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When it all goes bang

When your local volcano erupts, grab your camera and tripod and head out for a Long Exposure adventure. There is nothing like being with other photographers who want to be there until it gets dark, so choose your company wisely. All that fire spitting, smoke and ash can give your photos a nice slow shutter feel. Certainly worth driving across a glacier in a huge jeep in a wacky race of jeeps, snowmobiles, snow cats, skiers and hikers. The jeeps win with their huge tyres that are deflated to around 10lbs so they can float on the deep snow.

Fimmvörðurháls Crater Eruption

This was taken on the 30th March 2010. The eruption occurred on a famous hiking trail between the Eyjafjalljökull and Myrdalsjökull glaciers.

CAMERACanon EOS 5D Mark II
LENSCanon EF 24mm f/1.4L USM
ISO50
FOCAL LENGTH24.0 mm (23.4 mm in 35mm)
APERTUREf/11
EXPOSURE TIME0.8s (0.8)

Henry the Eighth

The exposure time here is 1/8 second. This sort of shutter speed requires a tripod – but could be achieved with careful use of a monopod. As the erupting lava travels quite quickly it created lines of fire during the exposure.

Explosive Fimmvörðuháls
Dragon Smoke

Dragon Smoke

This was steam appearing in the shape of a dragon.

CAMERACanon EOS 5D Mark II
LENSCanon EF 24mm f/1.4L USM
ISO100
FOCAL LENGTH24.0 mm (23.4 mm in 35mm)
APERTUREf/11
EXPOSURE TIME8s (8)

Straight Eight

Eight Seconds is the longest exposure time in this article. Such a long exposure on the erupting lava is not so beneficial because we start to lose detail in the core. However, the moving smoke took on a new life during the 8 second long exposure.

Eyjafjalljökull Ash Plume

Ash Plume

Photo Info

 
CAMERACanon EOS 5D Mark II
LENSCanon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
ISO100
FOCAL LENGTH70.0 mm (68.3 mm in 35mm)
APERTUREf/8
EXPOSURE TIME5s (5)
Dark Cobra

Photo Info

 
CAMERACanon EOS 5D Mark II
LENSCanon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM
ISO100
FOCAL LENGTH78.0 mm (76.1 mm in 35mm)
APERTUREf/8
EXPOSURE TIME2s (2)

Closeness

Interestingly, the shot on the right is 2 seconds exposure, but doesn’t look like a long exposure at all.  The extra 3 seconds of exposure has made a dramatic difference to the movement.  There are 2 factors that affect the exposure needed to communicate movement in a still photo.  One factor is the distance to your subject.  If you are close to the eruption, like I was at Fimmvörðurháls, the moving objects travel further across the frame.  The ash in the distant Eyjafjallajökull eruption was moving tiny distances in the frame.  Using a powerful telephoto is a remedy if you can’t get close to the volcano.  The other factor, is the type of object and the speed it moves at.  A volcano spits out tiny lava stones at quite a high speed – they can travel around 100 feet.  Compare this to smoke which travels much slower in comparison.

 

Can you think of a natural situation where you might have 2 different objects moving at different speeds?

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