Photographer Captures Airplanes' Rainbow Trails

Michael Marston began photographing and taking videos of airplanes three years ago, and as he started learning how atmospheric conditions affected his photos, he made a colorful discovery.

He found that recording the airplanes as they emitted contrails while lined up with the sun at a certain angle generated a rainbow trail behind the plane.

The spectacular imagery is created when the sunlight hits the ice crystals formed in the contrails, which form from cold air condensing around particles from the plane's exhaust.

Marston is an Australian photographer based in Brisbane. He started out taking photos of planes because his partner, Tracy, was a Quantas flight attendant.

As he has shared his rainbow trail photos on social media over the past few months, his work has gained popularity and has been featured across the internet.

Prior to this there were a series of partial rainbows showing up in patches as the aircraft crossed overhead.
Another contrails photo, this one taken on April 9, 2019. Michael Marston/ePixel Aerospace

He has also posted the raw files of the images and videos on his social media pages to disprove the naysayers who say the photographs may be doctored.

"It's a bit like fishing," Marston told CNN. "I enjoy the thrill of catching something — and also have the agony of going out and catching nothing. It can be rewarding and at the same time absolutely frustrating."

From July 1, 2019
Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-941 crosses overhead at approximately 13,622 feet. Michael Marston/ePixel Aerospace

Marston has even managed to capture these rainbow trails from airplanes at all sorts of different angles, like in the photo above. You can see in this video how quickly the beautiful sight can come and go.

"I do enjoy looking up and seeing something different," he told CNN. "And seeing something that you don't see every day."