Rainbows through the camera lens of Hugh Morton

Today’s post comes from the keyboard of Jack Hilliard, Hugh Morton collection volunteer.

A rainbow in a field of yellow wildflowers, probably near Grandfather Mountain, NC. Within the Morton collection, this photograph is part of a group of slides that had been stored together and labeled “Grandfather Mountain Parkway Copies.”

“Rainbows are formed when light passes through a drop of rain, bending as it goes from the air to the water. That light will then reflect off the inside of the drop of water, separating into wavelengths, thus forming colors. When the light exits the water droplet, it creates a rainbow. —Website: “SciJinks”

The old saying, “April showers bring May flowers,” may or may not be entirely true, but as we celebrate the months of spring 2020, it’s not unusual for an afternoon thundershower to pass our way. Those thundershowers are often followed by one of nature’s most beautiful sights: a rainbow.

Since I began working as a volunteer with the Hugh Morton collection in the North Carolina Collection at Wilson Library on the UNC campus in 2008, I have made a list of my personal favorite Hugh Morton photographs. Two of those images are of rainbows. One is in the Morton online collection pictured above, while the other is in the book, Hugh Morton’s North Carolina (2003) on page 24. I think Morton’s caption for that picture says a lot about his entire portfolio of photographs:

Pictures of rainbows cannot be planned, and one needs to act quickly when one appears. I rounded a curve on N.C. 18 between Morganton and Shelby, saw this one, and grabbed the camera just in time. The cows were still there seconds later, but the rainbow was gone.

During his more than seventy years with a camera, Hugh Morton was always there just in time to document his North Carolina—just as his 2003 book title implies.

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