Hot Lava

Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii

All of the images on this page are photographs that I took during a trip to Hawaii - there is no artwork featured here.

In April of 2008, I approached hot lava at close range for the first time.  This occurred during an ongoing eruption of Kilauea Volcano on the island of Hawai'i.  At this time, a great cloud of ash, steam and sulfur was venting from the summit caldera of the volcano, as seen in the two photos below:

 

 

Meanwhile, lava was flowing from an active vent at a location several miles downhill from the volcano's summit.  The lava had found its way to the island's south-east coast, where it poured into the ocean in a dramatic display of fire and steam, which was especially impressive when seen in the half-light of dawn or dusk:

It was at this coastal location that I was able to see the flowing lava before sunrise, in the company of a local guide.  One arm of the flow was passive and slow-moving, allowing for a safe approach on foot as the lava spread itself across the surface of a black-sand beach.  The beach itself was only three weeks old, a recent creation of this explosive meeting of lava and sea-water, but it already appeared to be doomed by the unstoppable progress of the volcano's activity.  I was able to get within a few feet of the glowing lava, as close as the intense heat would allow, to capture some remarkable photos. 

Before sunrise, the cooler surfaces of the lava were invisible in the dark, revealing only the incandescent portions of hot material:

 

As the morning sky brightened, the entire flow became visible - note the distant steam plumes rising in the background of the photo below:

 

The lava's outer surfaces cool quickly, insulating the hot interior which continues to glow beneath its own shell:

 

Breaking through its shell to creep forward again, the brilliance of the hottest material illuminates the black sand:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ocean Entry

As the flow arrives at the water's edge, an explosive, steaming, boiling collision takes place between hot lava and cool water.  I wasn't as close as these photos would seem to suggest.  A good zoom lens is essential, allowing one to maintain a safe distance from such primordial violence.

 

 

In Daylight

Small "toes" of advancing lava are not as terribly hot as the larger, open patches, and allow for close-range observation, where the lava's intricate surfaces can be seen in great detail as they advance, expand, and cool.

Anything in the path of the flow is eventually consumed:

 

 

This surface of an older flow (laid down sometime during the last ten or twenty years) displays the intricate, braided texture that is characteristic of Hawaiian lavas.  Ferns are generally the first plants to begin colonizing the bare rock:

 

Leaving the site - a view of the coastline, where lava and sea continue to collide long after the lava has cooled...

 

Not enough?  For more lava photos, there's also a page of shots from my 2011 visit to Hawaii

 

Back to the photography index

HOME