Chasing Rainbows in the Azores

photographs by Jeremy Everett

Words by Madeleine Gregory

In the Azores off the coast of Portugal, verdant, flower-lined mountains are lit up by rainbows filtered through waterfalls and sunsets reflected on the ocean. Through this play of light and water, the islands offer a kaleidoscopic view of nature’s beauty.

When photographer Jeremy Everett first arrived in Corvo, he figured he’d check into a hotel room. Worst case, he thought he’d find someone’s spare room to rent. It was August, though, and the two hotels on the island were booked solid. With no luck finding a room, he decided to camp. 


He was prepared, but only just. He didn’t have a tent, just a bivy sack, which is essentially a waterproof bag that covers your sleeping bag. He tucked his gear in with him, trying his best to keep the film shaded. When it rained, he hid his camera under a picnic bench. He was all alone, but he didn’t mind: he was chasing rainbows. 


Corvo is the smallest and most remote island in the Azores, which dot the Atlantic like paint splatter about 1,000 miles from the coast of Portugal. The islands are volcanic, with dramatic peaks and lush vegetation. On Corvo, you can hike to the top of the extinct volcano and stand on the edge of the Caldeirão do Corvo, a massive crater filled with lagoons. 


As soon as he hopped off one of the tiny planes that fly between islands, Everett hiked to the trail that led to the crater. He was alone, save for a few cows grazing in the distance. He watched the fog hang low over the mountain, wisps of it creeping down into the crater as if following their own trail of curiosity. Excited to be there, Everett stayed until it got dark, capturing the little “o” of the moon, high and mostly hidden but somehow still twisting a river of light along the ocean surface.

Everett’s photography features a wide range of subjects, including both nature and fashion. For fashion shoots, he needs a team of stylists and models alongside him. But for these nature trips, he likes to go solo. That way, he can get up before sunrise and drive around, like he did on the island of Flores, stopping every few minutes to capture a new scene. He can wait at a waterfall for three days until the sun breaks in and a rainbow slices straight through it. Running after rainbows, he had to be very patient, waiting for the weather to cooperate. 


Being at the mercy of the weather is tricky on the Azores, where it is famously unpredictable. He tried multiple times to climb Pico, the highest point in the Azores, but was thwarted day after day by storms, watching lightning zap the peak from his hotel at the base. He was hoping to capture the mountain’s shadow at sunrise, so he wanted to sleep at the top. A few times, he got up the mountain for sunset, but then had to come down as storms rolled in. 


Finally, after extending his trip, he got a permit and hiked up all night. Waiting for the sun at the top, the sky was perfectly clear. But just as light began to inch upwards, the clouds arrived. He watched lightning split the sky above a nearby island and knew that he had to go down. 


At first he was disappointed: this was one of the shots he’d come for. Looking back, though, he loves the shadow of Pico he did get. It was at sunset, not sunrise, but there’s a little rainbow peeking through the clouds. This, after all, was why he went to the Azores in the first place: to capture that one moment, fleeting and perfect, when the light shines through the storm.

This article first appeared in Atmos Volume 07: Prism with the headline “Flying Colors.”

Shop Atmos Volume 07: Prism

A prism is a multidimensional body that refracts, disperses, or in some cases, distorts light. Atmos Volume 07: Prism is a study of light, color, dimension, and perspective. It asks such questions as: How do we find the light in a world that can feel so dark? How do our identities shape the lenses through which we experience reality? How do we move past binary thinking and embrace a more prismatic or nuanced view of the world? How do ideas disseminate and refract? What role does transparency play in that process? What symbolism do specific colors hold, in both the human and natural world?

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Chasing Rainbows in the Azores


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