Most of us have heard of rainbows, but have you ever heard of a moonbow? Photographer Brian Hawkins certainly has. In fact, he's been photographing these rainbows created by moonlight since 2011. His main stomping ground is in Yosemite National Park, where the spray given off by waterfalls gets enough moonlight to create this special phenomenon.
Hawkins has gotten so skilled at predicting these moonbows that he's even set up a helpful website to share his findings. This is because while moonbows happen as frequently as rainbows, it can be harder for us to see them in low light.
“In practice, it is easiest to see them when the moon is almost full on a clear night while standing near the mist of a waterfall,” he shares. “I recommend looking when the moon is within two days of being 100% full. If you are lucky enough to capture it, moonbows during a supermoon are even more intense.”
Hawkins' moonbow website does an excellent job of explaining what photographers can expect when they see this special occurrence. This is important because lunar rainbows don't look like one might expect at first glance.
“To the human eye, moonbows typically look dull and colorless, appearing as a gray arc in the mist of the waterfall,” he writes. “This is because human color vision sensitivity is reduced in low light environments. The photograph below simulates what our eyes see when viewing a moonbow with our eyes for the first time. With sufficient time to adjust to the low light, the colors will become more apparent, but not as vivid as they appear to a camera.”
Hawkins gives us an inside glimpse of these lunar rainbows in real-time with his new spectacular short film. Seeing the colors dance in the moonlight, with the falls on display, is truly incredible. The film is something that he's been working on since 2016 and the result is well worth the wait. It's also further evidence that Hawkins has become an expert in moonbows over the last decade.