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How to Photograph Hoboken's Surreal Summer Rainbows

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How to Photograph Hoboken's Surreal Summer Rainbows
Summer 2017 has blessed Hoboken with a handful of epic rainbows, including the most recent full double rainbow on June 19. While I've yet to find my pot of gold, I'm all about chasing those Ho-BOW-ken rainbows (get it?), and I've been fortunate to capture some pretty good shots -- all on my iPhone.
Hoboken rainbow Hoboken Rainbow via iPhone; June 19, 2017
Sure, higher quality (and therefore more expensive) gear can lead to better photographs, but with today's iPhones and Androids, you have a mighty little camera right at your fingertips. Try the following camera apps, add-on gadgets and features to capture beautiful rainbows with your phone. Cortex Cam App ($2.99) This is by far my favorite camera app of all time (and I've tried a lot). Want a crisp nighttime skyline photo? Cortex Cam. Want the water to flow like silk in your waterfall shots? Cortex Cam. And, want to fully capture all the colors of a Hoboken rainbow? Yup. Cortex again. This camera app is my savior. It's slows down the shutter speed of your phone's camera -- something professional photographers do manually on their big DSLR cameras -- to let in more light, ultimately making photos (including rainbow shots!) look professional, crisp and naturally colorful. (Note, because the shutter speed is longer you'll need to hold the camera steady for a few seconds to capture everything; find something steady like a bench to rest your phone on because a slight handshake can make the entire shot out of focus)
Manhattan skyline at night, taken by Cortex Cam
Pro HDR App ($1.99) If you really want to enhance the colors of your rainbows, shoot them with the Pro HDR camera app. This app captures full, HDR-resolution shots, producing nicely saturated colors that pop. At times, pro HDR does oversaturate, but you can control the saturation as well as brightness and contrast within the app before saving. This one also has a longer shutter speed, so find a sturdy "tripod" (again, a bench or fence will do just fine). Snapseed App (Free) Sure, you could upload your Cortex or Pro HDR rainbow shots straight to Instagram, but why not fully perfect them with one of the best editing apps around: Snapseed. This app gives you typical editing options like adjusting brightness, ambiance, contrast, etc., along with more unusual features like a saturation and brightness brush, healing brush and HDR filters. I use it regularly, including on my shot (above) from the magnificent June 19 rainbow. Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens ($79.99) Some of these rainbows are so wide you can't fit the full bow in frame. (Tough life, right?) Enter the olloclip, my favorite secret weapon. The olloclip 4-in-1 lens attaches to the top of your phone and adds one of four lens options to your camera: wide angle, fish eye, telephoto and macro. While the latter three add interesting perspectives, the wide angle is particularly useful for expansive shots like a full rainbow. (The wide angle also doubles as a great selfie tool if you're into that kind of thing. It's not a rainbow, but in the shot below you can see just how much background we were able to get into our waterfall selfie in Iceland.)
Waterfall selfie with olloclip Waterfall selfie with olloclip
Panoramic Phone Setting (Free) If you don't feel like dropping $80 on the olloclip, you can always just use your phone's panoramic (pano) feature. This built-in tool stitches together multiple scenes as you move the phone. (Here's a quick tutorial.) It takes a bit of practice, but the good news is it's free -- and the better news is you can still use Snapseed to perfect it!
Hoboken waterfront panoramic Hoboken waterfront panoramic
Would I prefer to have my big DSLR camera for rainbow photography? Of course. But I'm lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to even view those bows -- I'd need the luck of a leprechaun to be there with my DSLR!

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