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“Storm Approaching” by Ben Cowden

Stitched Panorama of three exposures taken in Iceland off of the highway storms clouds

Storm Approaching Farmhouse Near Búðardalur by Ben Cowden

View a larger version of this image here.

While my main photographic pursuit consists of headshot and portrait work, I still enjoy making a go of shooting landscapes and nature scenes when I have the opportunity. Now, if you’ve ever been to Iceland, you’ll know that saying there are opportunities to create fascinating nature and landscape imagery would be just a bit of an understatement. Often times we plan well in advance to create these opportunities for ourselves, but sometimes (read: almost always) Mother Nature will display her greatest beauty without warning, as was the case for this shot.

Driving along Vestfjarðavegur 60 (a main road in the west of Iceland and just south of the village of Búðardalur) in the late afternoon, we were treated to a spectacular display of Mother Nature’s beauty. The sky was chock full of swirling and billowing clouds from a developing storm moving into the area. However, given that the winds were high and the temperatures already getting quite low, we had almost decided not to stop at all. We were nearing our campsite for the night and the wind was howling, making the out-of-doors experience quite unpleasant and cold. Without any real tangible thought process occurring, I found myself quickly pulling our little car to the side of the lonely road, grabbing my camera and hopping out into the chilling wind. I had succumbed to Mother Nature’s spell.

With such a wide and sweeping view and with the focus distance of the scene set basically at infinity, I decided that a panoramic image would likely work well. Shooting in manual, I carefully lined up and executed three exposures in my viewfinder, panning from right to left, and then hoofed it back to the warmth of the car. Reviewing the images on the camera display revealed pretty darn good detail in the sky. Great! Sometimes our favorite photos come at the culmination of lots of planning and preparation. Sometimes they come during a two minute stop on the side of the road while getting blasted with cold Icelandic wind. Today, was the latter of those two experiences.

The final image is composed of three handheld shots, each at 18mm, exposed manually with a 2-stop graduated neutral density filter, and were then stitched together and processed all in Photoshop CS5. – Ben Cowden

Equipment and settings: Nikon D90, AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II telephoto zoom lens, 2-stop Graduated Neutral Density filter – Approx 1/20th of a second through 1/30th of a second across the three images (EXIF for the completed image gives a 1/30th-second exposure) at f/10 – ISO 100 – Focal length of 18mm on each image.

This image is available as a print here. To see Cowden’s portraiture go to Follow him on 500px.