Ian Plant is a full time professional nature photographer, writer, and adventurer. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, books and calendars, and he is a frequent contributor to Popular Photography and Outdoor Photographer magazines, among others. He is also the author of a number of eBooks and digital processing video tutorials.

Editor’s note: This photo story has been waiting in the wings for a long time. Waiting for me to read and finish the review of Ian Plant’s incredible book Visual Flow, and its companion volume which contains this image. I am so excited to be able to publish this story at last. This incredible image has the effect on me that I look for in great imagery: it strikes a chord, and makes me yearn to go and see these places, to travel, to experience the feeling that the image evokes. Thank you, Ian Plant, for telling the story behind it.

Ian’s Story: Decisive moments happen all the time, but the chances that they will happen to you at any given place are somewhat less probable. Capturing decisive moments requires patience, flexibility, and a willingness to return to favorite places over and over again (if necessary). Of course, it also requires practice and a keen eye for recognizing decisive moments when they occur. Such is learned by immersing oneself in the photographic process as much as possible.

The sensational red light lasted for only a few moments, exactly enough for four exposures, each more colorful than the last. And then, as abruptly as the light show started, it was over, as an advancing rain storm covered the scene in featureless gray.

I’ve been traveling to the Patagonia region of southern Chile for several years. A major wildfire last year opened up some places which were previously impossible to reach, so I decided to try something different this time, going beyond some spots which have been successful for me in the past.

As I explored the lake’s shore in the half-light of morning twilight, I was attracted to a small, mirror-still bay with a flawless reflection of the mountains in the background. I stepped back from the water’s edge, and noticed the sweeping curve of the shore and how it related to the overall composition. I set up my camera and took a few test shots to fine-tune my composition and exposure settings, but conditions seemed rather bleak, as everything was covered in clouds. And then, suddenly, the first light of dawn found a narrow crack in the gloom, painting the sky and mountains a fiery red—and everything came together perfectly.

Ian Plant photo story

I was fortunate—the water level of the lake was low enough to reveal this perfect curve of shoreline, there was no wind to disturb the reflection, and I was in the right place at the right time. The sensational red light lasted for only a few moments, exactly enough for four exposures, each more colorful than the last. And then, as abruptly as the light show started, it was over, as an advancing rain storm covered the scene in featureless gray.

It all came together for a fleeting moment. Luckily, a moment was all I needed.

About the Image: “Eternal Mirror”—Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia region, Chile. Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC lens, polarizer filter, 3-stop neutral density filter, ISO 100, f/11, 30 seconds. This image was processed from a raw file using Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop.

You may see more of Ian’s work on his website.

Photo Stories is a series that provides a look at how our favorite images were made.