I Found Pure Gold - In The Dawson City Sky
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
On my first full day in Dawson City, Margaret Goodwin of Yukon Tourism suggested that I might enjoy a trip up to The Dome, the highest point above the historic gold rush city.
We got up to the top of Midnight Dome Road just as the sun began its descent into a sky daubed generously with clouds that instantly became a pool of contrasting colours. I stepped out of the car and began shooting immediately.
Right through my Yukon trip, I used two cameras, a Pentax K200D with my 70-300mm Sigma lens, and a Pentax K100D with my 18-125 Sigma lens.
Accustomed to the rapid disappearance of the sun in Australia, I quickly shot more than 30 frames with the long lens - with interesting consequences, as I’ll tell you shortly. Every other photographer and tourist was atop The Dome, but I chose to shoot from the car park area, because I was able to use silhouettes of the surrounding foliage.
With the sun almost at its zenith, I decided it was the perfect time to scramble up to the very peak of The Dome and start shooting with my other lens. I’m a pretty fit bloke, but I noticed I was breathing a bit heavier than usual when I joined the others up the top.
That’s when Margaret, an Australian-born Yukon resident, asked me if I’d noticed how long the sunset was taking, compared with Australian evenings.
That’s when it occurred to me. The reason I was puffing was so simple. Because I never use a tripod, I always tend to hold my breath if I’m using my 300mm lens, especially when the exposure time is slightly longer in low light.
This helps me hold the camera steadier, because the centre of gravity while using a long lens is further away from your body when using a standard lens. It's a simple yet practical method, even when using the camera's built-in shake-reduction option.
Because I’d spent almost 15 minutes shooting with the long lens at the car park level, I hadn’t really been breathing normally for a while - hence the lungs were working a bit harder!
Interestingly enough, when the sun had finally disappeared from sight, the light on the surrounding hills took on an immediate and distinct bluish hue, so I had to get this final view of the sky, the hills and the shimmering Klondike River far below.
I thought I was finished for the day - but just when you think that you’re done, another stunning view always presents itself. Just before I got back into the car, I shot two final frames that can be seen at Spruced Up.
Just one of those (many) days in the Yukon, where the sights are (literally) breath-taking!