The moonbow at Cumberland Falls, Kentucky!
When you see the moonbow with the naked eye, it appears ghostly, almost like a silvery-white apparition, but when you capture it with the camera, all the colors of the optical spectrum appear rich and deep. To shoot a moonbow, you need to open up the shutter and use a tripod. Rick shot this photograph using an aperture of f/5, a shutter speed of 25 seconds, and an ISO of 800. If you use a flash, nothing appears because the light washes the silvery-white arc away. It was pitch dark when we took this photo at 9:38 p.m., but with the delayed shutter speed, the moonlight is enough to bring everything to life. I love the deep blue of the sky and the tiny stars winking through!
Moonbows are not common and don’t happen every evening or even every month. Things have to be “just right.” The most important requirement is a full moon—or a nearly full moon. Two days before or after work very well, which was good for us because Friday night was the night before the full moon. Next in line is a perfectly clear sky—no clouds, no haze, and even no airplane vapor trails! Complete darkness must follow. City lights kill the ghostly apparition and are the reason the lovely moonbow reported in years past at Niagara Falls was extinguished. Without water, the shy silvery arc can’t be coaxed out to play either, so a slight breeze is needed to stir the mist churned up by the falls and keep it hovering in front of you. With the water vapor suspended before you, the final requirement is that the moon hangs low in the sky behind you. It's a wonder you ever get to see a moonbow at all!
When everything comes together, a full moonbow stretches from the falls to hundreds of feet down the river. The moonbow appeared around 9:00 and was still shining bright around 11:00 when we left. There were at least 300 people there when we arrived, but the crowds thinned out a bit as the evening progressed. To get these photos, we walked down to the lower level, which was an adventure in itself considering it was pitch dark and we didn't have flashlights (the second night we did). It was so fun sliding our hands across the rocks and along the rails to help us get down the huge steps to the lower level. We made a few friends along the way because everyone is so happy and excited. You can't go wrong when you're out dancing in the moonlight!
Just a quick FYI... When they say conditions have to be "just right," they mean it! The next night was the full moon, so it should have been even better, but it wasn't. The moonbow was meager at best...a wispy tiny little arc trying its hardest to flicker into a blaze, but it just couldn't. The problem was a hazy cloud cover, then the clouds went away, but an airplane's vapor trail moved into place...and on top of that, the breeze was still and no mist filled the air in front of us. Friday night it was almost like a constant fine rain, but the air was dry Saturday night. Now and then, the silvery arc would appear in bits near the base of the falls, but it never reached the amazing intensity of the night before. I'm so happy we were there Friday night!! Really, everything does need to be in perfect alignment...
"When the moon is in the Seventh HouseAnd Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars"
…this is the dawning of the moonbow in the Cumberlands…sort of ;-)
When we woke Saturday morn the sun was streaming across the sky, and the temps were autumn cool--everything was "just right" for hiking, so we set off for Eagle Falls on Trail 9.
...finally a family portrait! I always forget to get in the picture. You can't really tell, but Cumberland Falls (often called "the Niagara of the south") is in the background.
...the Eagle Falls trail is fun and has lots of surprises along the way. Here the group marches on while I lag behind to photograph something -- a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets was foraging in the hemlock trees along the gorge. There were so many of them, and their sweet little voices were singing out all over the forest. On our way back, Rick and I paused to watch and listen, but they never did come within camera range.
...you can never go wrong with sculptural rocks...
Matty and I behind Eagle Falls. What a blast climbing on all the rocks to get there. Thank goodness I lift weights and do yoga. I don't think I would have been able to get back there if I didn't! Eagle Falls is such a pretty fall, and it seems to appear out of nowhere.
p.s. There aren't a lot of waterfalls where you can find a regularly occurring moonbow. Victoria Falls near Zimbabwe is known for its moonbow, and I read during snowmelt, a moonbow can appear at Yosemite Falls every now and then too.