Rainbow chase leads to backstory

By Mike Odom modom@gulfcoastnewspapers.com
Posted 8/14/13

SPANISH FORT, Alabama—After the seemingly endless daily drenching by heavy south Alabama rains this summer, my soggy soul lifted a bit when I saw the rainbow last Wednesday evening.

I was on the Causeway, homeward bound to Baldwin County, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get the gift of local news. All subscriptions 50% off for a limited time!

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Rainbow chase leads to backstory


SPANISH FORT, Alabama—After the seemingly endless daily drenching by heavy south Alabama rains this summer, my soggy soul lifted a bit when I saw the rainbow last Wednesday evening.

I was on the Causeway, homeward bound to Baldwin County, having just crested the first bridge past Battleship Park.

On the other side, I quickly pulled over, past a half-dozen people fishing. Several seemed to be gawking to the east, like me. One end of the rainbow streamed down out of the clouds south of I-10 near Daphne.

Grappling my camera out of the trunk, I took several dozen shots, walking eastward through high grass, shooting as I went, hoping to catch a seagull banking through multicolored rays.

Back in my car, I drove straight toward it, getting closer by the minute. I kept expecting it to disappear, but it grew brighter.

As I turned south off the Causeway toward Scenic 98, I could see that the clouds had cleared some. By the time I got to 98, both ends of the rainbow were now visible—one leg in Spanish Fort and the other in Daphne, it seemed. But the top was still hidden by clouds.

I got out, took a shot of the southern end, with the kiosk of the Eastern Shore Trail in the foreground.

It then began dissolving, as rainbows do.

At home, I saw that the photos weren't very good. The ones near 98 a little better than the ones farther to the west. Though I hoped one picture might find a place in this paper, they didn't quite measure up.

But I felt much less soggy and drenched, having chased a rainbow into Baldwin County.

The end of the story, you ask? Hopefully, maybe?

I thought so myself, until I saw a photo that night of the very shot I had hoped to get: that full glorious Monty of a rainbow.

In the wee hours of Thursday morning I sent a message to the Mobile Bay Shutterbugs Facebook page, asking that the photographer contact me, not really expecting to hear anything.

By the time I woke up, a message was waiting for me from Chris Riley. He manages the page and gave me permission to use it. I asked him to call me over the weekend, because I wanted to find out how he got the photo that eluded me.

It was then that the sight of the rainbow began to pale a little next to the story of its taking.

Riley is a T8 level paraplegic, injured in 2009 from a fall in Aspen, Colo.

“I live by myself with the help of my mother and caregiver, Betty Riley, who also lives in Fairhope,” he said by email. “I am an avid photographer and can be seen most nights at the Fairhope Pier taking pictures of the sunset and anything else that catches my eye. I also administer a local photography page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MobileBayShutterBugs.

“I use adaptive equipment and rely on my four-wheel drive truck and window- and sunroof -mounted tripods to take many of my photos. My vehicle is equipped with Bruno equipment to allow me the ability to drive as well.”

On Aug. 10, at about the same time I was driving on the east end of the Causeway, Riley had just left the Taco Bell in Spanish Fort. When he turned south on Highway 181, he saw the same rainbow that caused me to pull off the road.

He did the same thing on the south side of 181, pulling into a church parking lot, then shot photos from his car with an iPhone 5 and a Canon D10.

It's his iPhone photo of that rare full rainbow that graces The Courier's front page of its Aug. 13 print edition and this website.

“If I am not taking pictures at the pier, I am most likely fishing,” he said. “I also run a Facebook page relative to that too at https://www.facebook.com/FairhopePierFishing."

Riley also serves on the Americans for Disability Act subcommittee of the Fairhope Pedestrian-Bike Committee, assisting Fairhope with ADA support. A Smart Coast board member and Facebook page administrator for that local nonprofit group, he also administers the Facebook page for his church, St. Francis at the Point Anglican Church.

Riley was a senior sales exec for Coca-Cola North America for 20 years, selling to the U.S. military. He is currently on long-term disability and lives in Quail Creek.

“I moved to Fairhope two years ago and absolutely love this area,” he said. “I had always planned on retiring here and was able to do so even earlier than planned due to my injury. Please extend an open invitation in your piece to everyone that if they see myself and Tonya around town to please say hello and introduce themselves.”

Now there's a pot of gold you can believe in.

Mike Odom is editor of The Courier newspaper, which covers Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort and the communities of the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.