There are some shots one never forgets.
For me, this shot is one of them. I was traveling through Canada’s Dempster Highway, a narrow, gravel ribbon of road that stretches from Dawson City, Yukon Territory to Inuvik, Northwest Territories and then extends into Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean.
On this September day, it had been overcast almost all day, by the late afternoon storm clouds had started to roll in. The sub-arctic mountains act as wind tunnels when storms begin to approach. In a matter of minutes the few tourists that were there with me had vacated the area.
The wind was so fierce that I had to hang my photo backpack from the center column of my tripod to keep my rig from tipping over. But the scene that was morphing right before me was so gripping, I knew that I could not miss the opportunity to capture this incredible moment.
The scene through my wide-angle lens was confusing, my eye struggling to make sense of the mountains, valley, and sky. The light throughout the frame was jumbled with highlights and shadows everywhere. I decided to focus on only one segment of the mountains and valley. This ended up pulling the storm and its magical light closer to me.
Switching to my 70-200mm telephoto lens, with the wind bore now approaching gale force. I quickly framed the image, added a polarizer to bring up the clouds and rays of light, and fired away. I added a No. 2 graduated neutral density filter to add drama to the sky. In seconds I was done and dashed for the car just as the rain began pelting down onto me.
What I love most about this image is that it generally conforms to the Rule of Thirds. The mountains on the left coming up two-thirds into the frame. I think the light spilling into the valley in mid-frame draws one’s eyes into the scene. The sunlit storm cloud in the distance adds a dramatic touch. The late afternoon shade also brings up the marvelous blue shadows of the mountains. If I had used a wide-angle lens the image would have lost some of its drama.