Volcano Photography

Posted in: Volcano Nov 11 2018

A collection of images of the Volcanic activity on the Big Island.

I have lived on the Big Island since 2006, but only began my interest in the volcano in 2015 when I went to see the lava lake at the Halmaumau crater. I had never really seen lava before. All the other times I visited the Volcano National Park the only thing I saw was smoke rising out of the crater. Even when I went to see the lava entering the ocean in 2008 the ropes keeping visitors away were so far away from the lava that the only thing to “Ooh and Awe” at was the rising steam and smoke. That changed the night I saw the lava lake.

When the lava hit the ocean along the Kamokuna coastline in 2016 my wife and I rode bikes 5 miles to the flow. It was then I was able to walk next to the lava. It was a surreal moment listening to the crackle and popping sounds of molten rock flowing over the earth. The heat was extreme. I couldn’t get too close without having to retreat quickly. It is like watching a camp fire only 100 times more mesmerizing. I ended up visiting the lava several times until the flow stopped and I began to wonder if this was it.

Then the huge earthquake happened and all hell broke loose. This is when the fissures opened up to devastate the Puna and neighborhoods to Kapoho. There was a huge frenzy around the lava activity. Tourism suddenly stopped, people were selling everything to move away, the VOG was so bad we could smell sulfur in Kona, all while photographers were running to the action. I hesitated to go over to photograph the destruction to show respect to all those that had and were going to lose everything. The stress became so bad that one man shot a gun over the head of someone else as a warning to leave even though it was his neighborhood as well. There was looting and violence all throughout the restricted areas and towards the end Kona began to see break-ins from displaced people. A couple of months of total unknown and worry.

As time went on my curiosity grew and I had to see the Fissure for myself, so my wife and I bought tickets to fly on the Paradise helicopter tour with doors off out of Hilo. I felt this was the less intrusive way of seeing the flow while getting super close. The flight was cold and windy and in the distance was a large fountain of lava spewing into the air in the middle of a neighborhood. It felt as if we were on our way to a battle field in war. The moment we were over the flow I could feel the heat. The helicopter jolted from the currents. It was insane and for the first time the eruption felt real.

After the flight I was energized and saddened for everyone effected by the disaster. There is no way to express in words what I felt. We have family and friends that lived close by or that had lost their houses and land from the lava.

We did one more flight before the volcanic activity had stopped; hopefully for a long time. Now, several months later, people are beginning to return to their homes with the uncertainty of another eruption.