For the first time in my long life, I had the chance to view hot flowing lava, when I flew over Mauna Loa during the 2022 eruption. Mauna Loa, on the big island of Hawaii, is the largest active volcano in the world, and it had not erupted for 38 years prior to December 2022. Upon hearing that this eruption and our vacation would overlap, I was first worried that our non-refundable trip was doomed. After checking with a friend who lives on Hawaii Island, we kept our original plans and arrived on December 3. Fortunately, we enjoyed clear skies over the west coast Kona region, and some unique sightings of the lava flow. I even got my friend Dennis, who lives on Hawaii, out on his first helicopter adventure.
Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano on Earth, is erupting now on the Big Island of Hawaii. As molten lava spews into the air and flows down the long mountain slopes, the newest land on the planet is forming.
In the wee hours of Monday December 5, I made these photographs from the safe distance of 2 miles. You can appreciate the ferocity of the fire and hot lava.
Here is some background information on Mauna Loa and the meaning of its name from the U. S. Geological Survey. (This quote was written before the current eruption of 2022.)
“The Hawaiian name “Mauna Loa” means “Long Mountain.” This name is apt, for the subaerial part of Mauna Loa extends for about 120 km (74 mi) from the southern tip of the island to the summit caldera and then east-northeast to the coastline near Hilo.
Mauna Loa is among Earth’s most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since its first well-documented historical eruption in 1843. It has produced large, voluminous flows of basalt that have reached the ocean eight times since 1868. It last erupted in 1984, when a lava flow came within 7.2 km (4.5 mi) of Hilo, the largest population center on the island. “
What incredible good luck to witness a volcano erupting! Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii, just began to spew molten lava one week ago — for the first time in 38 years. When I first heard the news, I feared that our planned family vacation might be canceled for safety reasons. Fortunately, the lava flow and the harmful gases known as vog, have been limited to unpopulated regions of the island. Hundreds of curious onlookers can witness this extraordinary sight from two to three miles away from the viewpoint of Old Saddle Road.
The lava flow is best seen at night, when the molten lava creates a dramatic contrast with the dark sky and land. My good friend Dennis, who lives here on Hawaii, met me at 3am and drove me up to this viewing site. We photographed the changing scene and stayed until daybreak. This image shows the first light in the sky before dawn, around 6am.
Iceland is a hot destination now, and for good reason. Airline bargains abound, and the scenery is amazing. If you haven’t discovered this beautiful country for yourself yet, I highly recommend making the trip. Whether you have just been or hope to go, you will be interested in the ASMP Photography exhibit in Pittsburgh this Friday July 9 at 803 Liberty Avenue. I will be exhibiting some large works from my recent trip to Iceland.
Volcanic eruptions are in the news now with action in both Hawaii and Guatemala. Iceland has been formed by volcanoes, and it has experienced recent eruptions. The Icelandic fishing center Heimaey Island, just southwest of the mainland, has recovered from a two-year eruption beginning in the 1973. You can learn all about it at the Museum of Remembrance and walk its quiet streets now lined with new homes.
If you like hiking, landscape photography and exploring quiet places on your own, you will enjoy a visit to Iceland.
I’m busy today making prints for a July 6 exhibition: the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Gallery Crawl. It’s a fun evening, and you can find some cool photography by ASMP* photographers at 803 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA.
I have decided to feature some of the amazing landscapes and birds I saw in Iceland last summer. Whoever said that Iceland is the land of “Fire and Ice” is right! Volcanoes have created some rugged landforms and interesting vistas. On Heimeay Island, one can just imagine how frightened the residents felt when a massive eruption woke them in the middle of the night in January 1973. (All residents fled via fishing boats in the harbor, and the eruption continued for two years.)
Then you can experience “Ice” even in mid-July, as you bundle up in a parka, hat and gloves and strap spikes to your boots for a hike on an icy, albeit melting, glacier. This glacier was atop an extinct volcano on the Snaefellsness Peninsula.
Please come to the Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl on Friday evening July 6. It’s free.
*American Society of Media Photographers: ASMP.org.
The story of Heimaey Island in the south of Iceland makes geology class feel like a modern day adventure movie. As our ship sailed toward the narrow opening to its fishing boat harbor, a first look at the land bore witness to the 1973 volcanic eruption that nearly closed the harbor entrance. I’ve never before seen hardened lava looking like wet mud that just dripped and dried quite recently. Later, we learned that men battled the lava flow threatening the harbor with fire hoses in a successful and historically unique effort to cool the lava and shorten the length of its flow, preserving the harbor entrance and the way of life for the fishermen.
The fog that would settle in for the day and cancel our flight-seeing tour was descending on us as well. Nevertheless, this view from our cabin this morning was quite beautiful. As a backup plan, I walked on my own into the village.
The volcano that forced the 2am evacuation of all the island residents in January of 1973 erupted for six months. All residents were safely evacuated to the mainland on fishing boats that happened to be in the harbor due to a recent storm. The people had wait all that time before they could return and find out the status of their homes.
A paragon of resilience, the residents returned to Heimaey to rebuild and resume their quiet, communal lives. I strolled up the street past new homes to see the volcano, and to visit the Museum of Remembrance, where recorded voices of residents describe personal stories of what happened as they realized the volcano was erupting and gathered their families to flee toward the harbor.
Rainy and humid Maui cut us a break this morning. While two other photo shoots have been rained out yesterday and today, the location we woke up at 3 am for, worked out — mercifully.
You have to set the alarm for 3 to drive the windy roads from sea level up at Napili Shores to 10,023 feet above sea level to the summit of Maui’s volcano in time for sunrise. I was pretty surprised to see a nearly full parking lot and about 100 other people crazy enough to be doing the same thing! The park rangers were helping us park, as if we were crowding into a lot for major league baseball or football back at home. After parking, we hiked up a pretty steep trail to this location, breathing pretty hard in the thin air.
Here is one of my favorite images from today’s early photo shoot. I used by Nikon D800 camera mounted on a Really Right Stuff tripod with the wide angle 14-24 mm Nikon lens and a Singh Ray graduated neutral density filter. I shot at ISO 100 to give me maximum ability to make a large highly detailed print later if I wish.
Look how the curves in the composition take your eye into the crater and back up the ridge into the clouds to the sun. Haleakala means, “house of the sun.”
I like a photo that tells a story. This image of Kilauea’s lava flow to the ocean shows the vast expanse of land that her lava coated, wiping out the forest that grew here 20 years ago. If you look carefully through the mist for some green patches, you can see the remnants that by chance were spared from destruction.
The steam on the coast blocks our view of the orange molten lava pouring into the ocean, but it tells us what is happening there – new land is forming. Do you see the road that was built over the dark lava? You can see it abruptly stops, where Pele again had the upper hand.
Take a peak with me inside the world’s currently most active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kilauea. The steam is the biggest clue that it is currently erupting — pushing molten lava underground in a tube that leads to the ocean. Along the coastline more steam reveals that new land is being made there. You can also see a spot of molten lava just below the large crater in the photo.
I will do more processing on this image after I return home, but I thought my readers would like to see some early results. I like the three colors of the land in this image. It was exciting to see this unique view of the Earth evolving, and to ponder the power of Nature.