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Beautiful Sunrise Full Circle Rainbow At Magilligan Point - Sept 2019

I got up before dawn and packed my gear into the van, it was still night time outside and the stars were brilliant, Orion and Sirius in particular stole the show in the pre-dawn sky. It was a shame it hadn't cleared sooner, there had been a respectable aurora display earlier in the night however cloud had obscured it for many across N. Ireland. This morning it was a different story, the cloud had gone and the air was clear, clean, and fresh with barely a breath of wind, it was exactly what I had hoped for, this would be ideal weather for aerial filming. I had looked at the long range forecast and noted a big change in the synoptics for the following week with a possible Atlantic storm and a great deal of cloud and wind so I decided I would make the most of this pleasant weather. My intention was to drive to the north coast and get footage at sunrise.

As I drove north with my eyes still a little sleepy I noticed with time that the stars were vanishing fast, a substantial glow had formed to the east, and with sunrise predicted for 07.20 UT I knew I was running out of time so I abandoned my plan of visiting the Portrush side of the Antrim coast and instead headed more NW. I ended up by pure chance at Magilligan Point at the entrance to Lough Foyle, a place where very few people could be found at this hour of the morning. On location the weather was more dynamic than the television forecast (and models for that matter) had shown, it was quite cool and there was a bone chilling NW breeze, it wasn't strong by any means however it sure cut through the layers of clothes in a hurry dropping my body temperature. There was also more cloud here than forecast and a lot of showers, in fact, there seemed to be showers, dry, showers again, dry, over and over again with clear breaks here and there, this was turning out a little more challenging than I had expected. The Met Office and Arome models both showed clear skies and sunshine here at this time for the next few hours but it didn't look so good in reality, to be honest I was a little disappointed as I felt the scene wasn't that photogenic at all and I was loosing the will fast to get the drone in the air.

The sun rose, then became obscured behind a blanket of cloud, at times the beach became briefly lit up by nice low light so I forced myself outside and made my way down to the sand, more for a walk and fresh air and exercise than anything else. The light began to improve and the sun was edging its way out from a section of cloud behind me while in front of a shower had approached from Donegal and was making a bee line in my direction, the wind picked up and I could feel water droplets in the air. Then the sun bathed the place in light and a nice rainbow formed as the shower entered the lough, I noticed the shower was very slow moving and I realized I had a potential photo opportunity unfolding so I rapidly prepped the Mavic 2 Pro.

The rainbow turned vibrant just as I got GPS and I sent the Mavic into the air, I was worried the rain would affect the drone so I backed it up a little down the beach away from the core to buy me some time, the view at 120m altitude was splendid.

As I moved the drone closer to the point I noticed that the bow was visible on the water and I sensed I was about see something special. I panned the camera straight down and immediately spied a 360 degree full circle rainbow on the water below, I moved the drone into a strategic position and began taking stills and shooting video.

What a phenomenal sight, a rich rainbow was visible on the lough directly below with the beach in frame, flowing sand and sea weed, wind-whipped white crests on the waves and the low sunrise angle.

Panning the camera up the right side (north side) of the complete bow. Just as astonishing as the rainbow was the view of the sand below the surface swirling with the dynamic incoming tide, the contrast, colours and textures were gorgeous. This on its own would have been a pretty and fascinating subject to film but the full circle rainbow with the scene just tipped the scales into the epic category. These stills are teasers and don't do the scene justice, you need to watch the full video footage below to appreciate the movement and scale of the phenomena. Witnessing this apparition from nature live on the tablet screen was beyond words, I had forgotten all about the cold breeze and was living in the moment, I felt transcended to another level during this entire experience.

The bow slowly faded from view and I came into land, the drone had raindrops on the body but otherwise was fine and by some miracle the camera was devoid of droplets also. The gamble had paid off, the early morning rise worth it, this drone rainbow was beyond anything I had expected this morning, it just goes to show that a little bit of bad weather can produce the best photo opportunities.

Please watch in a new window on youtube at 1080p HD for the best view, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. This is the third 360 degree rainbow I have captured via drone in more than three years of very active flying (currently 1057 flights). I did get a fainter one last year on the Foyle however it lacked vibrancy, my first over Lissan in Cookstown with the Phantom 3 Advanced was the finest I have ever captured and more rare because the full bow was visible on a wet field rather than on water. However the Magilligan bow has earned pride of place on my list, the bow was of decent quality however it was its surroundings which made it unique, those colours and dramatic sand motions with the tide made it an exceptional experience for me and worthy of a report on the site for the memories. The hunt continues, I will be on the search for more, thanks very much for reading.


Martin McKenna

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