Mother nature is on fire these days! As a follow-up to Tuesday’s gorgeous lunar eclipse, I was fortunate to catch a shot of this spectacular end-to-end rainbow over the Bay Bridge. Since there is so much chatter about it being real or fake or completely imagined, I thought I would share the anatomy of how I took and processed this shot.
When the rainbow first appeared it was quite faint in the middle. I actually grabbed my iPhone first and started snapping shots.
Over the next few minutes, the rainbow grew stronger and formed a complete end to end rainbow across the sky… I grabbed my 5DMKII and started furiously snapping away at around 1/80 at f/8.0 ISO 100 with my beautiful 16-35mm lens. After the rainbow faded, I imported the photos into Lightroom.
I always use compare mode in the library to view the images in side-by-side comparison. It makes it much easier to pick the best shot, which in this case was the one on the right with the most sunlight and vibrant rainbow.
After choosing my favourite, I did basic RAW processing in Lightroom. Straight out of the camera, RAW images look flat — lacking contrast and saturation of colours. RAW images do not represent what your eye sees, which is why you have to process them to bring out details, contrast, and saturation of colours. For this image, I wanted the contrast to be quite heavy. I increased the contrast to +100 so that the shadows of the building would stand out in the water and the clouds in the sky would be more distinct. I also increased the vibrance to +30 to liven up the entire image and make the rainbow look more like what it did in real life.
After I pulled a bit of colour and contrast into the photo, I exported the file into Photoshop (command+e). Immediately, I noticed all of the lovely rain splotches and streaks from the window, including a giant dark spot in the middle of the rainbow. I used the healing and clone brushes to zap those splotches.
The streaks were hard to completely clean up, but I used a fine clone brush set to a 50% opacity to try to preserve the details as much as possible.
On areas that were a bit too smudged I used the lasso tool to select the area and added a noise filter of 1.1% to make them blend a bit more into the original picture. After I cleaned the image up, I duplicated the layer and set the blending mode to Overlay 85% to bring out more details in the sky. I wanted the buildings to remain as is, so I added a mask to the layer and painted them out.
I’m a big fan of highly saturated colour, so I increased the saturation +30 at 75% Opacity. This is where I’m taking a few leniences with reality. I think it adds to the surrealism of the shot, but you can experiment with it to find a good balance for you in your photos.
I wanted the clouds to stand out even more so I created a Curves layer and pulled the middle up to 136, 113. Then, I inverted the layer (command+i) and used a white brush to accent the white areas of the clouds. I repeated this with a Curves layer set to 101, 138 to accentuate the darker clouds.
I then imported the photo back into Lightroom by saving the file. For the final touches, I increased the Clarity +11 (to give the bridge a bit more contrast and sharpness), reduced the Noise a smidge by tweaking Luninance +15 and added a Vignette -11. I always add a subtle vignette to all my photos to draw the eye into the centre of the image.
Hope this helped you get a bit of insight behind my work flow and how I created this image. Processing is subject to personal taste, and what looks like the perfect image to me might look like a hot mess to someone else. For me, vibrant colours, high contrast, and emphasizing certain eye catching points in photos is part of my photographic style that I’ve developed over the years. :)