How’d You Get That Picture? Jim Urquhart on the Day the Sky Cried Tears of Fire

4 min readJul 1, 2016


Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Jim Urquhart.

When photographer Jim Urquhart underwent emergency brain surgery as a teenager after a perilous bicycle accident, his entire life had changed. Having lost dexterity in his hands and the ability to communicate verbally, Urquhart spent years in rehabilitation relearning how to walk and talk. There, he was introduced to photography as a means of therapy and creative expression. His dad handed him a Canon SLR and two lenses, and decades later, what’d started as a doctor-recommended hobby had turned into a lifelong passion and career in news photojournalism.

Drawn to the natural grandeur of the American West, Urquhart is most comfortable immersed in the great outdoors, cruising through the vast, pristine wilderness in his beloved Tacoma truck. With clients like Reuters and National Geographic, Urquhart’s work has taken him to the country’s most captivating national parks where he creates beautiful, awe-inspiring imagery.

From capturing a mesmerizing landscape at the first light of dawn to snapping a maternal black bear nursing her cubs, Urquhart’s work reflects his enduring love for nature and travel. Here Urquhart shares a story about the enchantment of spontaneous creativity and offers an intimate glimpse into the splendor of the American West.

In my long career documenting events for Reuters and many other clients, I occasionally get to witness something that is truly amazing.

It happened the other night in Yellowstone National Park, a place I visit four or five times a year. I usually spend my days far away from the crowds and the geothermal features, and instead I hike around the eastern portion of the park looking to make pictures of wolves or bears. This day had been frustrating because I was finding nothing but crowds with giant tripod rigs and traffic jams. I was frustrated and decided to call it a day, one of the rare times I hadn’t found a decent shot of wolves or bears.

My windshield was smeared with the carnage of dead bugs to the point that it was making it hard to see as I was driving into the sun. Then I looked out the side window and caught a glimpse of bright, vivid color just above the trees.

As the sun was setting, the raindrops falling to the ground were briefly lit up in a fiery explosion of color. I rapidly pulled my truck over and started making pictures. It was as if the clouds were raining down fire from the sky. It lasted only a few moments but you could watch the burning rain bands transform as the sun continued to set. It had been a bit of a rough day shooting for me until literally the last bits of lights slipped over the horizon.

After a bit, I looked around and several other people had pulled over as well. We all stood there awestruck as we watched the waves of rain catch the light.

As the colors faded, I jumped into my truck and was actually happy about how the day turned out. I was smiling all the way out of the park for the night.

Camera Details:

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Lens: 24mm

ISO: 100

Aperture: f5

Shutter: 1/160th sec

More shots by Jim Urquhart:

Waves crash on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Olympic National Park, Washington. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
The sun sets over Dead Horse Point State Park overlooking the Colorado River outside Moab, Utah. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
A female black bear nurses two of her cubs near Tower Junction in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
Clouds are shredded by the wind racing over the Grand Teton Peak in Grand Teton National Park, outside Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
A black bear wanders through the brush near Tower Junction in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
The stars of the Milky Way are visible over Crater Lake National Park in southern Oregon. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
A grizzly bear watches photographers and sightseers in the Hayden Valley of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
The first light of dawn on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. Photo by Jim Urquhart.
A grizzly bear searches for food in the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. Photo by Jim Urquhart.

Jim can be found at, on Instagram: @jimurquhartpics, and on Twitter: @jimurquhartpixs.

This excerpt has been republished from The Shot, Flipboard’s Photography Magazine and hub, and reprinted with permission from the photographer. The Shot also includes:

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