|Getting the shot:
The end of the road was covered by a recent flow from a few weeks previous. The pitch black lava was still very warm. I could touch it but it wasn't comfortable to hold my hand there for very long. Signs were posted to warn people to stay off the new flows. The signs indicated that molten lava often flows underneath previous flows and that stepping on a weak spot could result in your foot cracking through the roof of a lava tub and being engulfed in molten rock.
I'm generally a careful person, but there was no flowing lava visible from the designated "safe" area and I was determined to get a shot of the flowing lava. So I ventured across a recent flow. The air was very hot and humid and was filled with the "rotten eggs" smell of Sulfur. Several times, my feet crunched down in a weak spot in the lava and caused me to consider turning around. But I decided to stick with it.
When I saw this flow, the two "arms" reminded me of the two front pincers on a scorpion. I knew what I had to do. I had to get close enough so that the two "arms" looked like they were trying to surround me. But the heat from the 2000 degree Fahrenheit lava was overwhelming. I knew I couldn't stay in front of the flow very long.
So I metered and determined the proper exposure for the bright lava against the dark black lava and preset the aperture and shutter speed. Then I quickly ran up to the flow and placed my tripod about 5 feet from the leading edge. The heat was so intense that it was hard to keep my eyes open long enough to frame the shot and focus the camera. After tripping the shutter, I moved away as quickly and safely as I could. I returned to my vehicle with equal care. When I got back to my hotel, I noticed that the soles of my shoes were slightly melted - a small price to pay for such an experience.
What I like about the print:
There's just something about seeing new earth being created right before your eyes. It's really hard to explain how awesome an experience that is. I love the way the heat and movement of the lava are captured in this image. The two "arms" of lava seem to be reaching out to surround the viewer. It's like being there.
Awards / Recognition:
Selected by the Professional Photographers of America for their 2005 Loan Collection.