All 4 Rainbow Orders! ~ Sergei Aleksandrovich Antipov captured this rare scene on June 22, 2013 from a village near Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.     All images ©Sergei Antipov, shown with permission

At left are the two 'ordinary' primary and secondary rainbows. At right are the fabled and long sought 3rd and 4th order bows. The 1st and 2nd orders are opposite the sun. The 3rd and 4th orders circle the sun which is out of the frame at far right. The very first image of the 3rd order bow was by Michael Grossman in May 2011 and the 4th order was captured by Michael Theusner a month later. Sergei's image could be the second one obtained of the 4th order.
Sergei explains: In late afternoon there were black clouds that came from the east (usually cumulonimbus comes from the west). Cumulonimbus covered almost all the sky and although it was not raining there was a bright primary and good secondary rainbow.

I photographed the bows and in 10 minutes it started to rain but still with some sun. It seemed to me that I saw something in the other [sunward] part of the sky. I saw it for an instant and couldn't see again. So I took two photos with a polarizing filter set in different angles to (1) enhance the bows and (2) filter them out.

I found nothing at the time on my elderly laptop but I remembered the photos 6 months later (November).

On the good monitor I edited the color balance and curves in Photoshop and was surprised to see an arc. What is this? I showed my photo to Vladimir Galynsky (Minsk, Belarus, an experienced observer of ice-halos). He told me that it was similar to a tertiary rainbow and advised to send the photo to you.

I tried some RAW-converters and the best result showed on the DxO optics converter. I made one tiff file of one raw file. [This is Image B at left]. But the 3rd order bow is still barely visible.

I opened the RAW file in another converter, Lightroom. 15 tiff files were generated with a range of exposures. Vibrance and contrast was added to all of them. The 15 tiffs were then combined in PhotomatixPro and this image was then processed further in PhotoShop.

LAB mode was used with an unsharp mask applied separately to channels A and B. Then, I selectively diminished the image saturation. These actions were repeated several times. [Image C at left].

{To improve the 3/4th order bow visibility further] I then used Gaussian blur and emboss tools. The rainbow part of this latest image was combined with Images 3 and 2 using 20-30 pixel feathered selections. Layers were combined with hard light mode and luminosity modes. Finally noise was reduced [Image D].

Alternative processing by Nicolas Lefaudeux to reveal the higher order bows.

His method is outlined here and given in more detail in this account.

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Processing scheme

The 3rd and 4th orders are faint, broad and close to the sun.