But when it does, go Rainbow Hunting!


There have been times throughout history when rain has fallen upon the Central Valley.  Yes, it’s true.  Not often, but it does happen.  And when it does rain, we end up with some unique and amazing photographic opportunities.  The most beautiful of these: Rainbows.
Read the blog for some tips on how to photograph a rainbow. Please know, aside from the first tip, you don’t have to remember any of these tips, or pull out a manual in “How to Photograph a Rainbow”.  Just shoot the rainbow!  Shoot it before it vanishes.  A picture that you took of a rainbow is always better than not taking the picture because you were worried that you wouldn’t do it right!
Here’s a mini lesson in rainbow-ology. A rainbow occurs when there are three conditions:  
•   It’s raining or misting outside.  A rainy day,or a quick rainstorm. (if that’s happening inside, you’ve got big problems).
•   The sun must be positioned on the horizon at a low angle.
•   The part of the sky where the sun is must be free from clouds and obstructions
Ok, so that’s not a very scientific explanation.  That is because we’re Horn Photo, not Horn College of Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology.

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1. What do I need to photograph a rainbow?

Requirement number one.  You need a camera.  What more is there to say.  We’ll get to the technicals in a bit.  But setting, lenses and composition don’t do much good if you don’t have a camera. If you don’t already carry your camera around, you are missing out on capturing rare sightings such as:
•   Rainbows
•   Bald Eagles
•   Brittney Spears
•   Pterodactyls
“What if I have really great camera equipment, but I don’t feel comfortable taking it with me everywhere?”
It is understandable if you don’t want to carry your super-fine expensive gear with you all the time.  (If you have such gear, we hope that you got it at Horn Photo.)  
Think about this:  You can purchase small extra carry-around camera by spending a minimal amount of your net worth.  
Click our link for an all-purpose affordable camera that you can carry in your car.

2. What’s the best lens to use to shoot a rainbow?

What lenses do you have with you? If your camera has a fixed lens, then by all means use that lens.  It will work fine.  Don’t try to pry it off with a crowbar and put another lens on it.  You will regret it.  
If you have a camera with interchangeable lenses, then read on.
Your lens choice depends on the rainbow.  Is it one of those rainbows that goes from horizon to horizon?  Do you have an unobstructed view, such as on a rural road? Does it have a pot of gold at the end? Is it a double rainbow?  If so,then a wide angle lens is best.  The more you can get into the frame the better. 24mm might be enough, but more likely 12 or 16mm is a better choice.
If all you can see is a section of the rainbow, but it’s awesome, none-the-less, or it’s plunging right into a building or tree or some other feature in the landscape, then a wide angle lens is not necessary. You may want to zoom in close up on the rainbow and it’s immediate surroundings.  
Here’s a link to our lenses:

3. What settings should I use when shooting a rainbow?

The most important setting when photographing a rainbow will be your aperture.  We recommend that you put your camera on Aperture Priority and set it to f/8 or f/11.  This will maximize your depth of field so that the foreground and background is sharp. That means your rainbow will also be in focus.  If you have your shutter speed and ISO set to Auto, you should get a good shot. Make sure your shutter speed doesn’t go slower than 1/30th of a second, unless you have a tripod, or you are as steady as a fence post.   
If you’ve had several cups of coffee, or snorted a bunch of meth, then you’ll need a much higher shutter speed, like 1/2000th of a second.

4. How can I make the rainbow look as good in the picture as it does in real life?

A polarizing filter can help. It may enhance your image by bringing out the brightness and color of the rainbow, against the backdrop of the sky.
It’s important to check the position of the polarizing filter, otherwise you could completely eliminate the rainbow!   Rotate it so that the  rainbow pops, and not vanishes.  Check your images right after you take them to make sure.   Think about it. The opposite of a rainbow bringing good luck is your polarizing filter spun in the wrong direction and you came home with a sky minus the rainbow.  
A polarizing filter reduces the light going into your camera.  Therefore, keep in mind, that if it’s getting pretty dark outside, don’t use a polarizing filter.
We say these things to help, and not to scare you from using a polarizing filter.  They are easy to use and very effective in bringing out features such as rainbows, skies and water.  If you have interchangeable lenses, then they are well worth the investment.
Here’s a link to our polarizing filters:

5. Do I need a tripod?

It certainly helps to have a tripod or mono-pod, and here’s why:
Rainbows most often occur in low-light situations.  In order for a rainbow to happen, there has to be rain or mist, and that means there are clouds in the sky in the area of the rainbow.  If it’s raining or misting and there are no clouds anywhere, them make your final preparations,because it probably means the end of the world is imminent.  
Let’s continue, being that the subject is rainbows, and not doom and gloom.  
In addition to clouds, the sun is low in the sky, so that means it’s either early or late in the day.  The lower the light, the longer the shutter speed. That means your camera needs to be super steady.  The best way to keep your camera steady is by you not holding it.
But, if you don’t have a tripod, don’t despair!   Take the rainbow pictures anyway.  If you stay in your car, turn off the engine. The engine will create a vibration that can make your image blurry.  
Steady yourself as best you can. Lean against an object.  Make sure that object will not move.  Do not lean against loose barbed wire or a cow.   You will not get a good picture, plus you’ll be sorry for other reasons.  
Here’s a link to our tripods and mono-pods:

6. How should I compose my rainbow shot?

Composition is important when it comes to any landscape shot including rainbows.  If you’re driving on Blackstone, heading for Nees to go to Horn Photo, and a portion of a bright rainbow appears right over the Liquid Fetish Tattoo Shop, well, then your composition is limited by where you are and the obstructions that you have no control over.  But, you still have the Liquid Fetish Tattoo Shop being lit up by the tail end of a rainbow.  Take the shot!  It’s interesting.  
Then go inside the shop to see if there’s a pot of gold.  If not, the rainbow may be a sign for you to finally get that tattoo of a leprechaun on your butt-cheek.
If you are on a country road, and you see a full rainbow, see if you can find an object that you can place in the photo, such as a small tree, a barn, a split rail fence, a mountain peak, or something else will add interest to the image. Try to leave some room in the image on each side of the rainbow, including above and below. Your picture will look the best if it’s of a whole scene that includes your rainbow. Yes.  Your rainbow.  If you’re able to capture it in a picture, then it becomes yours.

7. What if it is raining? Should I go rainbow hunting?  

By all means!
If it’s raining, there’s a chance you might be able to find a rainbow.
It’s not that often that you can set aside an afternoon driving around looking for a rainbow.  Unless you’re a rainbow chaser.  If you are, let us know, because you’ll be the first one in the Central Valley.  
Rainbow hunting can be fun, however, more likely than not, you’ll see a rainbow when you’re not looking for one, so it’s good to be prepared.  With a little knowledge, and a camera, you should be able to capture your rainbow! 

That’s it for now!  Thanks for reading.