My favorite 12 photos of 2016 part 3 (and the stories that go with them)

I decided to post my favorite 12 photos from 2016 on facebook and twitter leading up to Christmas and to post the stories that go with them.  These are the third set of 4. #4 #3, #2 and #1.

Click here to see part  2 –  photos 8, 7, 6, and 5

Click here to see part 1 –  photos 12, 11, 10 and 9

#4  “Eye in the Sky ”

Sun Halo Saskatchewan eye of god ryan wunsch

“Eye in the Sky” is #4 on my list of favorite 12 photos from 2016. I took this shot at near Leader Saskatchewan on March 19 which was the last day of Winter.

I saw this as I was coming home from Saskatoon where I had attended the CBC Future 40 banquet accepting my award as a winner for CBC Saskatchewan 40 under 40 the night before – I had been nominated by my friend Jenn Smith Nelson and was in the mood to celebrate.

Friends of mine invited me over for a beer after the awards. They had bought a keg of the stuff and it turned into a party! Draught beer gives me a headache… so I made sure to drink a whole lot of it 😉. And some rye. A vodka. Some dark rum… things get a bit fuzzy after that.

The next day I was moving pretty slowly and had a headache. It was Saturday afternoon by the time I got on the road to make the 3 hour drive back to Leader. I first saw a sun halo near Eatonia. Pretty cool, but also pretty common that time of year (as they are now).

Then it started looking like a big eyeball staring right at me. I really didn’t feel like stopping, I was getting close to home, but jumped out of the truck for a quick shot of it just to prove it was there.

The next day I had a look at the photo. It did look like a big eye in the sky!! It was posted on Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, CBC Saskatchewan as well as Reed Timmer Extreme Meteorologist and went viral on all 3 facebook pages. Over 15,000 shares with a reach of 1,100,000 on Meanwhile in Saskatchewan alone.

Many people said it looked like the Eye of God. The photo shows a complete 22 degree sun halo, upper and lower tangent arcs, a rare parry arc and 2 infralateral arcs on the lower corners. Sun halo’s are believed by many traditional cultures to mark a time of great change.


#3  “One More Storm ”

Saskatchewan shelf cloud, Canadian storm chaser

“One More Storm” is #3 on my list of favorite 12 photos from 2016. Old homesteads and thunderstorms are my 2 favorite things to photograph, so when I can do both things at once I am a very happy guy.

I often wonder how many storms these old homesteads have seen over the years. I sometimes wonder how many more they will get to see before they fall. This old place got to see ‘One More Storm’.

And so did I! This was a bonus storm for me. 2016 was a great year for storm chasing. I started my year in Tornado Alley in May. The Canadian plains had an active year and I was able to chase storms from Western Alberta all the way into Manitoba through June and July.

This shot was taken on a Tuesday in mid August. I was getting ready to go back up north to work for a week, flying up on Wednesday. Storms have a habit of taunting me on Tuesdays, I often am not able to chase that day. So much so that a few years ago #TornadoTuesday was trending on twitter. Wound meet Salt….

Anyways… I was sitting at home when my mother texted to say she saw a storm on radar. I had a look and asked if she wanted to go for a drive to see if there was a shelf cloud on it. There sure was! It stretched from Empress to Fox Valley (100 miles).

I put on over 18,000 kms (12,000 miles) chasing storms this year, but this late season bonus storm came right to me. A very fuel efficient storm for my storm truck. I took this shot along my favorite stretch of backroad in prime rattlesnake country. It was the first time I’ve seen a storm out there, something that had been on my wish list for many years.

#2  “Walk Towards the Light”

Sunset tree winter saskatchewan ryan wunsch

“Walk Towards the Light” is #2 on my list of favorite 12 photos from 2016. This was the first photo I took in 2016, taken the same day as “There is the Sun!” (#9 on this list)

I work in Northern Saskatchewan and it had been a long time since I had seen the sun with a camera in my hand. It had been very cloudy and gloomy every week I was at home, it was getting depressing. A friend texted me to say we might see a nice sunrise. I looked out the window and saw she was right!

I quickly grabbed my running shoes, a jacket, my camera and a tripod. I should have grabbed socks, gloves, a hat, winter boots and a winter coat, or at least a coat that could zip up…. but I didn’t. It was -22C but -30c with the windchill. I was very happy to see the animal trail that lined up with the tree and sun, and even happier to see the photo actually turned out as envisioned.

This photo went on to receive more comments than any other photo I had ever posted anywhere. The most common question was “what are those tracks?” They are animal tracks – I’ve said probably coyote or deer. I didn’t actually look….

These trees are on the quarter section along the road where we used to walk Shadow my female Great Dane. She loved to run in the snow like a goofball on sunny winter days, even as she got older. She had to be ‘put down’ about 6 months before this picture was taken, just weeks before her 12 birthday.

So when I look at this picture – to me those are her tracks.“Walk Towards the Light”

#1  “They’re Here”

Montana mothership supercell thunderstorm ryan wunsch

“They’re Here” is #1 on my list of favorite 12 photos from 2016. Taken June 10 near Stanford Montana.

This was my first storm chase since my trip to Tornado Alley in May with Kyle Brittain.  Kyle and I had been watching this weather set up for quite a few days and decided to make the drive to Montana to watch storms. My mother accepted the invite to join us.

We followed the first storm of the day for quite a while, at times it had a low ragged wall cloud that engulfed the mountains in the area including Square Butte.  I’ve seen many pictures of that from other chasers who were out this day, the set up brought a lot of people from all across the U.S.  We saw that the storm was going to take us into no-man’s land and dead end our chase at a river, so we stopped to come up with a plan.

I noticed when the smaller storms hit the Stanford area, they blew up, so we went back to sit and watch for another storm to do something cool. Then this happened!! We watched it grow from a small storm into this beast over the mountains, heading straight for us. I wish I’d have timelapsed the growling monster as it travelled over the mountains (which look very small, but are under the storm if you look good closely – square butte is the most noticeable).  Kyle ran back to where I was set up with a giant smile on his face and said “What is even happening!!!”

My mother was still in the storm truck (I suspect a bit of car sickness from sitting in the back the whole day in the winding mountain roads) so I asked “can you see this from in the truck?” – she got out, and was as amazed at what we were looking at as we were.

Shortly after this shot the storm engulfed the capabilities of my wide angle lens and we blasted north to avoid the hail that we knew was inside of that thing.

As far as “successful photos” go this one easily tops every other photo I’ve ever taken.  It went crazy on Twitter so I entered it in the Mr. Snapshot Contest where it won.  I submitted it to the National Geographic Photo club, it made their daily dozen and then was awarded as “Top Shot”

And then in early November I received a text message from a producer at CBC radio.  He saw my photo on The Atlantic, featured as being in the running for the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year   CBC wanted to set up an interview for the morning Edition with Sheila Coles.

So I googled my name to see where they had found it.  By some huge coincidence, on the very same day, it was awarded “Photo of the Day” by the Smithsonian 

Here is the radio interview which I have not posted until now





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