Get ready for a treat as filmmaker Brian Hawkins recently released a visually stunning short film about the lunar rainbows that form at night in the waterfalls of Yosemite National Park. Sierra News reports that Hawkins used his background in aerospace engineering to develop a 3D model to visualize where and when lunar arcs would form to plan his photographic compositions. The first-of-its-kind footage was captured during eleven visits to Yosemite since 2016, giving viewers insight into phenomena that previously could only be experienced in person. In 2018, Hawkins created a website to share information so visitors could reliably know when to see moon arcs at popular locations in the park. If you want to see one for yourself, check out this information GO HERE.
Have you ever seen a rainbow at night? Moonbows (aka lunar rainbows) are a rare and fascinating phenomenon caused by the light of a full moon shining on rain or spray from a large waterfall. This one-of-a-kind video captures Yosemite National Park’s famous lunar arcs in a way never before seen – filming at real-time speed!
Until recently, the only way to shoot in the moonlight was to use timelapse to gain more light through longer exposures. While timelapse is a useful filming technique, the rapid motion doesn’t capture the immense scale of the Yosemite waterfalls. I wanted to capture a realistic Moonbow experience using a cinematic frame rate of 24 frames per second. To achieve this goal, I started experimenting with a new camera, fast lenses, and advanced noise reduction software during the 2016 moonbow season. Every April, May, and June since then, I’ve been collecting more footage and honing my low-light shooting skills while enjoying the incredible beauty of Yosemite in the spring. In total, the footage in this video was filmed during 11 separate visits to Yosemite.
Filming at 24 frames per second allowed me to capture brief details that would be easily missed by the timelapse. The shooting star (see if you can spot it!) was my favorite fleeting moment. I also enjoyed being able to film the fine textures of falling water, the hypnotic ebb and flow of wind-blown mist, and the excited reactions of people enjoying Yosemite at night. Shooting at normal speed also allowed live audio recording of Yosemite’s nighttime soundscape.
In addition to the technical challenges of shooting the moonbows, I also needed to know when and where to see them. Like rainbows, lunar arcs require precise alignment of the light source (the full moon, in this case), an area of rain or fog in the air, and the observer. Using 3D modeling software, I developed a method to visualize when lunar arcs could be seen for a given location. These calculations helped me discover new compositions for photographing this striking phenomenon, and in 2018 I created the website YosemiteMoonbow.com so that I could share this information with others who had wanted to see the lunar arc for decades. popular viewpoints in the park.
Moon arcs are just as common in nature as rainbows, but they often go unnoticed because human vision is not as sensitive to color in low light conditions. When you first arrive at the base of the falls, you can see the arc as a gray arc in the mist, but as your eyes acclimatize to the darkness, the moon arc will become more vivid, especially when the wind intensifies the spray. Compared to humans, cameras perceive colors much better in the dark, easily revealing the hidden beauty of moonlit nights.
Capturing Yosemite’s moonbow with video wasn’t easy. These dark scenes are overkill for even the best low-light cameras, not to mention the challenges of trying to shoot quality photos while doused in water in the cold darkness of the night. But it’s all part of the moonbow experience. There’s something a little wild about going out into the forest at night to stand in the spray of a raging waterfall, but it’s still a great time!
And for me, it’s a multi-faceted appeal to my passions for science, photography and, of course, Yosemite.
Learn more about moonbows in Yosemite by visiting http://www.yosemitemoonbow.com