Tornado vs Rainbow

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A friend of mine recently posted this to his Facebook wall, and asked me if it was photoshopped or not (like I know anything about photo editing…)

Just about everyone on their virtual high horse damned this person’s ignorance at the prospect that the photo was true – “Of course it’s shopped! Tornados can’t suck up light!” And these people are right: a tornado can suck up a great deal of incredible shite, but light is certainly not one of them.

Just because colour can’t be “sucked up” by the tornado, however, doesn’t mean the photo is entirely fabricated. The image could, literally, just be a trick of the light. We can see that the colours in the tornado roughly match up with their tangent counterparts in the rainbow itself – this tells us that the light source is the same for both objects (light sources can be clear giveaways that a photo has been edited) and is a definite point to team non-photoshop. The same way that you might hold a CD up to the sun, while standing next to a sprinkler, if the rainbows are going in the same(ish) direction, despite being different sizes, then their maker is the same. In terms of this photo, the different mediums could be refracting the same light in slightly different ways, causing it to look like Ms Rainbow is being manipulated by Master Tornado. In actual fact, it’s probably just two separate rainbows in the right place in spacetime (Woo! Space!).

But since Ellie Goulding has taught me that anything can happen, it could also be the exact moment of unicorn conception.

An amusing yet completely useless string of discussion on this photo can also be found on Reddit, here.

EDIT: Since posting this initially, a bit more research has gone into the physics of light refraction, and it looks like the above is nothing but a logical-but-not-quite-right theory. The original image is, in fact, Photoshopped! The “Tornado Versus Rainbow” image was created in November of 2012 by Corey Cowan. About the image, he says “Somebody … asked me for permission to use it on a book cover. I told them yes, as long I was given credit. It is a composite of three images—two rainbows and a tornado. The original tornado image is this, which I stretched a bit and masked.
http://greatpicx.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/A-tornado.jpg” Awesome!

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10 responses to “Tornado vs Rainbow

  1. Pingback: I know it’s true…I read it online | (Up)Front and Centre·

  2. A few things tell me this is fake: 1) The physics of light refraction says that it can’t be a true photo. Light refraction would not allow the refraction of the tornado’s water vapor to be different from the refraction shown in the rainbow. 2) Tornadoes have too much debris in their funnel to allow light to refract that way. 3) Tornadoes rarely, if ever, form on top of hills. The terrain in this picture is all wrong for tornadoes. My degree is in Earth Sciences, and this all jumped out at me immediately.

  3. I Photoshopped the Tornado Versus Rainbow image in November of 2012. Somebody later asked me for permission to use it on a book cover too. I told them yes, as long I was given credit. It is a composite of three images—two rainbows and a tornado. The original tornado image is this, which I stretched a bit and masked.

  4. Unicorn conception … ROTFL! Well, actually I’m lying in the bed laughing hysterically and trying not to wake the kids up. Thanks for that. 🙂

  5. Wonder if it sucked up all the pot of gold too ?
    Interesting spacing on the Tornado refractive iridescence. Brains trying to work out why the difference as there would be as much water droplets/ rain/ per metre cubed of space if not more than the rainbow, and the refractive index is the same constant for solid water as it is for droplets ??? Given these constants the only thing that I can deduce/conclude is that the Tornado is much closer to the Photographer than the optical meteorological phenomenon of the rainbow appears to be.

  6. Good thinking on the “trick of the light.” Unfortunately for cheery folks everywhere, I believe this is also almost impossible since rainbows occur at very specific angles (~42 degrees). The only way I can imagine this occurring would be if lensing occurred along the tornado due to density differences along its height (how mirages work). All things considered, I’m voting for team photoshop.

  7. Reblogged this on carolkean and commented:
    Just because colour can’t be “sucked up” by the tornado, however, doesn’t mean the photo is entirely fabricated–I agree. Who said the tornado was vacuuming up the rainbow? By now, hasn’t the photographer come out of hiding to explain what really happened here?

  8. Excuse me. But has it occurred to you. The tornado may be sucking up the water droplets refracting the light?

    • Ben, I’m afraid that wouldn’t work. It’s much like a mirror passing by you. Even though the mirror moves, the reflections travel only along certain light ray paths. The same is true for raindrops in the sky – if they move out of the region of reflection (very specifically with respect to the observer, in this case the camera), then they no longer contribute to the rainbow.

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