Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Rainbows don’t get named

with 36 comments

Waterfalls get named. Mountains get named. Rivers get named. Deserts get named. Even people get named. Rainbows, those ephemeral creatures, get no names. Here a necessarily nameless rainbow I saw near 5 in the afternoon on May 28th after we came down from the windy top of Scott’s Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska. Whether the grasses are native, I don’t know, but the rainbow surely was.

It seems like two or even three rainbows banded together here, and I don’t know how to account for that. In checking my archives, I can confirm that multiple rainbows show up in all of the eleven pictures I took.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 1, 2017 at 5:01 AM

36 Responses

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  1. Amazing composition.


    July 1, 2017 at 5:49 AM

  2. Here in the UK we call them ‘double rainbows’… probably even if they are triple or quadruple or whatever comes after that…
    Love your photo but then I love rainbows.


    July 1, 2017 at 6:01 AM

    • Now you’ve made me wonder if there are people who don’t like rainbows or even people who are afraid of rainbows. I did a search and found a few hundred hits that mention iridophobia, fear of rainbows.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2017 at 7:11 AM

  3. I think your rainbow might have a name of sorts. It seems to be an example of a supernumerary rainbow: a phenomenon that I’ve never seen myself, but that you had the pleasure of seeing and capturing for us. This Atmospheric Optics page provides a description, and links to more complete explanatory material.

    The combination of the bow and the grasses is beautiful, especially with the extra bands of color spread out above the field.


    July 1, 2017 at 6:03 AM

    • By George, she’s got it! I’d searched for “double rainbow” but found instances of two rainbows well separated from each other, rather than banded together as they were in Nebraska. Another instance of “live and learn.”

      Supernumerary is a word that’s bound to please people who are number one in liking numbers. I’m afraid such people aren’t super numerous.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2017 at 7:42 AM

  4. We saw many short segments of rainbows while driving east in the evening through much of Nebraska. The irrigation booms near the road sprayed water high into the sunlight.

    Jim R

    July 1, 2017 at 6:56 AM

    • Did you see the short segments one at a time, or did you ever see multiple short segments at the same time? Like you, we saw plenty of irrigation booms on our trip, but none in the presence of a rainbow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2017 at 7:44 AM

  5. What a gloriously light-bending moment you captured here!


    July 1, 2017 at 7:49 AM

  6. That’s a really nice double rainbow, layered one against the other… a double-treat to smile on your day, and it became our treat as well. Thank you!

    The strangest rainbow experience I’ve ever had was when I was driving into a storm in Louisiana… A rainbow was very close ahead and I watched it as I drove closer to it. As I veered left into an S curve, the left side of the rainbow came into my car window… I was barely moving, as it was such an amazing experience, and as I rolled slow slow slowly to the right, the other side of the rainbow came into the passenger window.. It was surreal, and I was smiling and saying, “Thank you thank you thank you!”… and of course the magic ended as I drove on out of the curve and into the storm…. Horrid storm – in fact I had seen the storm ten minutes earlier and took a back road/detour in hopes of dodging it…

    • That’s such an unusual rainbow experience you had that I hope you’ve written it up in more detail—and of course illustrated it profusely.

      I wonder if it was the angle at which you were facing that determined how the rainbow looked, rather than your physical position along the S-curve. In other words, if you’d been able to get out and stand still, would turning your head side to side have sequentially caused opposite ends of the rainbow to be prominent? On the other hand, that would have removed the surreal experience of having a rainbow come into your car’s window.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 1, 2017 at 11:44 AM

      • Si, it really was surreal; I’ve told a few people about it, but most – it seems they might think, ‘no way.. she just thinks she saw that..’

        I remember it was late in the afternoon. I was heading south then turned west, then the S which took me slightly north, and that’s when the magic hit….

        It was a true mystical moment, and I felt blessed to have witnessed it.

        Unlike yesterday’s earthquake which sent most of the people on the coast into another panic mode.. all’s fine, gracias a Dios..

        • I hadn’t heard about the earthquake. Glad to hear all’s fine.

          It’s clear that your mystic rainbow made a great impression on you. Have you ever drawn or painted the event?

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 1, 2017 at 9:32 PM

          • no… it stays so clear in my mind that it’s recorded there forever! to draw or paint it – wow, that would be quite a challenge!

            • That’s what challenges are for. Perhaps someday….

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 1, 2017 at 10:22 PM

              • Si… how lucky I am that there are so many options for each day — yet so few hours! tomorrow I will be moving most of the things from my house on the river to a house in town that will be my ‘bodega’ til I figure out where to call home. Am still in the search mode…

                • You’ve heard of “Cherchez la femme.” Now it’ll be said of you that “la femme cherchait.” In the meantime, I hope your bodega bodes well.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  July 2, 2017 at 1:05 AM

  7. Perfect timing on this one!!


    July 1, 2017 at 8:34 PM

  8. What an ethereal photo. Lovely!


    July 4, 2017 at 12:57 PM

  9. Nice Rainbow! Love the composition with the grasses!

    Reed Andariese

    July 5, 2017 at 7:20 AM

    • I lucked out here, not only with the dry grasses as a counterbalance, but also with the fact that the rainbow was a supernumerary rainbow. I can’t recall if I’d ever seen one before then.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2017 at 7:30 AM

  10. I have just named this .. fabulous! 😃


    July 6, 2017 at 3:41 AM

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