Caught Our Eyes: Capturing Rainbows

I recently came across this photograph when perusing some images from the Carol M. Highsmith Collection, and, hailing from the American West, I was cheered by its familiar landscape – not to mention the symmetry of the rainbow. As the title of the image indicates, the hint of a second rainbow is visible above the brighter arc.

Photo of double rainbow taken over desert landscape in Arizona along historic Route 66.

Double rainbow (the upper one is faint) over tiny Antares along historic U.S. Route 66 in Arizona. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith, 2017. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/highsm.49616

Curious to see how and where other photographers in the collections might have captured rainbows, I sought out more examples.

Reproducing this elusive visual phenomenon in photographic form is difficult, so it is no surprise that most other photographs in the collection display only partial rainbows. This rainbow, situated in a landscape continents away, was captured by Russian photographer Sergei M. Prokudin-Gorskii more than 100 years before Highsmith photographed the scene along Route 66.

Photograph of partial rainbow taken in color by photographer Sergei Prokudin Gorskii.

Raduga. Photo by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, 1912. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppem.01615

William Craft Brumfield, known for his photography of wooden architecture in the north of Russia, snapped this photograph showing a rainbow and its reflection in the Irtysh River in Omsk one morning in 1999.

Orange tinted view of Irtysh River, with west bank and morning rainbow, Omsk, Russia.

Panorama of Irtysh River, with west bank and morning rainbow, Omsk, Russia. Photo by William C. Brumfield, 1999. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.04061

Much further to the south and east, in the Himalayan mountains at Lachung, Sikkim, photographer Alice Kandell captured this shot.

Rainbow in foreground of photo with backdrop of lush green Himalayan mountains in background.

Rainbow in the mountains of Lachung, Sikkim. Photo by Alice Kandell, 1971. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.30228

Taken by Arnold Genthe sometime between 1906 and 1912, the following photograph displays a rainbow at the Grand Canyon that is nearly the mirror image of the one in the above photograph by Kandell. All of these photographs demonstrate that wherever and whenever a picture is taken, a rainbow enhances a scene.

Rainbox over view of Grand Canyon butte.

Rainbow at the Grand Canyon. Photo by Arnold Genthe, between 1906 and 1912. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.03114                     

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