Share this photo on Twitter Share this photo on Facebook

Lunar Moonbow Over Yosemite Falls

Posted by
Don Smith (California, United States) on 11 May 2009 in Landscape & Rural.

A unique phenomenon, a lunar rainbow, occurs every spring in Yosemite Valley during the period of the full moonrise when heavy snowmelt swells Yosemite Creek causing huge volumes of water to spill over the lip of Yosemite Falls, the world's fifth tallest waterfall (a total distance of 2425 feet or 739 meters).

Most humans cannot see the color diffracting in the mist, but thanks to linear color sensors, the color can be recorded as evidenced in this image. This is the first time I have captured a full arc from this location near the Sentinel Bridge parking area across from Cook's Meadow. This image was captured during a workshop I was co-teaching with Gary Hart.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III 15 second F/2.8 ISO 400 54 mm

My Website: "how to" articles, 2018 WORKSHOP LISTINGS, galleries, stock photos, and more...

Moridi from Tehran, Iran

Very beautiful shot.
Thank you.

11 May 2009 6:16am

@Moridi: You are welcome Moridi.

Nerise from South Africa

Wow, I would love to see something like this! Exellent shot once again Don!

11 May 2009 6:56am

@Nerise: Therein lies the rub Nerise, with the naked eye, you would not see this, only a faint grey bow. I have had it explained to me (by other doctors) that our cone receptors, which transmit color signals to the brain, are not equipped to handle this low illumination level, thus our rods, of which we have millions, end up sending B&W signals to our brain. Thanks to digital sensors, and the absence of reciprocity failure, the color is captured!

Judy from Brooksville, Florida, United States

EXQUISITE, Don ... from the stars at the top to the gorgeous color of the moonbow ... at least what I could see in the thumbnail. I cannot get more than the stars and the very top of the waterfall to load, so I'll come back later. I hope this is just the beginning of some wonderful images from your workshop!

11 May 2009 8:10am

@Judy: HI Judy, I have actually been on the road for the better part of a month shooting in Utah, Arizona, Big Sur and finishing in Yosemite. I have a lot of editing to get through in the next three weeks.

Elora from Genoa, Italy

Wow, absolutely incredible! This is a wonderful and unique shot! 5 stars!!

11 May 2009 11:05am

@Elora: Thank you Elora. I have been shooting moonbows for quite some time, but the volume of water this year made them quite visible!

Marion from Cincinnati, United States

truly amazing and beautiful. Fantastic capture, Don!

11 May 2009 11:28am

@Marion: Thanks Marion, you'll have to put Yosemite in the spring on your "to do" list. It is truly an amazing sight to capture!

Monte Stevens from Westerville, United States

Very nice and I've never heard of this before.

11 May 2009 11:46am

@Monte Stevens: Hi Monte, it will actually work with any waterfall where the moon aligns behind the photographer (same as shooting daytime rainbows). I've seen some beautiful moonbow images made at Niagara Falls.

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

Wow! Fantastic!!!

11 May 2009 1:55pm

@Ana Lúcia: Thank you Ana, hope all is well with you.

LauraS from Chico, United States

Incredible shot, Don. Thanks for all the explanation, too. Wonderful to see the rainbow, and the stars out at the same time.

11 May 2009 3:36pm

@LauraS: Thanks to digital capture we can see it, to my eyes, the color was not recognizable that evening.

Lee from Fort Frances Ontario, Canada

A superb capture. Thank you for the narrative. You are extremely fortunate to have successfully documented this phenomenon. Bravo.

11 May 2009 4:22pm

@Lee: Thank you Lee for your comments. Moments like this in nature are special, I am blessed to have an opportunity to be present with my camera.

john4jack from Corvallis, Oregon, United States

Absolutely stunning, Don. Fantastic stars in the gorgeous blue sky.

11 May 2009 5:02pm

@john4jack: Thanks you Jack, check out the image by Gary Hart also posted on this site.

Scott Schilling from San Martin, United States

Don, absolutely wonderful photograph and composition! Great work on this one! See you this pm.

11 May 2009 5:36pm

@Scott Schilling: Hi Scott, nice to see you yesterday. It has been a tough week for me and to see a smiling face was uplifting. Hope you can make it to Yosemite in a couple weeks.

Alun from Cheshire, United Kingdom

Fantastic long exsposure

11 May 2009 10:06pm

@Alun: Thanks Alun.

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

wonderful shot indeed! great explanation too - interesting that about how we perceive colours - one learns something new everyday! the colours here are truly superb and i like the quality of the light thanks to the extended exposure!

12 May 2009 6:37am

@DarkElf: I believe one of the true benefits of digital capture comes at low light illumination levels thanks to linear capture. For those of you who ever tried to expose a sheet of chrome film, you knew the difficulties of dealing with reciprocity failure (exposure and color shifts). There is no falloff of exposure or changes in color with a linear sensor.

Marie LC from Voiron, France

Tout à fait lunaire en effet ! et beau

12 May 2009 8:16am

@Marie LC: Thank you Marie!

shoti from Everywhere in the, Philippines

absolutely fantastic!

12 May 2009 1:36pm

@shoti: Thank you Shoti.

Tracy from La Selva Beach, United States

Oh my gosh! I really need to go on one of your workshops!!! This is exquisite!

12 May 2009 1:45pm

@Tracy: Hi Tracy, Gary and I would love to have you join us. Night photography is something we try to do in every workshop we offer. The workshops are intensive, but a lot of fun. Let us know when you are ready to join in.

Sergei Z from Türi, Estonia

for me it looks majestic! Amazing capture! I dream about such images....

12 May 2009 6:18pm

@Sergei Z: Perhaps a spring trip to Yosemite one of these years?

Magda from Vancouver, Canada

Wow! This is amazing! Breathtaking!

13 May 2009 6:07am

@Magda: Hi Magda, thanks for leaving a comment, I hope all is well with you.

Jason Kravitz from Brussels, Belgium

Nice to see this from two different views - must have been spectacular in person!

14 May 2009 8:39am

dkc from Xanthi, Greece

This is a piece of photographic art! Long exposure photo at its best!

17 May 2009 8:48pm