In 2016, Melvin Nicholson, a British photographer was out working on the Rannoch Moor, south of Glencoe in Western Scotland. In a moment he described as “magical”, Nicholson witnessed and captured a stunning natural phenomenon – a white, colorless rainbow caused by fog in the sun’s glare, gleaming brightly in the sky. It was a sight so beautiful you could stare forever…
Nicholson, 44, is a professional landscape photographer . He has captured some of the most incredible sights in various locations around Europe. That November, he’d been exploring the Scottish mountains and taking pictures when he came across a fog bow, also called a white rainbow.
“I had been out in the morning with a friend who said he knew of this beautiful tree, the one in the center of the photograph I took,” Nicholson said to ABC News . “Then the sun started to rise behind us, burning off the mist, and at that point, the fogbow appeared. I had never seen anything like it in my 10 years capturing landscape photos around the globe or even in my 44 years of life.”
If the sun shines in your favor
Five minutes after taking the stunning shot, the fogbow fizzled out.
“I knew I had captured something fairly special when I realized how transient it was,” he said.
A fogbow occurs when extremely tiny water droplets reflect sunlight to form an arch similar to a rainbow, but without the colors. According to NASA, the fog is relatively transparent but the arch is created by the droplets that can reflect light to the observer line of sight .
A fogbow does not have colors because the water droplets are extremely small, far smaller than is required to form colored rainbows. This would cause the colors to be smeared out and only white light would be reflected. However, the fogbow is not entirely colorless. Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the bow is lightly fringed with red on the outside and blue on the inside, according to the National Weather Service.
Nonetheless, it’s still a stunning sight to behold.
“It’s an amazing thing to witness and can generally only be seen if the sun is behind you when you are looking at it,” Nicholson said to BBC . “It was just beyond magical and one of those days that you’ll remember for a long time to come.”
Nature’s perfect setting
No one plans a scene better than Mother Nature herself. When Nicholson captured the rainbow, the scene had already been completed with the snow-covered rocks and the isolated, windswept tree in the middle of an endless moor.
According to BBC, another fogbow was captured in Cairn Lochan, Moray, Scotland, by a climber named Andy Luke. In his words: “It was quite amazing.”
Here’s to a coming season of love, family, and endless fogbows.
- Avianne Tan. Photographer Captures Stunning Shot of Rare White Rainbow Over Moor in Scotland. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/International/photographer-captures-stunning-shot-rare-white-rainbow-moor/story?id=43738018&cid=share_facebook_widget. Retrieved 26-11-19
- APOD. Astronomy Picture of the Day. NASA. https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080529.html. Retrieved 26-11-19
- Editor. Amazing white rainbow snapped over Scottish moor. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-38063662. Retrieved 26-11-19