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