Volcano

  • Volcano Photography

    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.

  • Lava River Texture

    Aerial photograph of the lava river in Pahoa Hawaii.

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    A section of the lava river from a Paradise Helicopter tour over the fissure 8 eruption of 2018 in Pahoa. I wanted to focus on the patterns the lava was making as it flowed to Kapoho, so I used a 70-300 telephoto lens to tightly frame in the lava with the dark surrounding areas. What I wasn’t expecting was how amazing the patterns are within the lava itself.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Fissure 8 and the Lava River

    Lava fountains out of the crater that fissure 8 created from the Pahoa volcanic eruption on Hawaii.

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    An aerial view of Fissure 8 spewing magma violently into the air and into a massive lava river headed to the ocean in Kapoho. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we flew over this newly formed cinder cone in the middle of the Leilani Estates neighborhood. It was surreal and frightening. Almost overnight thousands of peoples lives were uprooted and their future made unknown. My heart goes out to all those effected by the lava flow.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Kapoho Island

    Photograph of the island that formed off of Kapoho from the Puna lava flow of 2018

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    During one week in July of 2018 an island formed off of Kapoho from the Puna lava flow. Shortly after this photograph the island attached to the land from the continuous lava. An example for how quickly this lava flow is changing.

    We were excited to go back up into the helicopter to see what has changed from the previous flight a month ago. That morning I learned of an island that had formed just off of the coast. Reports of violent explosions in the water eventually led to the presence of land erupting from the ocean. These eruptions caused havoc to a water tour boat a few days later when an unexpected explosion sent molten rock hurtling toward the boat and injured many passengers. I could only imagine how scary and helpless that would be. There is no telling what could happen next with this volcano.

    A very exciting time on the Big Island.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Colors Of Lava

    Colors of the lava flowing in the volcanic river to Kapoho from fissure 8 in Pahoa.

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    Insane to witness the amazing colors of lava from the sky. This massive lava flow is slowly making its way to Pahoa. Beautiful and destructive. I love the oranges, reds, purples, and blues seen in this image.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Kapoho Ocean Entry By Helicopter

    An aerial view of the lava entering the ocean and creating small explosions along the coastline of Kapoho Hawaii.

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    From the doors off helicopter of the Paradise Helicopter Tour I was able to shoot this unobstructed view of the lava as it enters the ocean along Kapoho. You can’t see it in this web version of the shot, but in the large printed file there is an explosion in the upper part of the image where the ocean collided with the hot lava that sent lava rock and particles flying rapidly in the air. I love this image because of the design quality of it like the diagonal line of the coastline parted by the smoke and ocean waves. There are hidden surprises throughout the shot like the explosion, and the red hot lava, as well as the ripples in the water. It’s just a raw look and feel of the energy that exists when these two natural forces meet.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Lava Flow Pattern

    Tight cropping of the amazing detail and pattern of the lava river flowing out of Fissure 8 in Pahoa.

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    It was an amazing experience to see the lava spewing and flowing out of fissure 8 that erupted out of the middle of Leilani Estates in Pahoa, Hawaii. It was somewhat surreal. My mind didn’t comprehend what I was looking at at first because I felt like I was watching a movie. In Kona I am just far enough away to not realize what really is happening on the other side of the island even though we have the extreme VOG and earthquakes. It just never really sunk in until I went to see the event in person.

    After the initial shock and excitement of the fissure I began photographing the detail and patterns of the lava flow from above. This shot was taken at full zoom, 300mm, to enhance the colors and beautiful qualities of the lava as it cracked and hardened. When viewed at 100% there are endless designs and details in the lava that are just amazing that I didn’t realize were there until I developed these shots. The helicopter trip goes so fast and my mind was racing to take it all in mentally and with my camera. So much that I didn’t have my setting right in the camera while I was taking these pictures.

    When I was preparing to go on the helicopter I had a system to set the camera on shutter priority fast enough to handle the 300mm lens as well and the movement of the helicopter. Then to quickly review the shots to make sure everything was crisp before continuing. I even had a gentleman ask me about shutter speed before getting on the helicopter as a subtle reminder to adjust my settings. Unfortunately I didn’t heed my own preparation and advice. The excitement got to me. Before I knew it I was rapidly taking pictures of everything I saw. The helicopter pilot was twisting and tilting in all directions so everyone had their time to experience the disaster which added to my excitement.

