Thunder and Sunset on the North Rim

My wife and I were with our friends Rebecca and Marco camping on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, mostly to photograph the aspens in fall but also to shoot any grand vistas that came our way. A storm was coming in from the northeast as we set up camp, but apart from a little wind and some clouds it didn’t bother us.
As we hiked out to the point with our tripods the weather got a little more active. Rain fell in the canyon and created an awesome rainbow, and we could hear distant thunder behind us.
Then the thunder became a little less distant. As rain approached from our right, partially blocking the sun, the time between flash and boom decreased from 8 to 6 to 4 seconds. My rule of thumb is 3 seconds and I’m out. This shot was taken at about 5 seconds, which is when our friends decided to head back to camp. I had to haul my wife off the ridge.
Within about five minutes a microburst hit our camp and threw our stuff around. We joked that “not even Grant” would have stayed out as long as we did.

Specific Feedback Requested

This is a three exposure blend. I want viewers to be able to look around and have access to most of the image, so I bring out some of the subtler details of the canyon walls and the clouds, and avoid big contrasty scenes. But I wonder if I’m just being under-confident in my compositions, and should make this more bombastic.

Technical Details

This is a three exposure blend at f8 (1/5, 1/20, 1/80) iso 72, shot with a Nikon D850 and a 16-35mm at 19mm. I blended it as HDR in Lightroom, and used masking and curves to achieve the final image.


What a backstory. I like being able to see as much detail as there is. To my eye there are subtle lines leading from the lower left toward the sun, and from there my eye goes to the amazing clouds. A nice visual flow. The tree top in the lower left corner is a bit distracting to me–I wonder how cropping up from the bottom would look?

Thanks for your comment. It was a bit of a fright, but fortunately I never got that hair-raising feeling.
Yes, that tree is distracting. I’ve cropped from the bottom and made some other adjustments, and now the sky and clouds become much bigger characters in the story. I might have to do more to punch them up if I keep this crop. We’re going back to that place in a couple of weeks, and maybe I’ll get a second chance at it (but probably not).

Quite a wonderful opportunity, with dramatic clouds abd light, but it has the look of being shot through a strong warming filter. Here is a quick look at lowering the Temp slider. Not perfect but going back to the raw file with a lower setting would give the opportunity for some different tuning. I think it would be interesting to try to keep the drama with a wider range of colors. I haven’t tried to do anything here except change the color cast for comparison to a different starting point.

1 Like

Thanks for your comment.
I can see what you’re going for here, and I like it. I’m going to keep the sun glowing warm, but brush in some blue to the canyons and the sky. That also gives me a chance to strengthen the canyon wall that is getting direct light in the lower left.