Photography of green flashes


The first green-flash photograph:

The first photograph of a green flash was that taken by Lucien Rudaux, and published in

L. Rudaux
“Photographie du rayon vert”
La Nature 53, 303–304 (1925)

This was a black-and-white photo taken at sunset to prove that the flash was a physical phenomenon, not just an afterimage.

The first green-flash color photograph:

The first color photograph was taken by Maurice de Kerolyr and reported by

Emile Touchet
“La photographie, en couleurs, du Rayon vert”
BSAF 46, 89–92 (1932)

These pictures seem to be the basis of Minnaert's rather cryptic reference to a flash having been photographed on an Autochrome plate. Actually, they seem to have been pictures of the green rim taken at sunrise, not a real “flash”.

Other (unpublished) early color photographs:

There seem to have been several color photographs of green flashes made after Kodachrome film became widely available after the War.

Perhaps the first of these, and the best documented, were the pictures taken by Rear Admiral Nolan M. Kindell, who reported his observations in a fine article:

“The blue flash”
Proceedings of the U. S. Naval Institute 78, 557–559 (1952).
He accurately described both the conditions needed to produce a good inferior-mirage flash, and the equipment required to photograph it — five years before the famous Vatican photographs were published!

Kindell says he obtained “a few fair frames” of green flashes in the Pacific after the Japanese surrender in 1945. As he retired in 1948, that certainly places his photography a decade before the Vatican photos, and probably among the earliest of the modern color images.

A later example,

A. Dauvillier
Physique Solaire et Géophysique
(Masson, Paris, 1962) pp. 227–228

says that “Nous en avons projeté des photographies en couleurs, obtenues au Pic, devant la Société Astronomique de France, en 1949.” However, I have not been able to find any record of this in BSAF in any of the years around 1949. If anyone can find a printed record of these photographs, please send me the reference.

Another documented color photograph on modern color film was taken by

M. Hanzawa
“Green flash observed in the Antarctic Ocean”
Oceanographical Mag. 3, 139–140 (1951)

Once again, no pictures were reproduced; but the drawing accompanying this report suggests an Omega-shaped Sun before the flash. This is consistent with the meteorological data, which show the water was 1.4 C warmer than the air. Thus, this is almost surely a classical inferior-mirage flash.

A note of no scientific worth,

D. J. Lovell
“Photograph of the green segment”
Journal of the Optical Society of America 45, 490 (1955)

states that “a photograph has been made,” without any useful information. This report just precedes O'Connell's publication of Treusch's photographs (next below).

Published color photographs:

The first photographs reproduced in color seem to be those taken by C. Treusch, S.J., and reproduced in rather muddy colors in O'Connell's book (in the reading list). Numerous other published color photos are cited in my reading list as well.

First published color pictures:

Actually, we have omitted one milestone in the history of green-flash image publication: the first pictures published in color were drawings, not photographs.

The very first pictures reproduced in color seem to be those in Feenstra Kuiper's thesis. Their colors are quite unrealistic.

However, the color plate accompanying a very sound article by Lucien Rudaux (yes, again) in L'Illustration 85, 183–185 (1927) is much better. I have seen it, and the colors are fairly realistic (though, of course, it is impossible to represent the real colors of green flashes accurately on the printed page). The article is also illustrated by some of Rudaux's excellent black-and-white sunset photographs.

A partial English translation, and the color plate of drawings, appeared less than two months later in The Illustrated London News, 81, 712–713 (Oct. 22, 1927).

Taking color photographs

I have discussed details of color photography of green flashes here. I'll also suggest that you read the accounts cited above (particularly O'Connell's book, which devotes some space to the photographic details), as well as Coco's article in Weatherwise. Also, see the page of general advice for observing green flashes.


© 1999, 2001, 2004 – 2007 Andrew T. Young

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