    It wasn’t until we were leaving the flow that I began to review my images and noticed a lot of the had significant motion blur. My heart sank. I totally screwed up. “It’s Ok. It was the experience that was amazing. A once in a lifetime experience.” I told myself in order to cheer myself up. I mostly believed it, but as with all artists all we want to do is create. The life experiences are amazing, but we want to bring home some amazing art to relive it and share the experience. Sharing blurry shots of the lava isn’t going to excite anyone.

    I spent the rest of the day with a small lump in the back of my throat. I wanted to go up to the desk at Paradise Helicopters and tell them I wanted a do-over because I didn’t get the shots. They would obviously let me go again because that would be their biggest concern. It was weird where my mind went. I wasn’t depressed or anything and it would have been fine if all my images were trash because in actuality it was the experience that mattered. My wife and I had a blast and got to spent the rest of the day exploring new areas of the island. It was just disappointing that I thought I didn’t have any usable images.

    When I finally sat down and loaded all my shots into Bridge I was elated to see 2/3 of all the shots were just fine and my worries were for nothing. It’s so weird how a small thing can effect you in such a large way and how all preparation can be lost in excitement. I just need to learn to slow down and be methodical during these moments. In all actuality I had a lot of time to photograph the lava. It only seemed like I didn’t at the time.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Lava

    61G lava flow detail

    Photograph of Folding Lava

    Now Available Backlit on the BigNakedWall.com. Check it out.

    There is nothing like standing near the lava as it slowly folds and hardens, slowly making it’s way to the ocean. This was our first trip to the lava and by far my favorite. After this visit, we could only view the ocean flow on our returning trips. All surface flows had solidified and left the lava to flow through the tubes.

    I was mesmerized by the sounds as it folded and created new shapes. Like broken glass popping in the heat of the fire. Mostly the lava flowed extremely slow with the occasional quick breakouts. I was able to setup within feet of the flow, but it was hot. I would lean in for a couple of shots and be forced to backup quickly due to the heat. I wanted to capture the design and contrast of the hot lava along side the solid lava, so I was searching for patterns like the image being shown.

    With a telephoto lens I was able to crop in close without melting off my face.

    Enjoy!

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Kamokuna Plume

    Photograph of smoke billowing into the sunsetting sky as the lava meets the ocean.

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    A couple of weeks after the collapse of the shelf the lava now flows directly into the ocean like a raging river. The smoke hid the view of the lava, but with the shifting winds we would get a glimpse every now and then. We weren’t able to get as close as before, but it was still a sight to see.

    © Christopher Johnson

    Purchase a print by visiting my RedBubble page

  • Kamokuna At Night

    Photographing the Kamokuna Lava Ocean Entry at Night

     

    On December 31st there was a drastic change to the shoreline at the Kamokuna ocean entry. The lower shelf that the lava once gradually flowed over before entering into the ocean as well as part of an old lookout point fell into the ocean. Somewhere around 17 acres of land suddenly disappeared. I had to go see it and so as a last minute plan we headed over. I couldn’t believe the amount of roadblocks we encountered on the way. Dead car battery, flat bike tires, missing headlamps, and an accident that closed the road for 30min. While sitting in traffic I turned to my wife and said. “I don’t think we’re gonna make it in time.” At that point we considered abandoning the mission, but to our surprise the road opened up and we were on our way. Lucky it did because I don’t know when we would be able to get back over there.

    The trail was light with people, so we were able to ride with ease without having to worry about everyone and made it with plenty of daylight to spare. When we came prior to the collapse, in August of 2016, the road went on further and we were able to get close to the lava. Close enough where we were able to see a lot of action with our naked eyes. Now the new lookout puts us several hundreds of yards away. The action is harder to see without binoculars or zoom lenses. With the amount of smoke billowing off of the entry even seeing the lava is difficult. A gust of wind would swoop in and push the smoke where we would get a glimpse of the large lava river draining into the ocean. It was impressive to see even with the great distance.

    My family walked around and explored all the viewing areas while I found a spot I liked and didn’t move from that spot the entire time we were there. With the small crowds of people I wanted to make sure that I had a front row spot where I didn’t need to worry about someone moving in front of me. Even still I had the occasional tourist think I was their husband and stand next to me while telling me about how they nearly fell down in the dark. I would slowly look up and watch them get flustered with embarrassment and walk away. Strangely enough it happened more than once.

