Photographer Captures Colorful “Moonbows” That Happen in the Moonlight at Waterfalls

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

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.

Brian Hawkins has been photographing moonbows at Yosemite National Park for over a decade.

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

He also spent six years working on a film to show these lunar rainbows in real-time.

His website, Yosemite Moonbow, shares his predictions and tips for seeing and photographing moonbows.

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

Yosemite Moonbow by Brian Hawkins

Brian Hawkins: Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Brian Hawkins.

Related Articles:

Photographer Captures a Rainbow and Lightning Bolt in One Incredible Shot

Behind the Scenes of This Extraordinary Photo of the Milky Way Over Yosemite

‘Brocken Spectre’ Is a Rare Yet Beautiful Optical Phenomenon of a Radial Rainbow

Photographer Captures Rare Moment When Yosemite Waterfall Transforms Into a Stream of Fire

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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