Sometimes you can see a picture coming. Aboard the National Geographic Explorer expedition ship on a glorious morning, Captain Ben Lyons was swinging the ship around for one last pass of storied Skellig Michael off the Irish coast.
Celtic monks came here in the sixth century, seeking their spiritual desert on this insanely rugged island. Up on top they built the monastery where their beehive huts still stand today. It’s a tough place to get to even now. I can hardly imagine what the journey would have been like in a cowhide-covered curragh back then.
The romance is often heightened by the clouds that trail from the peak as the winds encounter land after their long trip across the Atlantic. Clouds like these are always pretty but I figured they would become absolutely spooky when they were backlit and the island became a hulking black mass. And so it was. What I didn’t figure on was the halo, a wonderful gift that brought murmurs of awe from everyone standing on deck. (Thank you Captain Ben.)
Pro Tip: When you can see a picture coming (like I could here), try to solve all your technical and exposure problems in advance, before the critical moment arrives. In this case the problem was exposure: I was shooting into the sun. My camera’s meter could easily under- or overexpose the picture, and then I might lose the shimmer on the water or the delicate halo. So I did several shots ahead of time to see how they would turn out, then adjusted my exposure from there. This way, when the sun lined up with Skellig Michael I was ready: I knew I had the exposure nailed and could concentrate on the composition as the ship pulled around. Savvy photographers do this kind of thing all the time.
Photographed with a Nikon D800E with a 16-35mm f4 Nikkor lens.