Sunday 14 September 2008


The nature of the light in the outdoors can make the difference between the mundane and the magical, the pleasant and the spectacular. Dull days with grey skies and flat light that takes away sharpness and clarity, reducing everything to an amorphous undefined mass, are often uninspiring and even dispiriting. Yet even on such days the light can change fast, transforming a scene from uninteresting to exciting. Such a day occurred last week. The weather forecast being for rain and cloud and the skies outside verifying this I headed for the local Hills of Cromdale rather than venturing further afield and plodded through the heather to the highest summit, Creagan a’Chaise. A cool wind swept the moorland and squalls of rain blasted in from the west, drenching the already saturated land. The high Cairngorms were hidden in dense cloud. I sheltered behind the big summit cairn for a snack and watched the rain storms blotting out the woods and fields below as they raced past. A rainbow curved over Strathspey then faded. Further away I caught a glimpse of colour beside the dark pointed peak of Ben Rinnes out towards the coast. The colour grew into a smear of rainbow hanging in the air. From below rays of white bright light appeared to shoot upwards, illuminating the rainbow. These crepuscular rays, sometimes called god beams, are shafts of sunlight contrasting with air in shadow. No sun was visible though and the sky behind the light beams was dark. The effect was quite unreal and strange, especially given the general colourless and insipid light all around.

Photographers often talk of photographing light rather than anything physical. Now whilst the right light is essential to a good photograph the subject matter is usually important too. In this case the light really was all and I isolated it with a telephoto lens to make the image above. As the land round about was grey and lifeless images I took at a wider angle do not have the same impact. I used a polarising filter to bring out the colours of the rainbow (in shots without the polariser the rainbow is hardly visible so the polariser helped make the scene more like the one I actually saw) but did not do any post processing of the image.

Photo info: Canon EOS 450D, Canon EF-S 55-250 mm @250mm, f8@1/640, ISO 400, polarising filter, raw file converted to JPEG in DxO Optics Pro.


  1. Wonderful shot Chris. It's great when a walk on a dreich day gives you a moment like that.
    Mike fae Dundee.

  2. Fab shot. Must make even the dullest tv addict want to venture out. Nice to know how you captured it too. It lasted a little while to allow you to play with different lenses and filters as well.


  3. Chris, "stunning stuff". No words needed than that.