Nature Photography Tips Tricks and Techniques
Variations and How to Photograph Rainbows
View this article in its original context with photos.
Spring Has Sprung
March in the Adirondacks can either be frigid and foreboding, or warm and inviting .... all in the same day! On this particularly beautiful day, the weather started out cold and quickly warmed into the upper 40s, turning the deep snowpack into slush, and the rivers into raging, foaming monsters that you don't want to get too close to, lest they drag you into their depths.
Photographers should pay close attention to this last point. I've seen other photographers do it, and have put my own safety in jeopardy to get the perfect angle for a photo. If you live to tell about it, count yourself lucky. Even on this particular trip, I didn't get hurt, but I did get soaked up to my waist when the ice I was standing on gave way and I slid into the 34 degree water. Be careful around icy rivers !
In these photographs, there are two lessons to be learned:
In a different photography tip, I discussed bracketing, which is creating multiple versions of the same photo at different exposures. By variations, I mean changing the composition. In this case, I created variety simply by creating horizontal and vertical versions of the same photo. In other instances, you could create variations of the same photo by changing the focal length of the lens used, changing the height or position from which the photo is created, or using filters. Be creative !
- How to photograph a rainbow
Photographing a rainbow is another animal altogether. Capturing a rainbow created from a rainstorm can be as elusive as an Adirondack Lynx and you may have to "chase" a rainbow to get a good photo of it. My all-time favorite story about this appears in Galen Rowell's Mountain Light. In it, Galen describes how he literally ran after a rainbow, and ended up creating one of his most famous photographs: Rainbow Over the Potala Palace,
Lhasa, Tibet. Rainbows formed by the spray from a waterfall can be planned to a certain extent. All you need is light, and the right point of view.
Rainbows are formed when light strikes water droplets at an angle of about 40 - 42 degrees. That's why from the ground, the majority of rainbows are visible in the morning or afternoon. However, you can often find a suitable position to view a rainbow simply by changing your point of view (to the extent that the terrain allows you to do so of course). To estimate where you can see a rainbow, create a 45 degree angle with your thumb and forefinger. Start by making an "L," then close half the distance to the forefinger with your thumb. That puts you in the range of the 40 - 42 degree angle where a rainbow is formed. Now look at the ground. Hopefully you can see your shadow, if not, there is either not enough light to form a rainbow, or you're standing under a large tree. Point your forefinger in the direction of your shadow. By rotating your wrist with your thumb held at approximately 40 degrees, the arc of your thumb will approximate where you may be able to see a rainbow. As you move around, the relative position of the rainbow will change.
Now that you've found a rainbow, how do you capture it on film (or microchips)?
One final tip: It should go without saying that where there is a rainbow, there's water, and as we all know, water and cameras don't mix. Be prepared to protect your equipment from rain or spray using a commercially available hood, a garbage bag, umbrella, or whatever else is handy. Keep a dry lens cloth close at hand to clean water off the exposed glass, and a towel for your hands.
- Using a polarizing filter is probably one of the best ways to improve your chances of enhancing the colors of a rainbow in your photograph.
- Pick your background (if you can). Darker backgrounds, like a stormy sky, will help to make the rainbow more distinct in your photo. With a light colored background or bright sky, the rainbow may be all but invisible.
- Use saturated, high contrast films. As a general rule, slide film and low-speed films tend to be more saturated than print films and higher speed films.
- Use a tripod. Generally the conditions which are the best for rainbows, coupled with the use of a polarizing filter, and slow film, result in low shutter speeds. A tripod will help to ensure that you get a sharp photo.
That's it! Now turn off your computer and create some great photographs!
Stop by Again to See Next Month's Tip !