Badlands National Park – Double Rainbow at Pinnacles Overlook

These images are from a trip to Badlands National Park in September of 2017. As is typically the case, sunrise and sunset images provide the best light, but there are exceptions.

Feature Image Details

The feature image and the next three images that follow were taken minutes before sunset.

There are at least six cars in the parking lot that I can make out in the feature images. At least another six left within ten minutes of these images.

It was raining hard the sky was 99.5% overcast. No one else got out of their car.

If one was not down at the canyon edge, there was no shot except for the parking lot and road.

The image immediately above was taken right at sunset. You can see the sliver of a hole the sun hit to create the rainbow. When I got out of the car, the only hole was way to the right. The gap lengthened horizontally just as I arrived at the above location. I did not expect this to happen, nor did anyone else, but I took a chance, and I got wet.

Just as the sun hit the sliver of a hole, it stopped raining on me but it did keep raining in the distance. That’s what it takes to make a rainbow. You do not see rainbows looking towards the sun. The apex of the rainbow is 180 degrees from the sun.

Decision Time

I walked down to the location with a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens on my camera. It was not wide enough to catch that complete rainbow. When the sun hit the hold, I did not know if I had 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or two minutes, but I knew I did not have longer than that.

I  wanted that full rainbow image badly, so I took a chance and changed lenses. Taking an extra 15 seconds to change lenses in fleeting light is a huge gamble but it paid off.  I grabbed two quick shots, changed lenses back again, and rushed over to the ledge where I took the second rainbow image.

Note the foreground. Imagine the image without the railing. Extreme wide angle lenses must have a strong foreground. I used the railing because it was all that was available on the left side of the frame. I hopped over the railing to take this image.

Seconds later the light faded. I estimate I had about 90 seconds to photograph the rainbow. Had one been in their car, it would have taken most of that time to get down to the location where I was.

I had more time for the third image, as in several minutes. The rainbow was gone but the clouds in the West started glowing. It’s hard to tell from these images, but it really was 99.5% socked-in gray. That little hole provided the magic.

The third image is an exposure composite, one of the foreground, the other of the sky.

More Badlands Images

This is my second in a series on the Badlands. Please also check out Badlands National Park – Castle Trail and Notch Trail Images.


Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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