Photograph by Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press

Photojournalist Jack Kurtz was in the Philippines covering the eruption of the Mayon volcano for ZUMA Press this past month, but the photo that's gotten him the most attention wasn't one of his press shots. Instead, it's this serendipitous wedding photo that has spread across the Web like wildfire—a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime kind of photograph that captures the power of nature as a backdrop to the human experience.

The story behind this shot is simply about being in the right place, at the right time, with the right attitude.

Kurtz tells DPReview he arrived in the Philippines on Saturday, January 20th and proceeded to spend most of the week capturing photos for his agency—mostly "photographing people in evacuation centers and the volcano when it was erupting." But after five intense days of photography, he needed a break, so he took Thursday as a "personal day."

"I needed to run some errands and since the volcano was quiet it seemed a good day to do that," says Kurtz. "I finished my errands about 4:30 in the afternoon and decided to go to a church a few kilometers away to try to make a sunset photo of the volcano erupting."

The volcano had been quiet all day that Thursday, so it was a risk, but as Kurtz told us: "nothing ventured nothing gained, and off to the church I went."

When he got to the church, there was no sign of an eruption and clouds were obscuring the cone, but he decided to wait and was rewarded for his patience. In his own words:

As it got later, the clouds drifted off and smoke started to puff its way out of the cone, signaling a likely eruption. All good signs. I set up my small table top tripod on a flat rock, made a couple of test pictures with my Pen F and iPhone controlling the camera with the Olympus OI Share app. Everything was working so I sat down and waited.

While I was sitting there, a couple who had just been married in the church came out to a restaurant next to the parking lot to make their wedding photos. Just as they got to the overlook, the volcano started its eruption. I grabbed my gear and ran over to the restaurant to photograph them.

Before I started photographing, I introduced myself to their wedding photographer and asked if I could make some pictures (I think it would have been rude of me to butt in on his job) and he said okay. I started photographing the couple. During a break, I talked to the couple. I told them who I was and asked if I could put the photos on the wire. They said it was fine. Then I went back to photographing.

A few minutes later, they finished up, everybody thanked everyone else, and Kurtz went back to his spot in the parking lot to set up the exposure that would yield the photograph below.

Photo by Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press

Speaking with DPReview about the technical details behind the photographs, he says the wedding photo was made with his Olympus Pen F and 17mm F1.8 lens at ISO 400, F4, and 1/30. Color balance was set to daylight, and the photo was later edited in Lightroom 6 to straighten the horizon and adjust the color balance ("Because of the time of day and light, the skintones were a little warm, so I knocked the color temp down a little.")

The eruption photo above was also shot on the Pen F, this time with a 25mm F1.8 lens at ISO 200, F4.5, and 85 seconds. The camera was set on a small tabletop tripod and controlled by the OI Share app on Kurtz' iPhone. It, too, was edited in Lightroom 6.

A big thank you to Mr. Kurtz for sharing his photographs and the story/technical details behind them with us at DPReview. To see more of his work, be sure to visit his website or give him a follow on Instagram.

Photography by Jack Kurtz/ZUMA Press, used with permission.