    My lens of choice was the 300mm telephoto for the distance. It was windy, so I needed to weigh the tripod down with my bag and crank down all the setting nobs. I also used a cable release and waited for the wind to die down before taking the shots in order to reduce camera shake. Any slight movement while fully zoomed in will move the composition a couple feet.

    It was at night that the lava glowed and showed life with a lot of small explosions. I decided to capture the night sky with my wide angle before leaving. I took 8 to 10 – 30 second shots while my kids grew impatient. They were definitely ready to start the long bike ride back and get something to eat.

    As I stepped off my bike at the car I was relieved the bike ride was over. Any longer and the extra hard, value engineered, cheap ass seat would have to be surgically removed from me. It has been a couple weeks since then, but I swear I walk differently now. We had fun.

    © Christopher Johnson

     

    View more lava images – http://www.fromhereonin.com/volcanic-activity/

  • Halemaumau Crater

    Photo of the lava churning and spattering in the Halemaumau crater

     

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    Having heard the lava was very active due to a piece of the crater wall collapsing into the lava lake, I was extremely excited to visit the Jaggar museum that night. I headed out after work with my family and arrived at the Volcano hours later with the unfortunate drizzle of rain. I wasn’t expecting much, in fact I wasn’t expecting I was going to see anything due to heavy fog or rain clouds. On a previous trip I knew we were getting close because the sky had an amazing bright orange glow, however, this trip wasn’t as apparent. My hopes were fading.

    We arrived at the Jaggar museum lookout along with many others. Gathering up our gear took a while, but eventually we set out to the view point. With the glow of the lava and the orange night step lights leading our way to the lookout, we were all amazed at the amazing sight of the active lava lake. Never before have I been able to see the lava lake from the Jaggar museum. Usually just a glow of light as smoke billowed away. There were cracks of bright yellow and orange moving around. Forming new connections with other cracks while closing others. The most mystical sight was the sputtering lava against the crater wall.

    Photographing the lava was difficult. I needed a higher iso in order to stop the motion of the lava, but not too high as to pixelate the image beyond usability. In order to capture the lava up close I needed the full range of my telephoto lens at 300mm. This all doesn’t seem difficult, but adding wind and rain to the equation made this difficult. Any small movement of the lens would move the image drastically, which generated a blurry image. I had to wait for relief in the wind, but then the rain would speckle the lens. It was a little bit of a dance to get the shots.

    For the image above I shot two focal ranges. The trees were several feet in front of me, while the lava was hundreds of feet away. Maybe thousands. It took a lot of blending and luminosity masks in Photoshop to merge the images to one.

    Aloha!

    © Christopher Johnson

     

    Purchase this piece by visiting my RedBubble page.

  • Kilauea From Above

    Celebrating our 16th anniversary, my wife and I went on an amazing helicopter tour around the Big Island with Blue Hawaiian. We began towards the volcano, then made our way north along the Hamakua coastline to the amazing valleys north of Waipio. This is one of the coolest, most breathtaking Hawaiian adventures I have ever taken. I strongly recommend going.

    This post is mainly to show images of the smoke that is coming out of the volcano. I will be showing the valleys in a later post.

    Enjoy!

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Life

    A hike over the old lava flow… and soon to be new lava flow, but don’t tell the fern. A brilliant reminder that life will always find a way.

     

    This image was taken near the new lava flow at Kamokuna in the Volcano National Park… fairly close to the lava flow. I deviated from the gravel road a bit to find this fern growing through the crack in the lava. The vibrant green leaves contrasting against the deep tones of the lava is a great contrast to life growing out of a harsh environment. I was captivated by the way the lava crumbled under my feet and sounded like glass breaking as I ventured to this spot. The wind was blowing and waving the small leaves of the fern making it difficult to shoot. My patience was definitely tested as I waited to the breeze to die down long enough to still the shot. Much more that I wasn’t even to my final destination.  Watching this new life was a bit calming as I began to realize how crazy it is that this fern is growing nearly five miles away from any other plant. I thought to myself how strange and foreign this environment is that is being created by the Hawaiian volcano.

     

    © Christopher Johnson

  • 61G Ocean Entry

    Using a 300mm lens I was able to zoom into the lava as it meets the ocean from the cliff above.

    © Christopher Johnson

  • Violence

    Lava flows into the turbulent water at the Kamokuna lava flow ocean entry.

    © Christopher Johnson