Lenticular clouds Andy Barnes
Interview 16 February

Tornado Cloud: Story behind the photo

Andy Barnes, the winner of the Travel Photo of the Year 2013 Landscape category, tells the story of his incredible winning image

In July 2013 I joined a photographic expedition trip on board the Akademik Sergey Vavilov polar expedition ship to explore Spitsbergen in depth. Embarking at Longyearbyen, our hope was to encounter and photograph polar bears in their natural environment on the Arctic ice pack.

Due to a particularly warm Svalbard summer, it transpired we would travel to 81° North before locating ice, just 500 miles from the North Pole!

En route we explored much of Svalbard’s stunning scenery, either from the ship, by zodiac (inflatable boat), or ashore on foot.

Upon leaving the Lilliehöök  Glacier on Svalbard’s west coast, I ventured to the bow of the ship in time to witness a spectacular lenticular cloud formation. Luckily, I managed to take two pictures of the ‘tornado cloud’ before it disappeared.

This good fortune seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the trip as we continued north from Kross Fjord. Upon reaching the ice pack, and during the wonderful few days that followed, we saw 15 polar bears! With Captain Beluga’s skills at the helm, we were able to drop anchor for 48 hours whilst watching a male bear feed on a seal and interact with a sub-adult female as she scavenged the entrails.

Early one morning I also spotted an Arctic fox camouflaged amongst the rocks at the base of the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet. This led to the discovery, further along the shoreline, of a polar bear climbing the sheer cliff face in order to steal eggs from the nests of the Brünnich's Guillemots!

The trip provided many amazing photographic opportunities, such as watching glaciers calving in front of our zodiacs. I took thousands of pictures in total but the 'tornado cloud' was one of my favourites.

Judges comments:  

The judges were impressed by the composition of Andy's photograph and by his skill in capturing this fleeting moment.

"Being in the right place at the right time is a combination of luck and judgement. The photographer has given the angry storm room to breathe. It fills you with foreboding." Photographer Paul Harris FRGS. 

"Simply Magnificent! What a moment, what a photo." Wildlife photographer Paul Goldstein.