Just 30 minutes before sunset, the sun burst through the clouds lighting up the ancient gabbro rock slabs with golden light. It was late October, and we were approximately nine miles by paddle and portage into Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was the last day of our five-day trip, and so far, we’d been skunked by clouds and snow flurries at every sunrise and sunset.
Ready for the light, I took a shot.
I moved closer to the canoe and recomposed for one of my signature canoe shots. (On my northern Minnesota photography workshops, these canoe shots are often requested by the students. We’ll haul a red canoe with us for a sunset or two.) After I recomposed, the sun went behind the clouds, and within five minutes nearly freezing rain was falling from the sky.
Luckily, I thought, I brought my raingear. I rummaged through the portage pack and found that my wife’s and kid’s rain gear were in the pack, but mine was back in the tent.
The wind picked up and blew the rain sideways. I grinned and bore it. Camp was a quarter-mile paddle away and by the time I’d reach camp, I’d miss any sunset. I stood sideway allowing one side of my body to get wet. During the harder rains, I hid closer to shore under a 100-foot-tall pine tree.
During the rain, my Singh-Ray Bryan Hansel All-in-One Filter was getting soaked, so I pulled a microfiber cloth out of my Watershed Chattooga Photo Kit Drybag. The Chattooga is the best waterproof camera duffle that I’ve used. I’ve used it everywhere from whitewater canoeing on the Rio Grande River in Texas to the placid lakes of the Boundary Waters. It has always kept my gear dry.
I dried my filter and then covered it with the cloth and my hand to prevent more rain from wetting its surface. The All-in-One is the perfect filter for situations like the one I was in. I needed lots of detail in the foreground to show the canoe, and because sunlight wasn’t hitting it, the foreground was dark. The four stops of darkness from the filter held back the bright and increasingly red sunset allowing me to capture all the detail in the black carbon fiber canoe and black gabbro. The All-in-One has two transitions: the lowest is a soft transition and the higher is a hard transition. By placing the hard transition on the horizon, the soft transition hung over the water and helped darken the water and make it look more natural vs. using a reverse or hard filter.
As quickly as the rain started, it was gone. The wind calmed and the sky turned red. I made the shot I was waiting for – a signature Boundary Waters canoe shot. Getting damp during the passing showers was worth it.
After the light faded, I paddled in the dark back to camp. Usually, I make the food during our family camping trips, but my wife decided to surprise me. I found a cup of hot chocolate and a warm stew ready back at camp.
In photography showing up and dealing with the conditions you’re dealt often ends with a good shot. In this case, it ended with full, warm belly, and a wall hanger of a photo.