It had been raining but had just stopped, late in the day. We turned East onto the short dead-end street we live on and my wife told me that we should check for rainbows. Unlike where we spent some time in the midwest, here the skies aren't so open and panoramic, so you don't just glance through the windshield, you really do get out and check.
As soon as she said something, I knew she was right. It was the light. The light was golden. No other way to describe it - the light was golden, blatantly golden, and that's rainbow light. Back in the midwest, I once saw that light when looking out of the garage with my son after a rain, immediately took him outside in a hurry, and saw rainbows so spectacular that they ended up on the front page of the local newspaper in black and white and they were still blatantly visible. Those were so amazing that they lasted for long enough for us to get bored watching them. (The region we were in was not pretty in general, but the skies were huge, panoramic, spectacular. A little after I got out of college, a woman who'd grown up in Nebraska came out to the DC area to work for my father and me and she told me the East made her a bit claustrophobic because you couldn't see the sky. Until I spent some time in the midwest I didn't understand what she was talking about. Now I do.)
"Them?" Yeah, them. Double rainbows. Have you ever seen a double rainbow? My wife was right; we pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, looked in the Eastern sky, and there they were. These weren't the absolute best I've seen, but they were by far the best I've seen here. Knock-on-the-next-door-neighbor's-door good. (I did. I don't believe in wasting rainbows.) The lower rainbow, the main, more vivid one, a full arc, end to end, the two-pot-of-gold kind.
If you ever get lucky enough to see one of these, notice a couple of things about them. The first is that the spectra run in opposite directions, kind of difficult to see here because these photos probably won't be detailed enough. A normal rainbow is red on the outer edge and violet on the inner. A second, outer, less vivid rainbow is red on the inner edge and violet on the outer, so the gap between the two is bordered by red on both sides. Another, and I didn't notice this phenomenon with this rainbow, is that the light under the arch is a different color than the light outside the arch, clearly delineated, so that the arch feels like a gigantic portal.
They're easy to miss. There's no huge trumpet sound announcing them or anything, even though it feels like there should be. They're just there, and then pieces of them aren't, and then they aren't. If the sun comes out after a rain late in the day, and because the light is so late, because the sun's angle is so shallow that its light comes through way more atmosphere than at midday, the color of the light itself shifts and it isn't exactly white any more, it's golden, then you'll sometimes see them. Do you know about Monet's Haystacks? He painted that phenomenon. He noticed that changing light meant that the same haystacks were literally a different color at different times of the day. This wasn't artistic license, it was reporting.
Such a buildup, but they're shots I snapped with my I-Phone because that's what I had when I got out of the car. My wife's the photographer in the family. I've been blessed with a really good ear but not a really good eye. I snapped five times and I've included my results here.
Those were mine. Here are my wife's, also on an I-Phone:
My wife took one extra picture. These are of course all pictures of the Eastern sky. She turned around and got one of the Western sky, the light that was producing this:
Photographs taken Wednesday, August 22, 2012