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Double Rainbow, Yosemite Valley

Posted by
Gary Hart (California, United States) on 1 July 2009 in Landscape & Rural and Portfolio.

In my last post I extolled the virtues of the telephoto lens. So what better image to follow with than a 17mm wide angle shot? (For the details of the capture of this rainbow over Yosemite Valley, read my May 30 blog:

I rarely (virtually never) go this wide at Yosemite's Tunnel View, but this is one of those rare Tunnel View images where the view of Yosemite Valley is not the primary subject. Instead, the obvious point of the image is the magnificent double rainbow (perhaps you noticed) arcing from El Capitan to Silver Strand Fall. When photographed this wide, Yosemite Valley shrinks into the distance and becomes simply background (albeit a pretty spectacular one) for the rainbow.

Wide angle images have great potential for drama. And while a wide angle lens shrinks distant subjects, wide images that fill the frame with their subject are particularly dramatic. I typically don't have the benefit of a rainbow to fill my frame, so I usually try to put something significant in the close foreground of my wide shots. But clearly that wasn't necessary here, and the result was an image that at least comes close to conveying the drama of the moment.

But enough analysis. Another point this image has illustrated for me is the mutual awareness and appreciation throughout the community of professional landscape photographers. Landscape photography is a pretty solitary endeavor that makes it easy for all of us to feel like we're working in a vacuum. But I enjoy viewing the work of my peers, admiring their good fortune when they experience something special, and appreciating their skill at capturing these moments with their unique eye--it's heartening to know that they're similarly interested in my work. As word of my Yosemite Valley rainbow experience spread, I started hearing from respected colleagues with whom I rarely have direct contact. Their genuine excitement for my success is a reminder of our unspoken connection, and the vicarious pleasure we all derive from the good fortune of our colleagues.

Above all else landscape photographers do what we do for love, with fortune and fame way down (or completely off) the list. We try our hardest to capture the best nature can serve up, but once we master our craft and learn how to anticipate light and conditions, there's no further shortcut to nature's magic. For every special moment we're able to share with the world, there are hundreds of frustrations when circumstances and conditions didn't quite align. But even the worst day of photography is still a day outdoors. And all the frustrations and failures with the camera only make these moments when Mother Nature delivers her best that much more worthwhile.

Next post: July 6 (please view my previous posts by clicking the arrow in the upper left of today's image)

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Thanks for visiting. Even if I don't respond, your comments are always read and appreciated.

dobbino from Cape Town, South Africa

Another superb photo, with great narrative yet again. Just one question, if you don't mind, did you use a polarizing filter for this shot - the rainbows (especially the primary) are just so crisp and clear?

1 Jul 2009 6:48am

@dobbino: Yes, Rob, I used a polarizer. I use a polarizer for most daytime shots (I have one on each lens) because I find it usually helps at least a little. Since I'm always on a tripod, the loss of light isn't a concern. I only remove it at night, or when subject movement is a concern (as with wind or water). Of course anyone keeping polarizers on their lenses all the time as I do must rotate it each time they recompose or risk making the result worse than if they used no polarizer.

Rajesh from Bangalore, India

Fabulous capture. Very rare to see double rainbows.

1 Jul 2009 10:11am

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

My jaw dropped when I saw this, Gary! I can only imagine what you must have been feeling when shooting this! I love the story of your Father's rainbow, and I know what a special moment this must have been. (Congratulations!

1 Jul 2009 1:25pm

@Tracy: Thanks, Tracy.

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Wow. Absolutely awe-inspiring image! It must have been an exciting moment for you! Thank you for sharing this with us!

1 Jul 2009 2:11pm

@Elora: Thank you, Elora. Believe me, the pleasure is all mine. :)

Abraham Siloé from Puebla, Mexico

very nice landscape, like it, well done
hope you visit my photoblog

1 Jul 2009 3:13pm

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Phenomenal photograph, Gary. We almost never see shots that include Silver Strand Fall. The light is absolutely exquisite. To create a photograph in the Valley, one of the most photographed places in the world, that is captivating is very difficult.

1 Jul 2009 5:13pm

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

I love your spectacular photo, Gary, and also love that you voiced your joy in viewing another photographers' good fortune with landscape photography ... and theirs for yours. This is not a venue for competition or jealousy, but an area to praise others when we can appreciate their talent (and a little luck, perhaps). :D
Thank you!

1 Jul 2009 9:41pm

Onlymehdi from Wayne, United States

One of the best i have ever seen

1 Jul 2009 9:55pm

Dawn from Maryland, United States

Absolutely beautiful!

1 Jul 2009 10:58pm

Jennifer from United Kingdom

This is an absolutely incredibly photo... Great capture. The Yosemite Valley is actually a place I want to visit with my camera one day!

1 Jul 2009 11:08pm

@Jennifer: Thanks, Jennifer. I promise you won't be disappointed whenever you visit, but if you can plan a trip that's not in the summer you'll avoid the crowds that make Yosemite difficult. October through April are best, and also are quite photogenic. The waterfalls are best in spring, but there's much more to photograph in Yosemite than waterfalls.

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

Awesome double rainbow.

2 Jul 2009 10:48am

Shahryar from Isfahan, Iran

good hunter.
great shot.superb really ;)

2 Jul 2009 5:57pm

Giovanni from Milan, Italy

Absolutely wonderful!! Stunning view abd fantastic capture!

2 Jul 2009 7:31pm

pernilla from Andonno, Italy

Double beauty! Absolutely stunning capture.

3 Jul 2009 5:43am

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

Absolutely breathtaking!

10 Jul 2009 1:59am

the belgians from gent, Belgium


10 Jul 2009 2:46pm

moodaholic from Denmark

It is hard to capture a rainbow and also successfully make an awesome composition. You did it!

11 Jul 2009 1:25pm

Babzy from Besançon, France

just exceptional !

11 Dec 2009 7:30am