Photographer Martin Rietze travels around the world in pursuit of Earth's greatest fiery spectacle – volcanoes. Recently, he went to Japan to photograph the Sakurajima Volcano in southern Kyushu as it spewed smoke, fire, and lava. During the shoot he captured some incredible lightening storms that are known to accompany volcanic eruptions. How lightning forms in general is still debated among scientists, and volcanic lightning is even less well understood. One hypothesis holds that catapulting magma bubbles or volcanic ash are themselves electrically charged, and by their motion create these separated areas. Other volcanic lightning episodes may be facilitated by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust.
When Rietze travelled to Sakurajima to capture these images in February 2013, the volcano had been venting smoke and ash for 14 hours, before a 30 second eruption occurred, spewing lava bombs and lightning. Rietze was around four kilometers away from Sakurajima when he captured these images, using a full-frame DSLR with a focal length of 90-200mm.
“If fitted with a proper gas mask, helmet and protective clothing, you can stand a few dozen feet away from boiling lava lakes”, he say. But he cautioned: “When you get this close the camera equipment ages instantly. Sulphuric gasses and acids can destroy the electronics and lens coatings very quickly.”
Rietze has been photographing volcanoes for ten years, publishing his work on an online gallery Alien Landscapes on Planet Earth. He has loved watching volcanoes ever since he saw Mount Etna erupt in Sicily as a young boy, and has no plans to give up his risky career.
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