In this episode of "Story behind the image" we will fly together around half the globe, on one of the most remote islands of the world, on an place that has one of the most active volcanos on our planet: the Big Island of Hawaii. Together with the because of his hight of about 4205 m above sea level better known Mauna Kea, the more active Kilauea Volcano built the so far biggest Island called actually Ha'waii, but is also called Big Island to avoid misunderstandings. Kilauea erupted the last time in 2014 and the molten Lava still flows from the crater down in to the pacific ocean - which make for some spectacular images. Read further to learn more about the one Image that I call "Devil's Claw".
The Hawaiian Islands are a group of eight Islands, all created because of volcanos in the past million years, located remote in the pacific ocean. Because Hawaii is no secret, I don't dive deep into the details of this beautiful, tropical Island and head right on to the Big Island. Big Island are the newest of all the eight island, whilst "newest" means it startet building up around 800'000 years ago and was created because of the the movement of the pacific plate over an Hot Spot. The island startet growing with the most northern volcano Kohala, followed by Hualalai, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and the still active Kilauea. Deep in the ocean lies the volcano Lo'ihi which is expected to rise above sea-level in around 50'000 years and make Big Island even bigger as it is now (around a quarter of the area of Switzerland).
As the Hot Spot is lying on the most southern point of the island, you will find the active Kilauea there. With the movement of the tectonic plate, all of the island "wander" every year around 3cm to the north. One day, Kilauea will be so far north of the Hot Spot, that its activity will be gone. In millions of year, Big Island will be parted in three or four island of its owen and a new, large Island will rise on the south. Thats also why all other island of Hawaii are smaller and in groups, they where one also one big island.
In the south of Big Island, near the town of Kalapana will you be able to witness of how land is created. As since years almost every day the lava runs into the pacific ocean. The shape of how it flows into the sea depends of the formation of the cliffs.
It is quite dangerous to walk to this spot, not just because of the hazardous air, also because the cliffs can fall down unexpected into the sea - deathly drop for everyone. It's recommended to go to this place by special boat-tours (the boat has to be out of metal, don't enter one made out of plastic because a) it's not an official acknowledged tour and b) the boat can melt in the really warm water near the lava). Search in advance for the boat-tours as they are mostly sold-out, especially the best times during sunset and sunrise and be prepared to pay a lot of money for it.
Alternative, but even more expensive, you're also able to book some helicopter-tours from Hilo or Kona-Airport. Those won't last as long as the boat-tour but you will get a completely different perspective. Altough I would recommend the Boat in this case.
HOW THE IMAGE WAS SHOT
We landed on a rather rainy day in February 2017 at Hilo Airport, with Big Island being our last stopp in Hawaii. After picking up our rental-car ( a minivan instead of a Jeep.....) we headed towards our Hotel in the Hilo-area. We booked the hotel way before we booked the boat-tour, so we knew we had to get up early the next morning to reach the meeting point.
We booked with Lava Ocean Tours as we got a recommendation for that. And we booked the the sunrise-tour as you will see more of the lava in the dark. That meant we had to be on the parking spot on the coast south of Pahoa at 4:30 in the morning. With a two hour drive ahead of us, we left the hotel at 2:30 in the morning, not sure if our navigation-system was programmed right. We arrived at a dark parking lot on time. With nobody there, with no boat in sight. As the mail said, we would meet on lamppost number 13. There we waited. Slowly more and more people arrived to the place. And arround 4:45 a truck with a trailer and a boat on it arrived at the parking lot too. After around twenty minutes of standing and waiting, the captain of the boat spoke to us, rather unfriendly and harsh, about safety and behavior on the boat. Another then minutes later we sat in the boat, still on the trailer, and where driven to the dock - hilarious. At around 5:15 we were in our way, to the lava. It's not a comfortable ride as it is a speed-boat crushing trough the waves and you can't see anything out there expect what those two small headlamps make visible. After around thirty pumpy minutes we where able to see a glow at the horizon, coming faster quickly. And there we where, 10 meters away from the lava fire hose. It was warm and smelled really bad.
I graben my Canon 5D Mark 3 out of the bag and decided on the 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM-lens for it. It was still pitch-black and the only light was coming from the glowing lava, so I decided to shoot wide open at f/4 and as I wanted to froze the flow of the lava, the particles flying around and the smother I opted for a shutter-speed of around 1/1000 of second. As the boat was constantly moving that was the only way to get sharp images. But in the dark this means also rising the ISO to 4000. Not ideal as this generates some noise in the image, but the 5D Mark 3 can handle this pretty well. In the half-hour we where floating in front of the lava hose I shot around 130 images. As I had no time to review them on location I just kept shooting until we returned and hoped for the best. On of the images that I shot was this on:
On location I wanted to have the lava fire hose on the righter third of the image,, some water visible and of course all the smoke that this generates.
Another bumpy, thirty minutes later we were back at lamppost number 13. Back in the hotel I loaded the images into Lightroom and made a first selection. As I came to the image above, I immediately saw the hand - or claw - that the smoke was creating and the lava appears to flow in. A few moment later I saw the face on the upper left thrid of the image that looks really angry - I associated that with the devil's face. An so I named this image "Devil's Claw".
"Devil's Claw" was of course not the only image I shot on that morning that I like. So here are a selection of some other shoots of this adventure:
If you like this picture or one of the others in the gallery, I have good news: It's available as print! If your interested please send me an e-mail (address on the bottom of this post). Other Prints are also available in my Online-Shop.
If you would like to see more images from Hawaii or also others, please head over to my website matthiasbader.ch or follow me on those social-media-channels:
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