Additionally, glare is often a factor from other sources such as wet roads. It’s often not feasible to eradicate all burned-out areas, but if you have good post-production tools then underexposing by up to 3 stops can yield much better end results.



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Photography Workshop: How to shoot a rainbow?
How to shoot a rainbow?
How to shoot a rainbow?
Photography Workshop
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